Music and Recording Features

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Robert Baird  |  Feb 24, 2016  |  3 comments
All band photos copyright Capitol Photo Archives

Although there was a fall chill in the air, the front windows were open, and the sounds of perhaps the greatest Beach Boys ballad of all wafted into the Massachusetts night.

Perched on the edge of the couch, dear friend and Stereophile contributing music editor David Sokol—former editor-in-chief of New Country and Disney magazines, a man who's written about music for over 40 years and has yet to lose his passion for the stuff—was waxing poetic and weeping, ever so slightly, as the room filled with the intricate mix of voices that is "Kiss Me, Baby."

Robert Baird  |  Jan 04, 2018  |  1 comments
Is classical music really on the ropes? Living in New York City, it's easy to think that is a myth cooked up in the provinces.

Recently, at a performance of the Metropolitan Opera's fabulous current production of Jacques Offenbach's The Tales of Hoffmann, directed by Bartlett Sher, I experienced Classical Music 2017 up close and personal. In the audience, multicolored sequined jackets and cheetah-print slip-on sneakers mixed with tuxedos. Merrell hiking shoes and Patagonia down jackets crossed with slim-fit outfits from Billy Reid and Hermes bags. Between bravura tenor Vittorio Grigolo in the title role and soprano Erin Morley's absolutely wonderful portrayal of the doll, Olympia (Bravo!!!), it was a performance for the ages. None of the recordings I've heard come close.

Richard Lehnert  |  Apr 02, 2010  |  5 comments
I know of only one composer who measures up to Beethoven, and that is Bruckner.—Richard Wagner, 1882
Richard Lehnert  |  Jan 23, 2013  |  3 comments
This reconstruction of the Ninth's Finale is the result of 30 years' work by Bruckner scholars Nicola Samale, John A. Phillips, Benjamin-Gunnar Cohrs, and Giuseppe Mazzuca (SPCM). (See March 2010 feature story.) For this new "Conclusive Revised Edition 2012," SPCM shortened by 18 bars the coda, of which little of Bruckner's writing survives, and reworked it to include, based on Bruckner's description, a development of the trumpets' "Alleluia" in bar five of the Adagio. This works well, though the coda now seems a bit short. A further "final" edition is in the works.
Julie Mullins  |  Aug 10, 2021  |  0 comments
Crossing borders and genre boundaries is never easy, but for Bryce Dessner, it's become a familiar experience.

Dessner, 45, a classically trained guitarist, multi-instrumentalist, and composer, has racked up multi-hyphenates over the last couple of decades of his musical career. Arguably best known for his work with indie rock band The National—where he shares lead guitar, piano, songwriting, and other duties with his identical-twin brother Aaron—he's also an accomplished arranger and producer and cofounder of two record labels.

