Recording of the Month

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Robert Baird  |  Apr 12, 2010  |  0 comments
London Concertante: Piazzolla and Beyond
Works by Astor Piazzolla, David Gordon, Adam Summerhayes
London Concertante; Adam Summerhayes, dir.
Harmonia Mundi HMU 907491 (CD). 2009. Chris Grist, prod.; Matt Butler, eng. DDD. TT: 52:01
Performance ****
Sonics ****
Robert Levine  |  Apr 08, 2011  |  1 comments
MOZART: Piano Concertos 22 & 25
David Fray, piano; Jaap van Zweden, Philharmonia Orchestra
Virgin 5099964196404 (CD). 2010. Etienne Collard, prod.; René Möller, eng. DDD. TT: 66:04
Performance *****
Sonics *****

From 1782 to the end of 1785 were successful, fertile years in Vienna for Mozart. He was sought by the aristocracy and the upper classes as a pianist, teacher, and composer. Throughout this period—and the following year, during which he ran out of money—he composed piano sonatas, songs, marches, wind serenades, a horn quintet, Die Entführung aus dem Serail, arias, quartets, works for violin and/or viola, horn concertos, the C-minor Mass, symphonies 35, 36, and 38 (37 was written by Michael Haydn), piano concertos 14–25, Le Nozze di Figaro, and dozens of other works.

Richard Lehnert  |  Apr 04, 2012  |  0 comments
Tord Gustavsen Quartet: The Well
Tord Gustavsen, piano; Tore Brunborg, tenor saxophone; Mats Eilertsen, bass; Jarle Vespestad, drums
ECM 2237 (CD). 2012. Manfred Eicher, prod.; Jan Erik Kongshaug, eng. DDD. TT: 53:19
Performance *****
Sonics *****

The first time I heard J.S. Bach's Well-Tempered Klavier, I heard an endless sameness, lovely but undifferentiated. Only over many hearings did each pairing of prelude and fugue begin to emerge from the background, as what Bach did in each iteration of the same received form began to be revealed as an inexhaustible richness of difference. Gradually, I was learning Bach's musical language; only then did I begin to get an idea of what he might be saying.

Thomas Conrad  |  Mar 28, 2013  |  First Published: Apr 01, 2013  |  3 comments
Around the last decade of the previous century, something significant happened in jazz. Suddenly, many of the best players were no longer Americans. Actually, it was not sudden. It was a gradual flowering that achieved critical mass and could no longer be overlooked.
Robert Levine  |  Mar 26, 2014  |  First Published: Apr 01, 2014  |  3 comments
Beethoven: The Symphonies and Reflections
Symphonies 1–9; works by Giya Kancheli, Misato Mochizuki, Raminta Šerkšnyte, Rodion Shchedrin, Johannes Maria Staud, Jörg Widmann
Mariss Jansons, Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra. Christiane Karg, soprano; Mihoko Fujimura, mezzo-soprano; Michael Schade, tenor; Michael Volle, baritone.
BR Klassik 900119 (6 CDs). 2013. Wilhelm Meister, prod.; Ulrike Schwarz, Peter Urban, Sunao Shimazaki, engs; Mechtild Homburg, Elisabeth Panzer, Bernadette Rüb, asst. engs. DDD. 6:27:31
Performance ****
Sonics *****

These live performances of Beethoven's nine symphonies were recorded mostly in Tokyo's Suntory Hall, October through December 2012 (except 3 and 6, recorded in Munich's Herkulessaal); the ancillary material—the Reflections of this set's title—are works by contemporary composers commissioned by conductor Mariss Jansons and recorded in Munich and Tokyo in 2008, 2009, and 2012. Intended as homages to Beethoven (as if he needed any), they are supposed to reflect what these composers feel Beethoven might be writing if he were alive today. Each new work is meant to denote an aspect of a specific symphony, and the CDs are (mostly) arranged so that we can hear each after the symphony that inspired it. Some of these pieces are daring and innovative, and add value to these marvelous performances of the symphonies themselves.

