Hi-Res Downloads

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B. Willis (Music); P. Miller (Lab)  |  Nov 27, 2017
Steve Hicks is the kind of guitarist who can keep a crowd entertained for hours. This sweetly varied collection covers popular tunes reaching back to ‘Hungarian Dance No 5’ and ‘Maple Leaf Rag’ and forward into the modern era. His deft interpretation of ‘Funeral March Of A Marionette’ is as much fun as his conflation of Led Zeppelin and Mozart in the closing piece ‘Stairway To Mozart’, but he ventures into darker territory with ‘Bohemian Three-Step’. Here and there, he can’t help quoting melodically related tunes.
B. Willis (Music); P. Miller (Lab)  |  Nov 20, 2017
Cellist Metcalf and pianist Varga coax great drama from eight classical pieces, playing off each other with amazing sensitivity and awareness of the other. ‘First Day’ opens with a composition by José Bragato reminiscent of tango master Astor Piazolla, then segues into the sometimes mournful ‘Variations On A Slavic Folksong’ by Martin? – not a logical choice, but one that makes perfect dramatic sense. The tracks are carefully chosen so that each seems to lead to the next, making the assemblage a musical artform of its own. The overall mood is darkly contemplative but never depressing, with undercurrents of wonder and mystery.
A. Everard (Music); P. Miller (Lab)  |  Nov 13, 2017
Our ‘MQA-encoded album of the month’ has no bass, rather no bass player – unusual for a jazz album. In practice there’s no shortage of low end in this largely improvisational set, treated to the usual excellent ECM sound quality. The album brings together Italian pianist Guidi and compatriot trombonist Petrella, who have previously worked together in bands and as a duet, and then adds to them American drummer Cleaver and French clarinettist Sclavis. The title track is treated to a considered, contemplative reading, there’s a slow-growing cover of ‘Per I morti di Reggio Emilia’, and the quiet interplay of ‘Rouge Lust’ lets one almost sense each performer step forward to take his place in a conversational series of near-solos.
Paul Miller  |  Nov 06, 2017
MQA promises to move us closer to the original performance. Paul Miller glimpses beneath the noise. . .
C. Breunig (Music); P. Miller (Lab)  |  Oct 30, 2017
Recorded live in March 2016 at the Art Tower Mito concert hall, this has a Beethoven Fifth notable above all for fidelity to dynamic markings. The first-movement repeat is given but not that in the finale – where the Piu allegro leading to final Presto is especially well judged and where the piccolo player articulates his tricky phrases without a fluff. There’s wild applause after both works but it’s possible that the Concerto is soloist-directed (there’s no booklet PDF but the Mito concert listings say Ozawa only conducted a part of the programme). One-time Philadelphia principal Ricardo Morales has a reedy sounding clarinet and he makes neat dynamic distinctions piano/mf but it’s all very traditional, whereas the BIS download with Martin Frost is in an altogether more relevant class for today’s listeners.
C. Breunig (Music); P. Miller (Lab)  |  Oct 23, 2017
This new coupling faces serious competition from my Jan ’14 ‘Album Choice’ Queyras/Harmonia Mundi – Dvorák fillers there, and with Pentatone the Pezzo Capriccioso and two other short Tchaikovsky transcriptions. One important difference, however, is that Moser plays the original Rococo Variations rather than the Fitzenhagen version which so angered the composer. Moser won a special prize at the 2002 Tchaikovsky Competition for his interpretation. He seems to repeat his success here and there’s much charm in the short pieces too.
S. Harris (Music); P. Miller (Lab)  |  Oct 16, 2017
The ever-glamorous great-great-grand-daughter of the author of War And Peace claims a Swedish heart and a Russian soul, and has recorded albums with those titles to prove it. Since then she’s most often been heard singing with her life partner, pianist Jacob Karlzon, but she has chosen a guitar trio format for this album of theme songs. Guest stars Iiro Rantala on piano and Nils Landgren on trombone flesh out the lush opener, ‘Calling You’ from the 1987 movie Baghdad Cafe. ‘Marlowe’s Theme’ from Farewell My Lovely has a neat solo from Rantala while guitarist Krister Jonsson really comes into his own when he switches to electric rock guitar – for example on Seal’s ‘Kiss From A Rose’ from Batman Forever.
