by: Hobert Taylor
Roger Davidson - Universal Sacred Music for Chorus - (Soundbrush Records)
This collection of three masses is a graceful exploration of ecumenical devotion. While following the presentational structure of the Catholic mass, Davidson uses not only European classicism and the expected Latin text, but folk tunes in the Hebraic tradition, Hindu text, and various Native American, Islamic, and Zoroastrian influences. Particularly revelatory is Missa Universal VI, "The Names of God".
Cistercian Monks of Stift Heligekreuz/ Timna Brauer & Elias Meiri Ensemble -Chant for Peace - (Deutsche Grammophon)
The Cistercian monks had a hit record in 2008, and the singers from this Austrian order was among the the most popular acts in the Eurovision song contest. In this new recording they join with a Yemenite Jewish singing ensemble to demonstrate the musical similarities between the Gregorian chant tradition and the ancient psalm singing of the Jewish people. With text in both Hebrew and Latin, this is a profoundly spiritual recording.
Inbal Segev - Bach Cello suites - (Vox Classics)
These solo explorations for cello have provided classical music fans and film scorers inspiration for generations. Most notably, Rostropovich, Casals, Yo Yo Ma, and Jaqueline du Pre are the gold standards for performance in the popular mind. My personal favorite is the Casals because in has a conversational intimacy and a relaxed precision mixed with the edginess of subtle yet dramatic tempo and dynamic variations. I would add Inbal Segev to the list of grand interpreters of this masterpiece and rite of passage for all virtuossi on this instrument. Her performance is also conversational in it's phrasing, inviting, and suspenseful.
Joe Chindamo & Zoe Black - The New Goldberg Variations - (Alfire Records)
Pianist Chindamo has re-arranged Bach's Goldberg variations by adding a violin line playing a new counterpoint. This must have been been quite a challenge, and the result in my mind adorns the basic structure of the music without "gilding the lily".
Anthony De Mare - Selections from Liaisons: Re-imaging Sondheim from the Piano - (ECM)
In a truly fascinating exploration of the astounding melodies of Stephen Sondheim, pianist De Mare commissioned 36 notable composer/performers from a broad variety of genres to re-arrange them. This promotional recording only includes 12 of these, but they are masterful and insightful. Steve Reich's take on "Finishing the Hat" (for two pianos), Ethan Iverson's anxious rendering of "Send In the Clowns", Wynton Marsalis' real ragtime classicism on "That Old Piano Roll", and Nico Muhly's take on "Color and Light" all shine. My favorite is Eve Belglarian's rendition of "Perpetual Happiness". It made my mind dance.
Penka Kouneva - The Female Astronaut - (Varese Sarabande)
Super dramatic and grandly expansive orchestration, this music written for video games merges electronica and 19th century bombast in a rich and gloppy stew. A lot of fun and fluff.