Elizabeth Cohen  |  Dec 31, 1995  |  0 comments
"He was a warrior...What he did was pry a chink out of the wall and let the light come through the hole. It's up to us to keep that hole open. We've got a world to save. This guy is going to kick our ass if we get up there and we haven't carried the torches."
---Ken Kesey, Funeral for Jerry Garcia, 8/11/95
Jason Victor Serinus  |  Sep 20, 2014  |  9 comments
Move over John, George, Ringo, and Paul. There's another remastering that's come on the scene, and it's every bit as important as the Beatles Mono Edition. It's Warner Classics' high-resolution, 24/96 digital remastering of soprano Maria Callas' entire studio-sourced discography. Consisting of arias, recitals and complete operas recorded 1949–1969, the remasterings reach the international public on September 22, and US music lovers on September 23. Their sound, whether in the 69-CD box set of her entire studio recordings, or HDtracks' 24/96 downloads of its individual components, is revelatory.
Jason Victor Serinus  |  Feb 28, 2016  |  3 comments
Ever since I encountered Wilson Audio Specialties' Peter McGrath (above) playing his own digital recordings at audio shows, hanging out in the Wilson Audio room has proven the consistent highlight of my show coverage experience. Nor is it simply the quality of the musicianship that continues to draw me to McGrath's rooms. As anyone who has heard his work can attest, the man's ability to capture the unique characteristics of a performance venue, as well as the natural sound of voice and instruments, is second to none.
Wes Phillips  |  Jan 08, 2001  |  0 comments
Even though she calls her new band, 4x4, a "small" group, it's a big band—almost too big for the stage of the Knitting Factory on the night of October 11, 2000, as it makes its first American appearance. Bley's piano is so far to stage left, she has to lean against the wall and stoop under a hanging monitor speaker to address the audience. Four music stands dominate the rest of the apron—her front line of tenor saxophone, alto saxophone, trumpet, and trombone stand shoulder to shoulder, blocking the audience's view of Larry Goldings and his Hammond B3, drummer Billy Drummond, and bassist Steve Swallow, who stands 15' back and on a riser. If she'd showed up with her 17-piece band, they'd have had to have hung the horn sections from the rafters, like the sound system.
Robert Baird  |  Nov 13, 2012  |  0 comments
Humble, unprepossessing, modest are not words normally associated with lead guitarists, or lead singers, or lead anything. But Albert Lee, the Fender Telecaster devotee, has, by all accounts, always been refreshingly down to earth. The other unusual quality about Lee is that he's an English guitarist who, in country music, can hold his own against any American player.
Robert Baird  |  Jan 07, 2012  |  0 comments
Up on the old church altar, under the ceiling's massive and ornate wooden arches, in front of an array of stained glass whose center panel has been replaced with a modern rendering of a trio of bluesmen, singer and harmonica player Phil Wiggins and singer-guitarist Corey Harris are nearing the end of their set. Wiggins pauses, looks at his watch, and smiles.

"Time flies when you're playing blues in a church."

Ken Micallef  |  Oct 09, 2019  |  13 comments
Armando Anthony "Chick" Corea belongs to that elite cadre of pianists that includes Herbie Hancock, Keith Jarrett, and Mccoy Tyner, pioneers who reshaped the jazz or- der starting in the early 1960s and continued to make strides into the present day.

The now-78-year-old Corea's attainments are many: composer of the standards "la fiesta," "Spain," "500 Miles High," "Matrix," and "Windows"; winner of 22 Grammy Awards (and 64 nods); founder of at least six colossal improvising units (Return to Forever I and II, Circle, the Three Quartets quartet, the Chick Corea Elektric Band, the Vigil Quintet); popularizer of early monophonic synthesizers, and recipient, in 2006, of an NEA Jazz Masters award.

Wes Phillips  |  Dec 27, 2009  |  0 comments
Back when there was still something called the "classical music industry," one of Stereophile's favorite small labels was John Marks Records, masterminded by the magazine's "The Fifth Element" columnist, John Marks. In fact, it was his recordings that first brought John to the magazine's attention. JMR had a phenomenal run of releases, among them Arturo Delmoni and Meg Bachman Vas's Songs My Mother Taught Me, Nathaniel Rosen's cycle of J.S. Bach's Suites for Solo Cello, Delmoni and Rosen's Music for a Glass Bead Game, and the three Rejoice recordings of Christmas music for string quartet (also featuring Delmoni and Rosen). That's a pretty solid run for a label that released fewer than 20 recordings.
Wes Phillips  |  Jun 22, 2000  |  0 comments
The Emerson String Quartet defies conventional wisdom. They like to take risks, and they use the adrenaline that creates to hone their music-making to a fine edge.
Robert Baird  |  Jun 10, 2016  |  1 comments
Eine kleine Nachtmusik it ain't. And yet, in 1992, lightning struck, tectonic plates shifted, and the third symphony of Polish composer Henryk Mikolaj Górecki (1933–2010) became a bona-fide hit. Defying both skeptics and logic, a recording of this decidedly sepia-toned work, subtitled The Symphony of Sorrowful Songs, by the London Sinfonietta conducted by American maestro David Zinman, and featuring soprano soloist Dawn Upshaw, eventually sold over a million copies, making it the largest-selling recording of modern classical music ever.

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