Music in the Round #47 Recordings In The Round

Sidebar 2: Recordings In The Round

BIBER: Violin Sonatas
MUFFAT: Violin Sonata, Organ Works

Petri Tapio Mattson, violin; Eero Palviainen, archlute; Markku Mäkinen, organ.
Alba ABCD 311 (SACD/CD)

I'm a sucker for stuff like this album, titled A Virtuoso Faceoff. Each of these composers provides a powerful mixture of stately rigor and seething passion that I find irresistible, especially when well performed and recorded, as here. The soaring tones of Petri Tapio Mattson's baroque violin contrast beautifully with the rich underpinning of Markku Mäkinen's pipe organ. Add to that the piquant accents of Eero Palviainen's archlute, and it becomes a treat for the ear and mind. This was recorded in the warm acoustic of a Finnish parish church, and includes more than an hour of glorious yet soothing music. If your system is up to it, close your eyes, listen for the instrumental placements in the reverberant space, and revel in the presence you can sense.

BIELAWA: In medias res
With: Roam; Double Violin Concerto; unfinish'd, sent; Synopses 1–15
Lisa Bielawa, soprano; Carla Kihlstedt, violin, voice; Colin Jacobsen, violin; Boston Modern Orchestra Project, Gil Rose
BMOP Sound 1017 (2 SACD/CDs)

Lisa Bielawa is a major new voice in music, and this two-disc set contains some of the most blindingly beautiful and original works I have heard in a while. Time Out New York describes Bielawa as possessing a "prodigious gift for mingling persuasive melodicism with organic experimentation," and that well captures my feelings. Her In medias res (Concerto for Orchestra) combines traditional harmonies with shifting tonalities. The innovative Double Violin Concerto features a portion for voice, and unfinish'd, sent is simply beautiful music for voice, in this case the composer's own. Disc 2 contains the 15 Synopses, each a short (3–7 minutes) piece for a single performer, the instruments ranging from piccolo to violin to trumpet to drum set plus voice. It all suggests that there is no limit to Bielawa's imagination.

I have nothing but praise for all the performers, but wish to single out Gil Rose and his Boston Modern Orchestra Project for their efforts, and their ability to present new music to new ears. The sound, as on previous BMOP SACDs, has clarity, presence, and power, without artifice or excessive ambience.

ERIC CLAPTON: Eric Clapton's Crossroads Guitar Festival 2010
With Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck, Joe Bonamassa, Doyle Bramhall II, James Burton, Gary Clark Jr., Robert Cray, Sheryl Crow, Pino Daniele, Vince Gill, Stefan Grossman, Buddy Guy, Warren Haynes, David Hidalgo, Bert Jansch, B.B. King, Earl Klugh, Sonny Landreth, Jonny Lang, Albert Lee, John Mayer, Keb' Mo', Robert Randolph, Cesar Rosas, Hubert Sumlin, Susan Tedeschi, Derek Trucks, Jimmie Vaughan, Johnny Winter, Steve Winwood, ZZ Top
Rhino 525668 (2 BDs)

Like its predecessors, the 2010 edition of the Crossroads Guitar Festival was a gathering of many of today's top players to pay tribute to Eric Clapton and each other. The performances are grouped by style, with some bridging between styles; some of the combinations are surprising, but surprisingly wonderful. The sound quality is outstanding, especially for a live, open-air event, and, coupled with crisp and well-directed video, there is a you-are-there feeling that's rarely conveyed by any recording medium. There is so much here that it's impossible to detail even the highlights. Hey, if the names of the artists in the head note don't get you, fuhgetaboutit!

CORIGLIANO: Symphony 3, "Circus Maximus"; Gazebo Dances
Jerry Junkin, University of Texas Wind Ensemble
Naxos NBD 0008 (BD Audio)

In my first "Music in the Round" column, in the June 2003 Stereophile (see, I predicted the composition of musical works that would demand multichannel reproduction. Here John Corigliano gives us his Symphony 3 for large wind ensemble, complete with instruments moving and surrounding the listener, as stipulated by the composer. Admittedly, I was disappointed when this performance was originally released on CD; the liner notes clearly conveyed Corigliano's wishes in precise diagrams, yet there was no way for the listener to hear those intentions realized. Now there is.

In this sweeping and tumultuous work, Corigliano relates the spectacle and tragedy of Rome's Circus Maximus to today's overloaded and overlarded entertainment culture, with its "ever more extreme 'reality' shows." The work is rich in atmosphere and emotion, and builds to a dramatic peak in the title section, with movement and fanfare, and to an emotional peak in the concluding Prayer and Coda: Veritas movements. I particularly enjoyed the two Night Music movements (shades of Mahler!), which depict, with color and humor, the sounds of forest and city.

As for sound, this is a biggie: The listener is seated in a hall with a concert band on stage, smaller ensembles arrayed above and around, and a marching band—marching! Naxos has captured it all with clarity and weight in 24-bit/88.2kHz (upsampled to 24/96), 5.1-channel surround (DTS-HD MA).

Jienat JNCD002 (SACD+BD)

This one's a hoot! Mixed, mastered, and authored by Morton Lindberg of 2L in bracingly immediate 5.1-channel sound, Andreas Fliflet and his cohort of performers surrounded a pentagram of main-channel microphones so that the listener sits right in the middle of the fun, surrounded by voices, drums, and various amazing sounds. The result is music that is, at least to me, completely novel. Elements of rock, world music, and folk intertwine, and though there's a fair amount of variation from track to track, I was happiest listening to only a few at a time. Perhaps that's because the experience is so intense, or perhaps I'm just not that into nonclassical stuff. Still, I keep going back to sample another and another. As for that hoot, check out track 7, which Fliflet dedicates to his puppy, Mira.

LUTOSLAWSKI: Concerto for Orchestra, Symphony 3, Chain 3
Edward Gardner, BBC Symphony Orchestra
Chandos CHSA 5082 (SACD/CD)

If you like big, bold, and beautiful, you probably already know the music of Witold Lutoslawski—he tends to use large forces laced with surprising flavors and dissonances, and is often inspired by folk music. This disc, which contains three major orchestral works, should be an engaging and inspiring experience for audiophiles and music lovers alike. Chandos tends to record with more hall ambience than other labels, and they do so here, but the brass and percussion easily cut through. The result is a concert presentation more similar to that of a live event than most so-called "minimalist" or "audiophile" recordings. Turn it up and enjoy the space!—Kalman Rubinson

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