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Cecil Taylor - Fly! Fly! Fly! Fly! Fly! (1981/2014) High-Fidelity FLAC Stereo 24bit/88,2kHz

Artist: Cecil Taylor
Title: Fly! Fly! Fly! Fly! Fly!
Genre: Jazz, Avant-Garde Jazz, Free Jazz, Modal, Piano Jazz
Label: © MPS - Musik Produktion Schwarzwald | Edel Germany GmbH
Release Date: 1981/2014
Quality: High-Fidelity FLAC Stereo 88,2kHz/24bit
Duration: 00:47:27
Recorded: September 14, 1980 at the MPS-Studio in Villingen/Black Forest, Germany

In the late 1950’s and early 60’s pianist Cecil Taylor along with saxophonists Ornette Coleman and John Coltrane blazed revolutionary paths through the jazz landscape that forever transformed our perception of the music. Journalist Val Wilmer described Taylor’s play as “88 tuned drums”, and the Guardian called him an “…Art Tatum with contemporary-classical leanings”. For those who think Cecil Taylor’s music too ‘far out’ or who have never experienced his play, this 1980 MPS solo recording will turn your heads and change your minds! The German jazz guru Joachim Ernst Berendt enthused about the recording, “You will hear it all: blues licks and bop phrases…Tatum runs and Bud Powell…even a Boogie-woogie…” he states that, “Taylor is a master of form. The first side (1-5) of the record runs like a suite. Everything is connected.” Taylor’s poetic titles are indicative of the music’s lyricism and depth. An accessible inroad into the fantastic musical terrain of a jazz giant!
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Carrie Newcomer - The Slender Thread (2015) High-Fidelity DSF Stereo DSD64/2.82MHz

Artist: Carrie Newcomer
Title: The Slender Thread
Genre: Folk, Pop Rock, Singer/Songwriter
Label: © Stockfisch Records SFR 357.4088.2
Release Date: 2015
Quality: DSF Stereo DSD64/2.82MHz
Source: SACD ISO
Duration: 00:49:45

Once upon a time there was a singer from a far-off country who was fair of face and sang with the voice of an angel. Her name was Newcomer, although she possessed a rich store of artistic experience. The master troubadours of Stockfisch heard of this wonderful songstress, and because in a fairy-tale nothing is impossible, they waved their wands and whisked her over the wide, wide ocean to ultimately land in the fabled acoustic cavern of Northeim. There they enhanced her golden voice with lutes, flutes and other fabulous instruments ...
The wonderful thing is: this is not a fairy tale, or more correctly, for the poets, dreamers, and connaisseurs (actually for all of us), this is a fairy-tale come true! With its warm, catchy tunes and mellow, autumnal glow, The Slender Thread, Newcomer's debut album on Stockfisch, can easily become a habit ...
One can't help getting the impression - Carrie Newcomer has a gift for happiness. For the artist herself, incidentally, her songs are old friends – they stand for her friendship with life, people and not least with music. The Slender Thread beckons with the promise of a good friend in the making - or perhaps a whole group of good friends in these songs and melodies that are sure to get stuck in your head.
Despite all harmony - more reflective themes are touched upon too. But in such a way that her gift of happiness is contagious: it rubs off on us too!
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Max Bruch - Violin Concerto No. 2 & other works - Jack Liebeck, BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra, Martyn Brabbins (2017) High-Fidelity FLAC Stereo 24bit/96kHz

Сomposer: Max Bruch (1838-1920)
Artist: Jack Liebeck, BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra, Martyn Brabbins
Title: Bruch - Violin Concerto No 2 & other works
Genre: Classical
Label: © Hyperion Records
Release Date: 2017
Quality: High-Fidelity FLAC Stereo 96kHz/24bit
Duration: 68 minutes 19 seconds
Recorded: December 2014, City Halls, Candleriggs, Glasgow, Scotland

The ‘justly celebrated’ Jack Liebeck (as described by The Strad) follows in the footsteps of Heifetz and Perlman in championing Bruch’s now neglected Violin Concerto No 2, originally written for Sarasate. Three shorter concertante works for violin and orchestra complete the album (Bruch thought the Adagio appassionato one of his best works) which marks volume 21 in our highly regarded Romantic Violin Concerto series.
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Johannes Brahms - Piano Quintet Op.34 - Maurizio Pollini, Quartetto Italiano (1980/2016) High-Fidelity FLAC Stereo 24bit/96kHz

