Friday, October 28, 2011

Opera Shorts at Weill Recital Hall

Shakespeare said "brevity is the soul of wit" and the Remarkable Theater Brigade takes the bard at his word when they present their third annual night of "Opera Shorts" at Carnegie's Weill Recital Hall on November 4th. This year's line-up features ten operas, each ten minutes long, by some outstanding living composers. This operatic version of speed-dating is just the thing for all who have squirmed through Wagner or endless recitative of Baroque opera.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Anonymous 4’s Susan Hellauer Shares Some Secrets

Anonymous 4 (photo by Chris Carroll)

In the first part of a chat between Anonymous 4’s Susan Hellauer and Ariama editor Craig Zeichner, Hellauer talked about the group’s new album, Secret Voices. Hellauer then shared a look at some of Anonymous 4’s future projects and what the New York Yankees need for the 2012 season.

Ariama: Here you are now 25 years in with albums that have appeared on the Billboard charts. Do you ever imagine it would be this way?

SH: Oh God no! But you know what the great thing is? We were just a group of people who got together to do just what we wanted. We got together because we had some sort of passionate goal and you know that’s very lucky.

Zombie Apocalypse! 20 Track Halloween Sampler

Click to sample and buy the 20 Track Sampler!

It’s creepy and it’s kooky, mysterious and spooky, it’s all together ooky... Okay, apologies to Vic Mizzy (writer of the Addams Family theme song), but Music for the Zombie Apocalypse, a new 20 track digital album from the fertile mind of Naxos’s Collin J. Rae is everything Mizzy mentions in the song and then some. It’s also brilliantly offbeat, eerie and, at times, simply gorgeous. If zombies are this year’s vampires (horror trends are fickle), then this is the ideal soundtrack for stepping out with the walking dead.

The album is marvelously eclectic. It opens with a brilliant musical around the horn as the Introit of the Fauré Requiem leads into a passage from the Schütz Seven Last Words of Christ and then to Penderecki’s Polymorphia. Styles, tonalities and atonalities constantly crash, collide and blend, but ultimately it all hangs together. If it was a little odd hearing the slow movement of the Schubert Piano Trio No. 2, it was because Stanley Kubrick used it so effectively in a very different context in his film Barry Lyndon. But Kubrick was also a master of taking classical music and using it to evoke fear and anxiety and ultimately calm, just as the album does (fans of the The Shining will surely remember the Adagio from Bartok’s Music for strings, percussion and celesta being used to accompany the scene where Jack Nicholson stares vacantly into space from his hotel bed).

Music for the Zombie Apocalypse works as a terrific soundtrack for your darkest thoughts, but also as a sampler of some superb music spanning the Middle Ages to the present day. I can only imagine what Rae has on tap next, Music for the 2012 Presidential Election? Now, that’s spooky.

Click to sample and buy the 20 Track Sampler!

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

New Album Review: Emerson Quartet - Mozart: The Prussian Quartets

Sample and buy the album at Ariama!

It’s been nearly twenty years since the Emerson String Quartet last recorded music by Mozart, so this new recording of the three “Prussian” quartets (works that the Emersons used to play in their early days) is most welcome.

A 1789 visit to the court of King Friedrich Wilhelm II of Prussia (an amateur cellist) resulted in the King offering Mozart a job at court. Mozart turned down the gig in deference to the Emperor in Vienna, but did (according to his own account) leave with a commission for a set of six quartets for the King.

Shostakovich and Jewish Music

When Kurt Masur leads the New York Philharmonic in performances of Dmitry Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 13, “Babi Yar” on October 27–29, the courageous side of this enigmatic composer will be showcased through his love and respect for Jewish causes and music.

Shostakovich lived his life running before threats from the Soviet government. It began in 1936 when Stalin and a group of officials attended the premiere of Shostakovich’s opera Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk. They didn’t like it. Their displeasure resulted in an unsigned article in Pravda, “Muddle instead of music,” blasting the work. On one level it was a bad review based on musical ignorance, but the article also contained a chilling warning: “This is playing at things beyond reason that can end very badly.”

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Exclusive Video Interview with Lang Lang

Lang Lang stars on the big screen October 22nd when he celebrates Liszt’s 200th anniversary in a live world-wide concert simulcast. Ariama editor Craig Zeichner spoke with Lang Lang about Liszt, Chopin and some Chinese culinary delicacies in this exclusive Ariama video interview.

Click here to sample and buy Lang Lang's new album Liszt, My Piano Hero

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

New Album Review: Anonymous 4 "Secret Voices"

The “secret voices” of the album’s title refers to Cistercian nuns (of mostly aristocratic birth) living at Las Huelgas, a convent near Burgos in south-central Spain. The “secret” was that these women were singing polyphony (music with two or more voices with independent melodies) despite an edict from church fathers forbidding the practice. The polyphonic music, as well as secular and other forms of sacred music, is found in the Codex Las Huelgas, a collection of European music spanning the entire 13th and early 14th centuries. Anonymous 4 sing music from the Codex on this new recording.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Sounds of a New Century Festival

photo by Michael Geller

New music is alive and kicking in New York and there’s nothing like a nine-day festival of music by more than 100 composers age 40 and under to make the point. Tomorrow is the kick off for the Sounds of a New Century Festival (SONIC), the American Composers Orchestra-produced new music extravaganza.

Classical Legends Sale - Ends 10/25

Every generation has its masters. We revere past greats while also treasuring the new generation of musical stars. Our special collection offers selected albums by legendary artists and artists who are the legends of our day.

From past master Jascha Heifetz to present day virtuoso Rachel Barton Pine, this week get
20% off select recordings and take advantage of this offer to complete your collection!

Click here to see the list of albums on sale

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

New Release and Review: Soviet Experience, Vol. 1: Shostakovich & Myaskovsky

Soviet Experience, Vol. 1: Shostakovich & MyaskovskyClick to sample and buy the album

As William Hussey’s illuminating but theory-heavy liner notes point out, the fifteen string quartets of Dmitri Shostakovich are “arguably, the greatest string quartet cycle of the twentieth century.” The Pacifica Quartet launch a complete quartet cycle with this recording that couples the String Quartets Nos. 5 – 8 with the last quartet by Shostakovich’s older contemporary Nikolay Myaskovsky (1881 – 1950). Ongoing volumes will feature Shostakovich quartets with quartets by his other Soviet contemporaries.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Catching up with new and recent releases

I’m very fortunate because when the daily mail arrives it’s usually filled with recordings. Lots of them. Despite the mutterings of doomsayers, the classical music recording industry is very much alive and continues to knock out new releases, reissues and DVDs in every conceivable genre.

It can be a little frustrating because on occasion it seems like every label is trying to introduce a flashy young pianist or violinist in the same week. The publicity photos usually feature earnest young people with edgy clothing and quirky haircuts hovering over their Steinways or holding their bow in mid-air like so many budding Chopins or Paganinis. But I’m very thankful there are young people for whom the name Chopin means something more than a brand of vodka.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

New Lang Lang Release!

Lang Lang's Liszt, My Piano Hero is the most eagerly anticipated album of the Liszt anniversary year. The megastar pianist is joined by Valery Gergiev and the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra in Liszt's Piano Concerto No. 1 and as a soloist in some of the composers most famous piano music.

Check out the album at Ariama