Recording of the Month

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Robert Levine  |  Nov 15, 2010  |  0 comments
Beethoven: Piano Concertos 1–5
Paul Lewis, piano; Jirí Belohlávek, BBC Symphony Orchestra
Harmonia Mundi 902053.55 (3 CDs). 2010. Martin Sauer, prod.; Philip Knop, eng. DDD. TT: 2:55:42
Performance *****
Sonics *****
Richard Lehnert  |  Oct 31, 2011  |  First Published: Nov 01, 2011  |  1 comments
1111rotm.jpgBruckner Symphonies 4, 7, 9
(Finale of 9 completed by Carragan, ed. 2010)
Gerd Schaller, Philharmonie Festiva
Profil PH11028 (4 CDs). 2008/2009/2011. Ememkut Zaotschnyj (4, 7), Lutz Wildner (9), prods.; Sandro Binetti (4, 7), Herbert Fr ühbauer (9), engs. DDD. TTs: 65:43 (4), 64:52 (7), 83:41 (9)
Performance *****
Sonics ***** (4, 7), ****½ (9)

These performances were recorded at the Ebrach Festival, held annually in the small town of Ebrach, Germany (an hour's drive north from Nuremberg or west from Bayreuth), in the former Abbey Church of Ebrach, which comprised a Cistercian monastery (now a prison) and a vast gothic cathedral built in the 13th century which now serves as the parish church. Many hear the phrases "festival orchestra" and "live recording" and expect the worst: flawed documents of underrehearsed performances by hastily convened pickup orchestras in venues not designed for good sound, and plagued by coughs, sneezes, scraped chair legs, the inadvertent rustlings of hundreds of attendees, and a level of applause that might not conform to the response of the listener at home.

Robert Baird  |  Nov 02, 2012  |  0 comments
Albert Lee: Tearing It Up
AIX Records AIX 85054 (BD). Mark Waldrep, prod.; Mona Waldrep, exec. prod.; Dominic Robelotto, assoc. prod., eng., BD authoring. DDD. TT: 100:00
Performance *****
Sonics *****

"From a layman's perspective, I'd listen to the 'Audience' mix on my first bourbon and the 'Stage' mix on my second."

Ahh, yes, out of the mouths of . . . audiophiles . . . who like good booze!

Lacking a 5.1-channel surround-sound rig at home, I enlisted the able assistance of "Music in the Round" columnist Kalman Rubinson, who then convinced his son-in-law, Michael Schechter, source of the above quote, to host us for an evening of listening to and watching the Blu-ray disc Tearing It Up, a new set by the incomparable English country-rock guitarist Albert Lee, recently released by AIX Records.

David Sokol  |  Oct 24, 2013  |  First Published: Nov 01, 2013  |  0 comments
Bob Dylan: Another Self Portrait (1969–1971): The Bootleg Series Vol.10
Columbia/Legacy 88883 73488 2 (4 CDs). 2013. Bob Johnston, Al Kooper, orig. prods.; Neil Wilburn, Don Puluse, Glyn Johns, orig. engs.; Elliot Mazer, Glyn Johns (Isle of Wight disc); Jeff Rosen, Steve Berkowitz, prods.; Greg Calbi, mastering. AAD? TT: 4:06:32
Performance ****½
Sonics ****½

It wasn't until I'd read Michael Metzger's write-up of Self Portrait in "Records To Die For" (Stereophile, February 2002) that I was prompted to revisit Bob Dylan's once-critically-scoffed-at musical enigma from 1970. Sandwiched between the new country of 1969's Nashville Skyline and the decidedly folkier New Morning from late 1970, the two LPs of the original Self Portrait sounded like the work of an artist, albeit one still in his late 20s, wanting to unplug from the world and his already staggering body of work. With its quirky cover versions and unfocused song selection, it left plenty of fans scratching their heads.

Thomas Conrad  |  Oct 27, 2014  |  First Published: Nov 01, 2014  |  1 comments
Henry Mancini: Music for Peter Gunn
Steven Richman, Harmonie Ensemble/New York (22-piece orchestra)
Harmonia Mundi HMU907624 (CD). 2014. Steven Richman, prod.; Adam Abeshouse, prod., eng., mastering; Bill Siegmund, asst. prod., ed.; Andy Rider, eng. DDD? TT: 51:04
Performance ****½
Sonics ****

To get the full benefit of this album, you must be old enough to remember 1959. Detective shows were the rage. Your parents let you stay up for Richard Diamond, Private Detective, starring David Janssen, and Peter Gunn, starring Craig Stevens. They were the first TV dramas with their own original jazz soundtracks. Pete Rugolo scored Richard Diamond. The RCA LP of Henry Mancini's music for Peter Gunn was a smash. It was on the Billboard charts for two years, and in 1959 won the first-ever Grammy for Album of the Year.