Сomposer: Johannes Brahms (1833-1897)
Artist: Maurizio Pollini, Quartetto Italiano
Title: Brahms - Piano Quintet Op.34
Genre: Classical
Label: © Deutsche Grammophon is a Universal Music Company
Release Date: 1980/2016
Quality: High-Fidelity FLAC Stereo 96kHz/24bit
Source: e-Onkyo
Duration: 00:43:47
Recording: January 1979, Residenz, Herkulessaal, Munich, Germany

As I remarked when reviewing the Bartok/Ranki version (Hungaroton), your choice in this work is likely to depend on your priorities. I did not review this Pollini version when it first appeared, but a friend of mine played me just the slow movement and I thought it marvellous: however, when I heard the whole performance on this newly transferred CD, I realized that that movement is by far the best of it and that, for the rest, the balance is too variable and too dominated by the pianist to be anything like ideal. So you will only go for this version if you are a Pollini fan or are primarily interested in the piano playing, which is superb.
The Musikverein Quartet with Previn on Philips is the best balanced recording and together they give a wonderfully well integrated and perceptive performance. It is the most recent of these recordings and is my own choice. But I did start by referring to priorities and if your own is for quantity of music for your money, then it (and the Pollini for that matter) is poor value at only just over 41 minutes (the Pollini is a couple of minutes longer) compared with Hungaroton who couple it with the Clarinet Quintet. The Hungarian sound quality is not very good—it dates from the mid-1970s but it remains a fine buy for those who want value.' --Gramophone
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Bora Rokovic - Ultra Native (1972/2015) High-Fidelity FLAC Stereo 24bit/88,2kHz

Artist: Bora Rokovic
Title: Ultra Native
Genre: Jazz, Post Bop, Jazz Funk, Modal, Piano Jazz
Label: © MPS - Musik Produktion Schwarzwald | Edel Germany GmbH
Release Date: 1972/2015
Quality: High-Fidelity FLAC Stereo 88,2kHz/24bit
Duration: 00:45:27
Recorded: November 1971 at MPS-Studio, Villingen, Black Forest, Germany

A hidden gem that sparkles in the light of day. Serbian keyboardist-composer Bora Rokovic has dropped into obscurity, but in his heyday he recorded with the likes of Stan Getz, Dusko Goykovic, and arranged for the popular WDR Big Band. An original stylist Rokovic overflows with ideas and has the chops to express them. Ultra Native has been a collector’s item, and for good reason. This 1971 trio date includes the great German bassist Peter Trunk. Jazz critic Joachim Ernst Berendt placed Trunk as “the best German bassist in jazz”, and Attila Zoller remarked that he was “as good as the best bassists America has to offer”. American drummer Tony Inzalaco has worked with the who’s who of both Europe and the USA. The title piece has a frenetic quality with multiple movements, dramatic use of space, inventive solos, and a hip jazz-funk section. Rokovic’s Lyrics Without Lyrics projects a propulsive extravert personality, and Soft Hands Had the Rain features Trunk strutting his stuff on Fender bass, as well as cello overdubs. Bora plays solo electric piano on his expressive ballad, Nona. Inzalaco’s J.B.W. is a hard-grooving fusion piece with dark minor chords. The spellbinding Witch Circle incants the melody before mixing freedom with structure in double-time. Lost in Love is another beautifully concise solo ballad by Bora, while Snow White Night swirls in an acoustic winter storm with Trunk again over-dubbing cello. An intense, fascinating album well worth multiple listenings.
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Beyonce - Lemonade (2016) High-Fidelity FLAC Stereo 24bit/96kHz

Artist: Beyoncé
Title: Lemonade
Genre: R&B, Soul, Neo Soul, Electro
Label: © Parkwood Entertainment LLC, under exclusive license to Columbia Records, a Division of Sony Music Entertainment
Release Date: 2016
Quality: High-Fidelity FLAC Stereo 96kHz/24bit
Duration: 00:45:46
Recorded: 2014-15