Robert Baird  |  Mar 16, 2015  |  First Published: Apr 01, 2015  |  5 comments
Sasha Matson: Cooperstown: Jazz Opera in Nine Innings
Julie Adams (Lilly Young), soprano; Carin Gilfry (Jan Green), mezzo-soprano; Daniel Favela (Marvin Wilder), Daniel Montenegro (Angel Corazon), tenors; Rod Gilfry (Dutch Schulhaus), baritone; Jason Rigby, saxophones; Russ Johnson, trumpets; Sean Wayland, keyboards; Rich Mollin, double bass; Gernot Bernroider, drums; Sasha Matson, conductor
Albany TROY1553/54A (2 CDs). 2015. John Atkinson, prod., mastering; Mike Marciano, eng., mix; Bill Schnee, Kenton Fukuda, engs. DDD TT: 101:63
Performance ****½
Sonics *****

A jazz opera about baseball? Uh-huh. Sung in colloquial English? A recording produced by the editor of this magazine? Sounds like the kind of situation where I should have nodded politely and just said No. What about ethics—all the folks who already think that review-based outlets like Stereophile are bought and paid for? Pony up and we'll write you a rave, right? Well, no. Absolutely not. But—Recording of the Month?

Thomas Conrad  |  Mar 22, 2016  |  First Published: Apr 01, 2016  |  5 comments
Avishai Cohen: Into the Silence
Avishai Cohen, trumpet; Bill McHenry, tenor saxophone; Yonathan Avishai, piano; Eric Revis, bass; Nasheet Waits, drums
ECM 2482 (CD). 2016. Manfred Eicher, prod.; Gérard de Haro, Nicolas Baillard, engs. DDD. TT: 53:08
Performance ****½
Sonics ****½

In the new millennium, no country other than Cuba has exported more important jazz musicians to the United States than has Israel. But even though the Israeli jazz phenomenon has been much discussed in the jazz press, critics have been late to recognize that Avishai Cohen is one of the best trumpet players alive. Cohen has two siblings who also play jazz, and his charismatic older sister, Anat, who has been winning major jazz polls on clarinet for several years, gets most of the attention in the family. And then there is Avishai's name problem: One of the best-known Israeli jazz musicians, a bassist of the same name, got to New York first.

Robert Levine  |  Mar 14, 2017  |  2 comments
Aside from the overnight sensation (after a career of more than a decade) of Beverly Sills at the New York City Opera as Cleopatra in Julius Caesar, the 1966–1967 opera "news" in New York was the Metropolitan Opera, newly opened at Lincoln Center. The 10 broadcasts included here feature some singers who still have no equals. In addition to seven starrily cast favorite operas and the premiere of Marvin David Levy's fine Mourning Becomes Electra, there were Samuel Barber's Antony and Cleopatra, composed to inaugurate the new house; the Met premiere of Richard Strauss's 1919 masterpiece, Die Frau ohne Schatten; and the first production in 20 years of Benjamin Britten's Peter Grimes, with the incomparable Jon Vickers essaying the title role for the first time.
John Atkinson  |  Mar 20, 2018  |  30 comments
Radka Toneff & Steve Dobrogosz: Fairytales: Original Master Edition (MQA)
Odin LP03 (original LP, 1982); Odin CD9561 (24-bit/48kHz MQA-encoded FLAC file; Tidal Masters stream; hybrid MQA-CD; original sample rate 192kHz; 2017). Arild Andersen, prod. (1982, 2017); Andreas Risanger Meland, exec. prod. (2017); Tore Skille, Tom Sætre, original engs.; Svein Vatshaug, Rune Sund Nordmark, recorder restoration; Thomas Baårdsen, Geir Iversen, digital transfer of original tapes; Morten Lindberg, Peter Craven, Bob Stuart, digital restoration; Erik Gard Amundsen, technical advisor. DAA (original LP); DDD (MQA). Except: "My Funny Valentine," ADA (LP), ADD (MQA). TT: 40:11
Performance ******
Sonics ******

"See her how she flies . . ." When I first heard that lyric, from Jim Webb's "The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress," sung by a hauntingly fragile woman's voice and supported by a sparse yet lyrical piano accompaniment, at an audio show in 1983, I got chills. Who was this empathetic singer? Back in my cabaret-musician days, more than four decades ago, I backed so many singers with beautiful-sounding pipes but who didn't seem to comprehend the meaning of the words—yet this unknown woman directly communicated the song's emotion.

