VOICES Notes and news on Classical releases
04 JUN 14 CONCORD MUSIC GROUP
In a career that spans more than a half century, pianist and composer Jacques Loussier has built an enormous body of work by blurring the lines between classical and jazz. Beginning in 1959 with his Play Bach Trio, and later with alternate lineups that explored numerous other classical artists, Loussier and his various collaborators forced musicians and audiences of both jazz and classical music to re-evaluate the boundaries – and indeed the similarities – between their respective genres. Along the way, he has sold more than six million albums worldwide.
Fifty five years after those bold first steps with Play Bach Trio, Telarc celebrates Loussier’s upcoming 80th birthday in October 2014 with the release of two collections that provide a cross section of his masterful fusion of classical tradition with the jazz idiom. My Personal Favorites: The Jacques Loussier Trio Plays Bach and Beyond Bach: Other Composers I Adore – two specially priced 2-CD sets, each with tracks chosen by Loussier as personal favorites – were released on May 27, 2014 via Telarc International, a subsidiary of Concord Music.
24 JUN 13 JASON SERINUS
When it came to color and exoticism, composer Nicolai Rimsky-Korsakov (1844-1908) had few equals. At the height of his powers when, in his 43rd and 44th year, he composed his last major orchestral works, he wrote of them that they "close a period of my work, at the end of which my orchestration had attained a considerable degree of virtuosity and warm sonority." That's putting it mildly, as becomes clear upon listening to Robert Spano and the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra's recording of Rimsky-Korsakov: Scheherazade, Op. 35/Russian Easter Orchestra.
The composer's ability, in Scheherazade, to tell the tale of The Thousand and One Arabian Nights via sinuous melodies and huge sweeps of orchestral color produced one of the most seductive blockbusters of the romantic literature. Such an achievement was essential to tell the story of Sultana Scheherazade, one of the many wives of Sultan Shahriar, who saved herself by telling so many captivating tales over a period of 1,001 nights that the Sultan eventually abandoned his plan to execute her.
It may seem like a major leap to go from tales of an Arabian harem to the Russian Orthodox celebration of Easter, but Rimsky-Korsakov's conception for his Russian Easter Orchestra included not just liturgical chants and the gloomy mystery of Passion Saturday, but also what he called "the unbridled pagan-religious merrymaking of the morn of Easter Sunday." When performed back-to-back, they provided a great opportunity for Spano, the Atlanta forces, and Telarc's engineering team to go whole hog.
06 MAY 13 JASON SERINUS
Among the many authentic instrument recordings from Martin Pearlman and Boston Baroque, Bach: Magnificat/Vivaldi: Gloria stands out for the celebratory beauty of its music. Heard in these small forces interpretations, with a chorus of no more than 25, it’s hard to imagine that the music of both composers lay mostly unperformed for as long as it did.
The “Gloria” is normally heard as a single section within a larger mass, but the substantial length of Vivaldi’s Gloria in D Major suggests that it was written as a stand-alone piece. The opening “Gloria in Excelsis” is a joy. The soprano duet, “Laudamus Te” and soprano solo “Domine Deus” often excerpted for their lively beauty and graceful lyric lines. Soloists Tamara Matthews and Deanne Meek do them full justice. I’m a major fan of the short “Quoniam tu solus sanctus,” whose bumptious opening theme seems to sound for far longer than the movement’s 45 seconds. And who cares if Vivaldi store the closing fugue (other than the deceased composer), given what he did with it.
Bach’s Magnificat, also in D Major, is another gift to humankind. It’s opening choral “Magnificat,” later “Fecit potentiam,” and closing “Sicut era in principio” are unforgettable, and several of its movements, notably the soprano’s “Et exsultavit spiritus,” baritone’s “Quia fecit mihi magna,” and alto’s wonderful “Esurientes implevit bonis” are iconic in their beauty. It pairs perfectly with the Vivaldi, making for an ever uplifting, smile inducing program.
09 APR 13 JONATHAN WIDRAN
True to the title of her latest Telarc release, versatile pianist/composer Hiromi has been constantly on the Move since assembling a new trio (contra-bass guitarist Anthony Jackson and drummer Simon Phillips) and releasing their debut album Voice in 2011.
When she calls the subsequent touring with these two "the biggest fun I’ve ever had in my life musically," that’s a major statement; her ten year Telarc career includes seven previous recordings, three live DVDs and major performances and recordings with legends Chick Corea and Stanley Clarke. She began composing for Move, a 9-track set she calls "A Soundtrack for a Day," while on the road with the trio, based on her intuitive responses to the beauty of their playing and their unique musical characteristics.
Because many of the songs had been road tested, Hiromi and her trio were able to record quickly with Grammy-winning producer and engineer Michael Bishop once they hit the studio. The collection is driven by the theme of time, from the rumbling alarm clock vibe of the title track through the eloquent and reflective greeting of the "Brand New Day" and the busy old school funk of "Endeavor." Rolling easy before making dramatic dark chord pounding transitions, "11:49" is an 11-minute romp designed to mark the transition from one day to the next.
The centerpiece of Hiromi's "day" is the three part "Suite Escapism," broken into three distinct moods: a whimsical, vibrant "Reality," a dreamlike "Fantasy" and frenetic "In Between." All that, and Hiromi and her trio still have time to enjoy a festive "Margarita!" between all the other activities.
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