Beyoncé's sixth album loomed once "Formation" and its video were issued ahead of the superstar's Super Bowl 50 half-time performance. Two months and a couple weeks later, it appeared as a culturally seismic visual album. Loaded with layers of meaning and references, and experienced en masse through its televised premiere, Lemonade honored black sisterhood with the presence of Warsan Shire, Serena Williams, and the mothers of Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, and Eric Garner. Subsequently given audio-only release, its title comes from a popular proverb given extra personal relevance by Beyoncé's grandmother-in-law, whose citation is heard here during a crucial moment in the sequence. Mrs. Knowles-Carter indeed turns her own lemons into Lemonade. She uses the platform to demand contrition from her adulterous partner, assert her excellence, reflect upon the bonds with the men in her life, and their relationships with other women, and wonders if her trust can be earned back. The cathartic and wounded moments here resonate in a manner matched by few, if any, of Beyoncé's contemporaries. She sometimes eclipses herself in terms of raw emotion, as on the throttling Jack White encounter "Don't Hurt Yourself." At the low-volume end, there's more power in the few seconds she chokes back tears while singing "Come back" -- timed with the backing vocal in Isaac Hayes' version of "Walk on By" -- than there is in most contemporary ballads. Romantic conflict is nothing new for her, but there is a degree of concentration and specificity, and an apparent disregard for appealing to commercial radio that makes Lemonade a distinct addition to her catalog. (Another distinguishing factor is the length of credits which, due to a vast assortment of collaborators and samples, exceeds that of the self-titled album.) Lemonade can also be heard as the dark flipside of Beyoncé. When "Dishes smashed on the counter" is bleakly observed, just before "Pictures snatched out the frame/Bitch, I scratched out your name and face" is delivered with seething wrath, it's hard to not flash back to "Drunk in Love," in which the presumably same couple were revelrous in the same room. After the first three-quarters play out in compelling if somewhat erratic fashion, Lemonade closes with a torrid stretch. "Freedom" is a marching anthem of resilience and preservation, produced by Just Blaze with a glowing guest verse from Kendrick Lamar. The loved-up "All Night" is a tangle of emotions and hints at reconciliation, facilitated by the horns from OutKast's "SpottieOttieDopaliscious." And then, at last, there's the strutting "Formation," simultaneously a tack-on and an ideal finale, where Beyoncé delights in her blackness, femininity, and Southern origin with supreme wordplay. --AllMusic Review by Andy Kellman
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Leonard Bernstein - Symphonies Nos.1 & 2 - Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, Marin Alsop (2016) High-Fidelity FLAC Stereo 24bit/96kHz

Сomposer: Leonard Bernstein (1918-1990)
Artist: Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, Marin Alsop
Title: Bernstein - Symphonies Nos.1 & 2
Genre: Classical
Label: © Naxos
Release Date: 2016
Quality: High-Fidelity FLAC Stereo 96kHz/24bit
Duration: 00:59:26
Recorded live at The Joseph Meyerhoff Symphony Hall, Baltimore, Maryland, USA, on 21st and 23rd November, 2014 (tracks 1-3), and on 27th and 28th September, 2013 (tracks 14-21)

Leonard Bernstein’s legendary 1943 Carnegie Hall conducting début brought his name to national attention, and the event was followed a few months later by the triumphant reception of his Symphony No. 1 ‘Jeremiah.’ This major symphonic statement explores a crisis in faith and employs Jewish liturgical sources, its final movement, Lamentation, being an anguished cry at the destruction of Jerusalem. Sharing the theme of loss of faith, Symphony No. 2 ‘The Age of Anxiety’ takes W.H. Auden’s poem of the same name and follows its four characters in their spiritual journey to hard-won triumph. Bernstein’s Symphony No. 3 ‘Kaddish’ can be heard on Naxos 8.559742.
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Beethoven, Shostakovich - String Quartets - Armida Quartett (2016) High-Fidelity FLAC Stereo 24bit/48kHz

Сomposer: Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1828), Dmitri Shostakovich (1906-1975)
Artist: Armida Quartett
Title: Beethoven, Shostakovich - String Quartets
Genre: Classical
Label: © Avi – Service for music, Cologne, Germany
Release Date: 2016
Quality: High-Fidelity FLAC Stereo 48kHz/24bit
Source: HDTracks
Duration: 01:00:33
Recorded: XII 2015, Studio No. 2, Bayerischer Rundfunk