Jon Iverson  |  Mar 12, 2019  |  3 comments
David Crosby: Here If You Listen
BMG 538431461 (LP), 538429532 (CD), none (FLAC 24/48). 2018. David Crosby, Michael League, prods.; Fab Dupont, prod., eng., mix; Josh Welshman, eng.; Greg Calbi, mastering. ADD/DDD. TT: 45:08
Performance ****
Sonics *****

In 1967, the year the Byrds would fire him, David Crosby sits in a room—a small space, from the sound of it—with a cheap microphone and a recorder of dubious merit. He's improvising some jazzy, open-tuned acoustic guitar strumming, adding nonlexical vocables on top. He then files away the resulting tape—clearly ahead of its time and of no use to his bandmates—for 50 years.

Kurt Gottschalk  |  Mar 18, 2020  |  0 comments
Cooper, Cerrone, Pergolesi, et al: Afterimage
String Orchestra of Brooklyn, Argus Quartet, Melissa Hughes, Kate Maroney, Rachel Lee Priday
Furious Artisans facd6823 (CD). 2020. Emily Bookwalter, Eli Spindel, prods.; Ryan Streber, eng.
Performance ****
Sonics ****

If an orchestra is going to wait more than a decade before releasing its first record, it had better go big when it finally does—which is what the String Orchestra of Brooklyn has done. Afterimage includes compositions by Paganini (1782–1840) and Pergolesi (1710–1736) alongside works by Rome Prize winner Christopher Cerrone (b. 1984) and the less well-known Jacob Cooper (b. 1980).

Jason Victor Serinus  |  Mar 18, 2021  |  5 comments
Žibuoklė Martinaitytė: Saudade
Lithuanian National Symphony Orchestra, Lithuanian Chamber Orchestra, Giedrė Slekytė, cond.; Gabrielius Alekna, piano.
Ondine ODE1386 (24/96 download). 2021. Aleksandra Kerienė. Vilius Keras, prods.; Evelina Staniulytė, Aleksandra Kerienė, Vilius Keras, engs.
Performance *****
Sonics ****½

Might this recording be too "out there" for some? I spent hours mulling alternative recommendations, my favorites being accordionist Ksenija Sidorova's captivating Piazzolla Reflections and cellist Nicole Peña Comas and pianist Hugo Llanos Campos's beautiful new recording of Latin American music, El Canto del Cisne Negro. Either would have been accessible in more obvious ways than Saudade, a collection of four recent orchestral and chamber works by Lithuanian composer Žibuoklė Martinaitytė.

James W. Keeler  |  Dec 24, 2018  |  First Published: Aug 01, 1963  |  2 comments
Nielsen: Symphony No.5, Op.50
New York Philharmonic Orchestra, Leonard Bernstein, conductor
Columbia MS-6414 (LP). John McClure, prod. TT: 33:10

This is surely one of the most exciting works written in the twentieth century. and if there is going to be an upsurge of interest in the works of this great Danish composer as a result of this recording, then Mr. Bernstein and the New York Philharmonic will have rendered music lovers an invaluable service.

J. Gordon Holt  |  Oct 16, 2018  |  First Published: Aug 01, 1964  |  5 comments
Vaughan Williams: Symphony No.2 (A London Symphony)
Hallé Orchestra, Sir John Barbirolli, conductor.
Vanguard Everyman, SRV-134-SD (1963 LP). Reissued in 1982 as PRT Collector GSGC 2035 (LP). Recorded by Pye (UK) in 1957.

This is undoubtedly the best London Symphony that's been committed to stereo to date, and I wouldn't be surprised if it held top place for years to come. I can find nothing to criticize about the performance, and the recording is awe-inspiring—rich, warm and natural, with some phenomenally low bass and very wide dynamic range, yet without the slightest audible trace of breakup during crescendos.

Paul Karagianis  |  Dec 14, 2017  |  First Published: Aug 01, 1975  |  6 comments
You have probably read speaker reports that suggested that you audition with natural sounds like clanking chains, storms, animals and other things that give an easy reference to live experience. The problem is that most sound-effects albums are a real bore, dominated by reject Walt Disney announcers with adenoid problems.

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