Robert Baird  |  Oct 20, 2015  |  First Published: Nov 01, 2015  |  2 comments
Various Artists: Hommage à Eberhard Weber
Pat Metheny, Jan Garbarek, Gary Burton, Scott Colley, Danny Gottlieb, Paul McCandless, Michael Gibbs; SWR Big Band, Helge Sunde, conductor
ECM 2463 (CD). 2015. Martin Muhelis, concert prod.; Doris Hauser, Volker Neumann, Boris Kellenbenz, Pete Karam, Manfred Eicher, engs. DDD? TT: 69:48
Performance *****
Sonics *****

There once was a joke about how technology would someday replace troublesome musicians: Instead of putting up with drummers being late to gigs, keeping irregular time, and stealing everyone else's girlfriends, a trouble-free robot could take over. It seems that some of those predictions have come true. This single disc documents two concerts held in Stuttgart, Germany, in January 2015, to celebrate the 75th birthday of hometown German jazz electric bassist Eberhard Weber, who has been unable to play since suffering a stroke, in 2007. Via tape loops and video samples of Weber playing, he nonetheless played a large part in his birthday celebration, particularly in the concerts' centerpiece, Pat Metheny's 30-minute "Hommage," a rare example of Metheny writing for big band and a tour de force of Weber's distinctive playing.

Robert Levine  |  Oct 20, 2016  |  5 comments
Martha Argerich: Early Recordings
Beethoven: Piano Sonata 7 in D, Op.10 No.3. Mozart: Piano Sonata 18 in D, K.576. Prokofiev: Toccata, Op.11; Piano Sonatas 3 in a, Op.29 & 7 in B-flat, Op.83. Ravel: Gaspard de la Nuit, Sonatine.
Martha Argerich, piano
Deutsche Grammophon 479 5978 (2 mono CDs). 2016. No prod. or eng. credits given. ADD. TT: 2:10:50
Performance *****
Sonics ***½

There is no dearth of recordings by the great Argentine pianist Martha Argerich—over 150 are listed in her discography—and here, in honor of her 75th birthday, are two more discs, comprising previously unreleased material. Argerich has been playing publicly since she was eight years old; in 1957, she won the Busoni and Geneva competitions and continued to concertize, but it was not until she won the Chopin Competition, in Warsaw, in 1965 that she began to become a household name (in pianist-loving households). There is a rumor that she has never given a bad concert or made a poor or uninteresting recording; this new set does nothing to contradict it.

Robert Baird  |  Oct 17, 2017  |  1 comments
Ahmad Jamal: Marseille
Ahmad Jamal, piano; James Cammack, double bass; Herlin Riley, drums; Manolo Badrena, percussion; Abd Al Malik (track 4), Mina Agossi (track 8), vocals
Jazz Book/Jazz Village [PIAS] JV 33570142.43 (2 LPs). 2017. Ahmad Jamal, Seydou Barry, Catherine Vallon-Barry, prods.; Vincent Mahey, eng. ADA? TT: 59:33
Performance *****
Sonics *****

While cities like New York, Detroit, and Philly all get more press for their jazz history and connections, Pittsburgh has a rich history as the birthplace of many notable swing and bebop jazz players. Bassist Ray Brown, drummers Art Blakey and Jeff "Tain" Watts, tenor saxman Stanley Turrentine, trumpeter Roy Eldridge, and the one and only Billy Strayhorn, famed collaborator of Duke Ellington and composer of "Take The 'A' Train," all came from The Burgh.

Margaret Graham, J. Gordon Holt  |  Sep 05, 2017  |  First Published: Oct 01, 1978  |  5 comments
Bill Berry and His Ellington All-Stars: For Duke
Works by Duke Ellington
Bill Berry, cornet; Ray Brown, bass; Frankie Capp, drums; Scott Hamilton, tenor sax; Nat Pierce, piano; Marshal Royal, alto sax; Britt Woodman, trombone.
M&K Real-Time RT-101 (direct-to-disc LP).

This is to-date the best direct-to-disc recording I have heard. For once I can't complain about the high end being shrill or hard. The balances are excellent and the performances superior, with each member of the group getting his chance to show off. Marshal Royal's saxophone solos must be heard to be believed, Everyone present is obviously having a good time making music, which is the way it always ought to be but often isn't.

Margaret Graham, J. Gordon Holt  |  Aug 29, 2017  |  First Published: Oct 01, 1979  |  1 comments
Tchaikovsky: 1812 Overture (Op.49), Capriccio Italien (Op.45 ), "Cossack Dance" from Mazeppa (LP), plus Marche slav, Op.31, Polonaise and Waltz from Eugene Onegin , Op.24, Festival Coronation March (CD).
Cincinnati Pops Orchestra, Kiev Symphony Chorus; Children's Choir of Greater Cincinnati, Erich Kunzel cond.
Telarc Digital DG-10041 (LP, CD-80041 (CD). 1979 (LP), 1984 (CD). Edited at Soundstream, Inc. Robert Woods, prod.; Jack Renner, eng. DAA (LP), DDD (CD). TT: 35:19 (LP), 60:23 (CD).