“When the “Razumovsky Quartets” started circulating in 1806, Beethoven’s contemporaries shook their heads in disbelief. They were the result of a commission from the Russian ambassador in Vienna, Count Andrey Razumovsky, who was quite agile on the violin himself. We do not know whether the Count was pleased with the quartets; most music connoisseurs, however, were irritated, to say the least. “The conception is profound and the construction excellent, but they are not easily comprehended”, remarked the Allgemeine musikalische Zeitung.……“Opus 59 is extremely challenging”, remarks Martin Funda, the leader of the Armida Quartet. “One needs time to grasp these pieces. As performers, we are surprised again and again to note how quickly Beethoven starts leading us into unfamiliar waters. The F Major Quartet is an ‘extrovert’ piece; at the same time, it contains a series of incredibly profound moments and a variety of different moods which we have to learn to interpret.” …If Beethoven’s supposedly ‘classical’ Opus 59 quartet is astoundingly challenging and unconventional, Shostakovich’s Opus 118 is surprisingly carefree at first glance – particularly in comparison with his well-known 8th Quartet dedicated “to the victims of fascism and war”, or with the 9th, written during the same period. The 10th, conversely, emerged in a relaxed atmosphere in 1964, during Shostakovich’s stay at the composers’ retreat center in the Armenian spa town of Dilijan. These were the palmy days of Shostakovich’s career. He found himself showered with awards and recognitions, and rushed from one rehearsal or première to the next of his long-banished opera masterpiece “Lady Macbeth of the Mtsensk District”, acclaimed in a revised version on opera stages from Moscow to Milan and London. With lightness of hand he apparently jotted down this string quartet in a mere eleven days. And yet: the work might be simmering beneath the surface, a telltale sign of Shostakovich’s well-known ambiguous stance.“
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Johann Sebastian Bach - Violin Concertos - Rachel Podger, Brecon Baroque (2010) High-Fidelity DSF Stereo DSD64/2.82MHz

Сomposer: Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750)
Artist: Rachel Podger, Brecon Baroque
Title: Bach, J.S. - Violin Concertos
Genre: Classical
Label: © Channel Classics Records
Release Date: 2010
Quality: DSF Stereo DSD64/2.82MHz
Source: SACD ISO
Duration: 00:51:42
Recorded: May 2010, St John the Evangelist Church, Upper Norwood, London

It sometimes seems that many Baroque violinists never would have had careers as "normal" violinists--but this is certainly not the case with Rachel Podger. Although some of her work in music later than the Baroque period is less than convincing in its approach, there's no question that she's a top-notch musician, and she's never made a finer (or smarter) recording than this. It's a pleasure from first note to last.
First of all, it's great seeing the two canonic Bach violin concertos not coupled with the usual "double" violin concerto (with the soloist playing both parts, of course). Instead, Podger offers transcriptions of two keyboard concertos, neither of which is usually thought to have been originally written for the violin. This makes less of a difference than you might think. The low tessitura of BWV 1055 may not offer Podger much of a technical challenge, but the sonorities recall the two strings-only Brandenburgs, and there are moments, such as her entry at the start of the finale, that are simply magical.
Both this work and BWV 1056 were likely composed for oboe (or oboe d'amore), but again, the delicious pizzicato Largo of the G minor concerto sounds wonderfully fresh and charming with a violin as soloist, and I don't miss the honking and clicking of the usual Baroque oboe one bit. Which brings us to the next issue: Podger plays all of this music immaculately, with characterful ornamentation and (thank God) enough vibrato to achieve a distinctive cantabile tone, especially in the slow movements. Her moderate tempos in the allegros (the term means "lively"--not "like a bat out of hell", as some authenticists apparently think) allow her to phrase the melodies with confidence, interact with and play off of the orchestra, and prevent Bach's chugging rhythms from turning mechanical.
Brecon Baroque numbers just six players aside from Podger, which means essentially one player to a part. Yet the result never sounds thin or dry, thanks in large part to Channel Classics' stunningly natural, warm SACD engineering (marvelous in regular stereo or multichannel formats). Also, and this really is a big deal, continuo player Christopher Bucknall uses a gentle, pleasant-toned instrument that never swamps the strings. The result is a true "chamber concerto" experience, an exquisite dialog that the players clearly relish while preserving the essential contrast between solo and tutti on which the concerto form depends. Highest recommendation.
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Johann Sebastian Bach - The Six Sonatas & Partitas for Solo Violin - James Ehnes (2016) High-Fidelity FLAC Stereo 24bit/44,1kHz

Сomposer: Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750)
Artist: James Ehnes
Title: Bach, J.S. - The Six Sonatas & Partitas for Solo Violin
Genre: Classical
Label: © Analekta
Release Date: 2016
Quality: High-Fidelity FLAC Stereo 44,1kHz/24bit
Duration: 02:30:17
Recorded: November 1999 and June 2000 at à l’Église St-Augustin, Québec
Remastering: Carl Talbot, Jack Kelly, Productions Musicom

Bach’s solo violin music has always been very dear to my heart and central to my performing repertoire. Being able to record these monumental works early in my career was a rare privilege, and I will always be grateful to Analekta for allowing me this wonderful opportunity. Though my interpretations have evolved over the years, and will continue to evolve throughout my life, it gives me great pleasure to revisit these recordings and remember with pride the incredible journey of recording these masterpieces. --James Ehnes
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