1994 Records To Die For Page 10
BACH: The Six Partitas
Glenn Gould, piano
Columbia M2S 693 (2 LPs), CBS M2K 42402 (2 CDs). Howard Scott, Paul Myers, prods. AAA/AAD. TT: 97:45
Gould's idiosyncratic performances of these six suites gently lift the listener above the everyday musical experience. He performs with such introspection that the listener seems a self-conscious voyeur.
Some have said these recordings sound dry and sterile. I suggest these critics get better systems. My mint, gray-label "360 Sound" pressing presents a superbly focused image of the soloist in an intimate acoustic which enhances the music's contrapuntal nature. Based on what I've read by and about Gould, I suspect he wouldn't have had it any other way.
NEWPORT REBELS---JAZZ ARTISTS' GUILD
Charles Mingus, John "Peck" Morrison, bass; Max Roach, Jo Jones, drums; Eric Dolphy, alto sax; Walter Benton, tenor sax; Roy Eldridge, Booker Little, Benny Bailey, trumpet; Jimmy Knepper, Julian Priester, trombone; Tommy Flanagan, Kenny Dorham, piano; Abbey Lincoln, vocals
Candid 9022 (LP), CCD-79022 (CD). Nat Hentoff, prod.; Bob d'Orleans, eng. AAA/ADD? TT: 38:56
The jazz experience just doesn't get any better than this! I nominated Newport Rebels... because of Roy Eldridge's ballsy, all-out trumpet playing on "Mysterious Blues" and "Me and You." Eldridge approached the horn as if neither he nor it had limits---his electrifying, perfectly paced solos prove him right. Neither do the other musicians disappoint. The result is jazz tastefully stretched beyond traditional roots. And the late-1960s, direct-to-two-track recording guarantees a natural sound with few production artifacts.
CLEO LAINE: Live at Carnegie Hall
Cleo Laine, John Dankworth, et al
RCA 90026-2 (CD only). Pete Spargo, prod. ADD. TT: 46:36
This disc, recorded in October 1973, catches Laine at her most remarkable. Both the smoky bottom and the odd, stunning upper extension (up to an A-flat above high C) of her voice are in pristine condition here, and her deliverance of a song so we get all of its meanings has never been more evident. Furthermore, while her choice of material can sometimes be trying, here we get songs by Sondheim, Rodgers and Hammerstein, and Carole King, among others. The engineers do themselves proud as well: When Cleo leaves the mike and walks offstage still singing "Please Don't Talk About Me When I'm Gone," they capture the essence of Carnegie Hall. What a great three-quarters of an hour!
PAUL VAN NEVEL/HUELGAS ENSEMBLE: O Cieco Mondo
The Italian Lauda, c.1400-1700
Deutsche Harmonia Mundi 7865-2-RC (CD only). Wolf Erichson, prod. DDD. TT: 60:53
This is exquisite stuff, magnificently performed. The recording has been around since '89 and amazes me each time I hear it. (Producer Erichson, the Huelgas Ensemble, and van Nevel have all since gone to Sony Vivarte, where they continue to thrive.) The selections are devotional---about faith, death, and dying---and the performances, by soprano, tenor, baritone, and a group of early-instrument experts, are just the right size and weight, with beauty and drama in equal amounts. The recording leaves just enough space between me and them. This is not a depressing disc, but it is one to die for. (XV-2)
DAN MILLER: The Calvary Grand Organ Dedication
Organ music by German, J.S. Bach, Drischner, Franck, Manz, Reger, Rossini
Dan Miller, The Calvary Grand Organ (Moller, 1990)
DSDS CD 890 (CD). Dan Miller, prod.; Don Kendrick, eng. DDD. TT: 67:45
Available from the Music Department of Calvary Church, 5801 Pineville-Matthews Rd., Charlotte, NC 28226. Tel: (704) 543-1200
After hearing this recording at a friend's house in Salisbury, NC, we drove to Calvary Church in Charlotte, where I experienced the grandeur of this, the last organ Moller built before going out of business. This CD, which contains the best-recorded organ I've yet heard, puts me in the spacious 6000-seat Calvary Church sanctuary. Miller's finesse and technical virtuosity are truly amazing---he combines musical sensitivity with beautifully controlled flamboyance. From the straightforward voicing of Bach's Toccata & Fugue in d to the very complex registrations in Reger's Fantasy & Fugue on "How Brightly Shines the Morning Star," this recording will keep you spellbound throughout. A must buy for every audiophile, and for anyone who likes the sound of a large pipe organ.
SIBELIUS: Tone Poems
Finlandia, En Saga, Karelia Suite, Pohjola's Daughter, The Swan of Tuonela
Yoel Levi, Atlanta SO
Telarc CD-80320 (CD only). Robert Woods, prod.; Michael Bishop, eng. DDD. TT: 64:32
Most of us have heard this music (especially Finlandia) dozens of times. But for someone who's performed all of the pieces on this disc ad nauseam, this recording is a breath of fresh air. Although I haven't always been a fan of Levi's interpretations, the dark, brooding colors and dramatic, dynamic contrasts he injects into Sibelius's rich orchestration are nothing short of breathtaking. The ASO is one fine band, with some of the best woodwind and brass playing I've heard. Sonically, this recording is a knockout, presenting a three-dimensional image of a large orchestra in a large hall. This, combined with Levi's magical music-making, results in a very moving experience. A recording not to be missed. (XVI-10)