I must say I'm getting a bit bored with the 1812 Overture, but as long as there are audiophiles, it will be recorded due to the stringent demands it can make upon one's playback system. This version produced by Telarc is going to be hard to beat. The cannon fire is unbelievable.

Margaret Graham  |  Aug 01, 2017  |  First Published: Oct 01, 1980  |  2 comments
Lincoln Hayorga and Amanda McBroom: Growing Up In Hollywood Town
Lincoln Hayorga and Amanda McBroom
Sheffield LAB-13 (LP).

This is a gorgeous recording. And would you believe, it's multi-miked? Sheffield's first since 1975, according to the notes. Ms. McBroom has that purity of intonation that once distinguished Julie Andrews' voice. This, plus a predominantly-string backup orchestra delivers a rich, warm sound. Each of the songs here is a gem in its own right, and the collaboration of McBroom and Mayorga creates moments here that are magical. My favorite is the song entitled "Amanda," with its frontier flavor and unadorned lyrics, followed by Mayorga's'waltz, "Wistful Lady."

J. Gordon Holt  |  Feb 24, 2015  |  First Published: Oct 01, 1982  |  2 comments
The Sheffield Track Record
Robbie Buchanan and James Newton Howard, keyboards; Lennie Castro, percussion; Nathan East, bass guitar; Mike Landau, guitar; Carlos Vega, drums. Ron Tutt, and Jim Keltner, drum solos. TT: 22:13.
Sheffield LAB-20.

What, a recording of rock backup tracks? Who could care less? Me, is who. Quibble over the program if you will (actually, it isn't all that dull, and two of the numbers are fun to listen to), but this wasn't released for the program material. You might call it a tantalizing sample of where a lot of rock sound begins, before it is fuzzed, reverbed, and cross-dubbed God knows how many times before the final mess is released for the edification of the peons. This has to be one of the most astonishing rock recordings ever issued! The Absolute Sound's Harry Pearson (who obviously got his before we got ours, as you are reading this 9 weeks after our copy arrived) is quoted on the jacket as declaring this to be "Absolutely the best-sounding rock record ever made." He's right.

J. Gordon Holt  |  Oct 21, 2014  |  First Published: Oct 01, 1983  |  2 comments
Billy Joel: The Stranger
CBS CD 35DP2 (CD) and JC34987 (digitally mastered, CX-encoded LP).

This is one of four recordings we now have on hand in both the CD and digital-mastered LP formats, and all reviews of these will be parallel reviews. In the case of the CBS discs, there is no "conventional" version, as all of their recent LP releases are CX-encoded. Thus, I will be comparing decoded CXed CBS LPs (footnote 1) with their CD equivalents.

J. Gordon Holt  |  Jul 08, 2014  |  First Published: Oct 01, 1984  |  3 comments
1084rotmjgh.jpgSaint-Saëns: Piano Concerto No.2
Rachmaninoff: Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini

Bella Davidovich (pno), Concertgebouw Orchestra, Neeme Jarvi, cond.
Philips CD 410-052 2 (CD), 6514-164 (LP).

At last we're starting to realize some of the promise of CD from a major record company. This is the best CD recording I've heard yet from Philips. Both of these are virtuoso romantic works requiring a big piano sound and the stamina to produce it for 6–10 minutes at a stretch, which is probably why few lady pianists will tackle them. Bella Davidovich pulls these off with great aplomb.

To me, the Saint-Saëns is the better of the two, and is one of the truly great performances of this work. I grudgingly rate it as equal to my long-time favorite, the Rubinstein/Reiner performance on a 1958 RCA LP (LSC-2234), although I would have liked a little more TLC from Ms. Davidovich in the first movement. She seems a little rushed where an occasional lingering caress is indicated, but that is quibbling with what is a really rousing performance.

Harold Lynn  |  Sep 18, 2013  |  First Published: Oct 01, 1987  |  11 comments
Duruflé: Requiem; Fauré: Requiem
Blegen, Morris, Shaw, Atlanta SO and Chorus.
Telarc 80135 (CD). Robert Woods, prod.; Jack Renner, eng. DDD. TT: 74:23

To have two Requiems by French composers on the same disc certainly invites comparisons. Superficially similar, the works are actually quite different: both are conceived for small-scale performance, both rely on the organ, and neither places any great demands on chorus or orchestra. The differences concern mood and even intent. Fauré's Requiem, composed between 1887 and 1890, has survived all kinds of performances, both amateur and professional, without losing its ability to move hearers with its gentle hymn for the dead. The Duruflé, composed in 1947, has not achieved this kind of public appeal. A commissioned work, and not unified in style, this requiem is enjoyed by those who sing it; audiences tend to find it bland.

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