by: Hobart Taylor
Grigory Sokolov - Mozart/Rachmaninov Concertos - (Deutsche Grammophon)
Russian Pianist Sokolov does not record in the studio. Sokolov stopped playing with orchestras in 2005. Deutsche Grammophon convinced him to select from various live recordings so that those not fortunate to be in proximity to his genius have the opportunity to hear a very special performer. The Mozart, Concerto #23 in A Major, was recorded in concert with the Mahler Chamber Orchestra in 2005. The Rachmaninov, the Concerto # 3 in D minor, was recorded in 1995 with the BBC Philharmonic. In an approach reminiscent of Glenn Gould, the performances are loose tight, very controlled playing with precision abounding yet there is room for personality to emerge in the interpretations. His style seems to be not to call attention to style, but to be just right all the time. What emerges is an artful artlessness. Programmatically the two pieces chosen for the recording are dissimilar. Yet the controlled naturalness of Sokolov's performances provide a satisfying unity.
Jonas Kaufmann/Vienna Philharmonic - Mahler: Das Lied von der Erde - (Sony Classical)
The popular tenor Jonas Kaufmann is known for his diverse repertoire. From Puccini to Wagner to Bizet, he has achieved critical acclaim both for purity of voice and thoughtful interpretation. On this recording he sets himself a new challenge. The six songs that make up this song cycle, (Mahler himself called it a symphony), were originally written to be sung by two voices, a baritone and a tenor. Kaufmann who has a commanding range takes on both parts. The result is a consistency in approach that alters one's perception of this familiar staple of the canon. It also alters the chemistry with the orchestra as a balanced dialog emerges.
Daniel Hope - For Seasons - (Deutsche Grammophon)
Violinist Hope recently received a lot of attention for his work with composer Max Richter who deconstructs familiar classics by incorporating newer aesthetic sensibilities, techniques, and technology. For Seasons, not Four Seasons maintains the tremulous and and assertive elements of the Vivaldi, but new and subtly radical alterations are made both in performance style and in the use electronic instruments. Hope has added 13 more pieces, 12 named after the months of the year and a postscript. These works address a unique feeling for each month and vary widely in style from the hymn "Amazing Grace" to works by Kurt Weill, Bach, Chilly Gonzales, Brahms and Aphex Twin. Classical and Contemporary genre boundaries dissolve in a music of passionate involvement.
Joep Beving - Prehension - (Deutsche Grammophon)
Dutch pianist composer says he writes "accessible music for complex emotions". Like the music of Chilly Gonzales (also on Deutsche Grammophon) or early Michael Nyman, Phillip Glass, Angelo Badalamenti, etc. these deeply simple melodies often presented serially, haunt and haunt.
Matthew Shipp - Invisible Touch - (Hatology)
It says right on the CD cover "File under Jazz/Free Improvisation". Well if that's the classical music of our time I am filing it under "Substantive". Shipp's solo piano improvisations are like looking at the fragments of glorious stained glass littering an alley after some heretic hurled the hymnal through the window of the cathedral.
Karin Kei Nagano - J.S.Bach Inventions and Sinfonias - (Analekta)
Nagano's recording is a rite of passage, sort of a Ph.D dissertation. A child prodigy, Nagano, now 19, plays with assured focus and craft.
I Fagolini - Monteverdi: The Other Vespers - (Decca)
I Fagolini is a British solo voice ensemble from England's north country, York, directed by Richard Hollingworth. Whether interpreting 20th century art songs like those of Milhaud, or reaching back in time to perform the earliest of classical choral works accompanied by period instruments, they perform with a passionate artistry and commitment to collaboration that resonates brilliantly. The title, The Other Vespers, refers to the fact that this is not a recording of the more familiar Monteverdi 1610 Mantua compositions, but rather music composed near the end of Monteverdi's life, in Venice. The conceit of the recording is to recreate a vespers service (evening prayer service) as it would have been in Monteverdi's time using his music and music of Viadana, Donati, Palestrina, Gabrielli, Frescobaldi and others. The results are stunning.
Cantus - Northern Lights - (Decca)
Cantus is a women's chorus from Trondheim Norway. They achieved popular renown by performing the score for the animated film "Frozen". The orchestration behind them is conservative and pop classical, but there is no denying the power of their harmonies and the delicate balance they achieve between folk sensibilities and bel canto.
Rael Jones - My Cousin Rachel: A Film Score - (Sony Classical)
Like Alexandre Desplat, ("The Queen", "The Girl with the Pearl Earring"), Jones ("The Danish Girl") follows the tradition of anxious romanticism definitively exemplified in the music of Bernard Herrmann. This is music that mirrors the solemn desperation of our times. Here the music is for Roger Mitchell's neo gothic thriller based on a Daphne du Maurier novel "My Cousin Rachel". The pizzicotto ticking under swelling strings, the sudden rests, the undulating cellos all familiar film tropes, yet still they seduce.
2 Cellos - Score - (Portrait)
Stjepan Hauser and Luka Sulic could pass for the Property Brothers on HGTV, which says nothing about their playing but surprisingly says a lot about their their personas. Commercial to the core, all about the upfront sexiness of their presentations, these cellists, backed by, and I mean backed by not accompanied by the London Symphony Orchestra, take pop classical themes from TV and film, ("Game of Thrones", "Titanic", "Gladiator" and other obvious choices) and create ear candy for folks who choose not to listen. A guilty pleasure.