by: Hobart Taylor
Simone Dinnerstein/ Mozart Lyceum Orchestra - Mozart in Havana - (Sony Classical)
Pianist Dinnerstein performs the oft recorded Piano Concertos No. 21 in C Major and 23 in A Major with her usual grace and aplomb. What makes this recording a standout are the vibrant young musicians of the Havana Lyceum Orchestra, Jose Antonio Mendez Padron, conductor. They sound unpressured, at ease. There is nothing either sloppy or pretentious in this recording, the expected pitfalls of a fledgling orchestra, (only eight years old). As a matter of fact they sound not too cold, not too hot, but like the middle bowl of porridge, just right. As a result I think they bring out a purer and egoless performance from Dinnerstein and make this record a sheer delight. I look forward to hearing more recordings from these superb musicians.
Emerson String Quartet - Chacconnes and Fantasias - Music of Britten and Purcell - (Decca Gold)
As if to provide context for the performances of Benjamin Britten's Sting Quartets # 2 in C Major and # 3 in G Major, this disc brackets them with five short pieces by Great Britain's most renowned baroque composer Henry Purcell, one arranged by Britten. While the Britten pieces are relentlessly modern with strong atonal elements and twentieth century moodiness, their juxtaposition against the earlier pieces demonstrates a through line composed of formal elegance that bespeaks an intimate awareness of deepest thoughts and feelings in the English idiom.
Jorge Federico Osorio - Final Thoughts: The Last Piano Works of Schubert and Brahms - (Cedille)
Mexican pianist Osorio begins and ends with the final Schubert sonatas (A Major and B-flat Major) on this two disc set, and the delicate yet intense passion of the young genius composer soon to die at the height of his powers throbs like the pulse of a lover just under the skin as your fingers intertwine. The Brahms, (Seven Fantasies Op. 116, Three Intermezzos, Op. 117, Six Piano Pieces, Op. 118, and Four Piano Pieces, Op. 119), are another matter. The selections here are serious for sure, but not ponderous. Even the capriccios are adorned with stark formality. Osorios performances are reverent but not sterile.
Danny Clay/Joseph M. Colombo - The First and the Last/Ouroboros - (Pinna Records)
New acoustic classical music seventy years into the age of the amplification and frequent syncopation of western music continues to reflect the profound influences of those musical elements. In Clay's composition performed here jointly by guitarists The Mobius Trio, and The Friction (string) Quartet, the work emphasizes both elements as the strings provide a wall of sound that feels intensely electric, and the guitars alternate between lilting folk/rock melodies and serial runs that echo Brazil and Africa. The results are captivating.
Also on this disc is Joseph Colombo's composition Ouroboros, a work for multiple keyboard players. The title refers to the image of a snake eating itself, a process of constant destruction and renewal. The piece begins with a series of cascading descending scales that continue to splinter and divide until they finally collapse into a revelatory morass.
Renee Fleming - Distant Light - (Decca)
Soprano Fleming is noted not only for the pureness of her tone but for the broadness of her repertoire.
Performing here with the Royal Stockholm Philharmonic, Sakari Oramo, conductor, she takes on Samuel Barber's "Knoxville: Summer of 1915", contemporary Swedish composer Anders Hillborg's , "The Strand Settings", and three Bjork tunes, "Virus", "Joga", and "All Is Full of Love". These works, although resolutely modern, hew deeply to the Romantic tradition. For me, the most interesting musically is the Hillborg piece, which like Stephen Sondheim's music, feels like the currents of the subconscious mind seep up to the surface to inundate our perceptions.
Mamutrio - Primal Existence - (Origin)
While some would file this under jazz, there is a deep classicism, a reverence for the moves of classical movement for the way the themes are stated, reinforced by variation and then restated with a definitive finality. Belgian performers Lieven Cambré - alto saxophone
Piet Verbist - double bass Jesse Dockx - drums have found the sweet spot where musical traditions collide and then melt away.
Georg Faust/Ben Dowling - Human - (Vision Sound)
Cellist Faust and pianist Dowling, Faust playing an enhanced instrument, a cello with 16 sympathetic resonating strings called the Campanula cello, perform their own neo-classical melodies that evoke European folk musics or film scores. Faust was principal cellist with the Berlin Philharmonic for 25 years. Dowling is a major innovator in the realm of synthesized keyboards. They came together through a chance meeting on an airplane. All the compositions here were improvised in the studio, thus making this music jazz as well as classical. The tunes seem meant to broach the commonality deep within our species. The results are definitively harmonious, like two open hearted 5 years olds meeting for the first time in a sandbox.
The Carducci Quartet - Jethro Tull:The String Quartets - (Released by Ian Anderson)
Ian Anderson and the Carducci Quartet have gone meta. Anderson took English folk melodies and turned them into rock classics. Now, under his direction, these rock songs have been re-imagined as classical pieces that hearken back to their folk origins. Beautifully played, with energy and precision, they keep the “whatever it is” that made us listen to them again and again in the first place.
Quentin Tolimieri - Piano - (pfMentum)
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