Tuesday, November 29, 2011

New Album Review: Paul Lewis, Schubert: Piano Sonatas D.840, 850 & 894

Click to sample and buy the album

Pianist Paul Lewis recently completed a massive Beethoven cycle that included recordings for Harmonia Mundi of the complete sonatas and piano concertos, so the musical chronology would suggest that Franz Schubert would be the next composer on Lewis’s list. The Viennese holy trinity of Haydn, Mozart and Beethoven all wrote piano sonatas and their spirit hovers over Schubert’s early sonatas, but the late sonatas, Impromptus and Klavierstücke that Lewis performs here are from a new world where fuller more poetic expression reigns without the shackles of form. Lewis is a masterful guide to this new world.
If you have been following his career, you’ll know that Lewis is not new to Schubert. He’s partnered with Mark Padmore for a series of revelatory recordings of the composer’s great song cycles and has recorded early sonatas and chamber music. Still, as excellent as those recordings are, he trumps them with this album. Lewis brings penetrating intelligence, virtuosity and taste to this late music. His mastery of touch and tone makes sense of the Sonata in C Major’s reiterated passages. Elegance, wit and virtuosity mark his performance of the Sonata in D Major with an opening Allegro that drives forcefully but musically, a Scherzo both pugnacious and poetic, and a delightful Rondo (which Robert Schumann criticized) that’s laced with wry humor.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

New Album Review: Chopin, Mendelssohn: Cello Sonatas

Cellist Pieter Wispelwey and pianist Paolo Giacometti partner in Felix Mendelssohn’s effervescent Cello Sonata No. 2 and Frédéric Chopin’s rarely heard Cello Sonata in G minor. The album is rounded out with Mendelssohn’s Song without Words in D, and three of Chopin’s Op. 64 waltzes arranged for cello and piano by legendary 19th century Russian cellist Karl Davydov.
The Mendelssohn Sonata is a terrific adrenalin blast. The rollicking opening Allegro fairly roars out of the gate with the two performers putting their feet on the gas pedal without compromising tonal quality or precision. The Allegretto scherzando (another of Mendelssohn’s great quicksilver scherzi) is nimbly athletic with Wispelwey snapping off crisp pizzicato notes with great alacrity. The gorgeous Adagio features fluid arpeggiated chords from Giacometti that have a chorale-like feel, and when Wispelwey joins him in the song the result is thrilling. As energetic as the opening movement was, the Molto allegro finale trumps it for pure propulsion. This is a brilliant performance from start to finish.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Aaron Copland Anniversary Sale - 20% OFF 20 Titles - Ends 11/29/11

Here’s a Fanfare for an Uncommon Man. We are celebrating the birthday of American master composer Aaron Copland by offering 20% off 20 selected Copland albums.

Check out the list and tell us: what’s your favorite Copland work?

Offer ends 11/29/11.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

New Album Review: Music in a Time of War

The album’s title, Music for a Time of War, forces the conceit a bit because, with the exception of John Adams’s The Wound Dresser and possibly Benjamin Britten’s Sinfonia da Requiem, there’s nothing specifically wartime-related on the program. But that shouldn’t dissuade you from picking up this outstanding album of music by Charles Ives, Adams, Britten and Ralph Vaughan Williams performed by the Oregon Symphony conducted by its music director, Carlos Kalmar.

What does Ives’s mystical The Unanswered Question have to do with war? Not very much, but as Steven Kruger says in his liner notes, “Ultimately, a contemplative work is whatever the listener makes of it.” This is a superb performance of Ives’s mini-masterpiece. With their beautifully hushed well-articulated playing, the Oregon strings make the slow-motion opening chorale something that’s both mysterious and beautiful. Here’s an interesting listening exercise, listen to the Ives and then Ingram Marshall’s Fog Tropes and you will appreciate how prescient the old guy from Danbury really was.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Choral music for women's voices

Amy Beach

When was the last time you heard a choral piece by Amy Beach? You'll have an opportunity to do just that when the Melodia Women's Choir of NYC performs Beach's "The Chambered Nautilus," a large-scale choral work set to a text by American poet Oliver Wendell Holmes. 

Melodia is a vibrant and vital force advocating music for women's voices through its commissions, residencies and performances. Since it was founded in 2003 by Jenny Clarke, the ensemble has performed a vast range of repertoire, from Medieval music of Hildegard of Bingen to world premieres by living women composers. When Melodia performs on November 13th (at West End Collegiate Church) and November 19th (at Church of the Holy Apostles) they will be performing music by Beach, Cecilia McDowell and the world premiere of Catherine Aks's "The Journey." Oh yes, Melodia also performs music for wormen's voices written by men, so works by Eric Whitacre, Gabriel Fauré, Giuseppe Verdi and Gustav Holst will also be on the bill.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Christopher Jackson and the Studio de Musique Ancienne de Montréal

Christopher Jackson is the founder and leader of the vocal ensemble Studio de Musique de Montréal (SMAM)

For nearly 40 years Jackson and SMAM have performed and recorded a wide range of repertoire, from the Renaissance to contemporary works. SMAM’s newest recording is Musica Vaticana, a collection of sacred music by 17th century Roman masters. Ariama editor Craig Zeichner spoke with Jackson about the new album.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

New Album Review: Appalachian Christmas

Click to sample and buy the album, now 20% OFF until 11/15/11

Mark O’Connor is best known as the outstanding violinist who partnered with cellist Yo-Yo Ma and bassist Edgar Meyer on the megahit Appalachia Waltz and Heartland, An Appalachian Anthology albums. O’Connor continues with the Appalachian theme on his new Christmas album, An Appalachian Christmas.

O’Connor is featured on the violin (on Leroy Anderson’s “Sleigh Ride” he also plays guitar, mandolin, mandola, bass, banjo and percussion) and is joined by a star studded group of guest artists, including Renée Fleming, Yo-Yo Ma, Edgar Meyer and Sharon Isbin. O’Connor is equally at home in the world of bluegrass, country swing and jazz, and his guests from those genres are equally top-shelf with Chris Thile, Alison Krauss, James Taylor and Jane Monheit joining the festivities.

Friday, November 4, 2011

What are conductors really thinking?

We all know conductors are famous for being physically emotive when leading an orchestra. but what's really on their minds when they wave their batons?

We've taken a tongue-in-cheek look at some photos of conductors and matched them to famous lines from AFI's 100 greatest film quotes. Be sure to check out the music from the movies and recordings from the conductors. Follow the link and tell us which are your favorites?
Click to see the rest!

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Exclusive Yo-Yo Ma Video Interview

Yo-Yo Ma and the Goat Rodeo Sessions crew are featured in an exclusive video interview with Ariama editor Craig Zeichner. In this light-hearted chat, Yo-Yo and company discuss genre breaking music, what’s a Goat Rodeo and how there was a “special” list for Yo-Yo – watch the interview to learn more!

Click here to sample and buy Yo-Yo Ma's new album The Goat Rodeo Sessions.

Get 20% off the album and 13 other fantastic Americana recordings this week only.
Click here to see the full list.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Eleven Number 1’s

Today is November 1, 2011 or 11/1/11. Music and numerology sometimes go hand-in-hand. The number nine seemed to be the cut point for symphonies. Beethoven, Bruckner, Schubert and Dvorak all got to nine and then wrote no more. Rossini apparently suffered from triskaidekaphobia (the fear of the number 13). Rossini also was worried about Fridays and ironically died on a Friday the 13th. He was also born on a leap year, so the numbers were always against him.