B. Willis (Music); P. Miller (Lab)  |  Oct 09, 2017
The title implies a haunted existence – by whom or by what we cannot tell from the imploring nature of this collection of often lengthy jazz instrumentals, some murky and meandering (‘Abandoned Reminder’, ‘The Great Silence’) and others quirky and upbeat (‘New Glory’). Taborn and crew tentatively explore a musical netherworld, here and there casting light into the shadows – ‘Ancient’, for example, opens with an extended, almost inarticulate bass solo, before other instruments reluctantly enter the fray. The repeated, intensifying figures near the end of this piece do achieve an intellectual resolution, if not an emotional one, while the sweetly mournful ‘Jamaican Farewell’ has the listless ambience of a sailing venture undertaken on a nearly windless morning. ‘Phantom Ratio’ follows a similar trajectory, while ‘The Shining One’ provides a bumpier ride.
B. Willis (Music); P. Miller (Lab)  |  Oct 02, 2017
This collaboration with Sylvain Luc, André Ceccarelli, and Philippe Aerts delivers nearly 90 minutes of traditional French jazz – by definition, a genre featuring virtuoso accordion playing in every piece. What fun it is – mostly upbeat, very energetic, and totally engaging. The rollicking title track sets the tone for what proves to be a wide-ranging musical tour – from moody (‘Giselle’, ‘Nice Blues’, ‘Ballade Pour Marion’ and ‘Love Day’) to exhilarating (‘Fou Rire’, ‘Waltz For Nicky’ and ‘Viaggio’) to dramatic (‘Azul Tango’). This album achieves the near impossible in that every track – and there are 18 – is excellent, and the recording quality consistently excellent too.
C. Breunig (Music); P. Miller (Lab)  |  Sep 11, 2017
This is an intended celebration of the music of Clara Schumann – five pieces – and the Schumanns’ relationship with the young Brahms, represented here by his Op. 9 Variations (where Sasaki is quite outclassed by Barry Douglas on Chandos). So why is the young Japanese-American pianist’s debut recital entitled Obsidian? Because it includes a seven-part dramatic piece, Obsidian Liturgy, composed for her last year by Max Grafe – 2016 marking 140th/160th anniversaries of the Schumanns’ deaths. As a private gesture, fine, but 10.
C. Breunig (Music); P. Miller (Lab)  |  Sep 04, 2017
A couple of years ago I heard this young German-Canadian cellist playing the Rachmaninov Cello Sonata at the Festival Hall in partnership with the composer – it was a pianola recital, I hasten to add! Here he’s with a congenial Russian pianist and they complete their sonatas programme with three transcriptions: Vocalise, a movement from Cinderella and a Scriabin Romance originally for horn. Prokofiev’s sonata met with state sanction and was premiered by Rostropovich/Richter in 1950 (EMI 5 720162 2 has that recording). It gets a fine reading here, as does the Rachmaninov, although Isserlis and Hough on Hyperion are even more inside the soul of the music. The Pentatone recording gives a rich cello sound, set forward and left of centre, with the piano just a little too distantly balanced to the right.
A. Everard (Music); P. Miller (Lab)  |  Aug 28, 2017
The genesis of this release seems to hark back to 2004, when Neil Young remastered these tracks from his back-catalogue using the HDCD encoding he’d been favouring in the studio for almost a decade. Alongside it, there was also a 96kHz/24-bit release on DVD-Audio (remember DVD-A?), with Young hailing the format as ‘the difference between a true reflection of the music and a mere replica’. ‘I’ve always been a strong believer in analogue and this is about as close to the rewarding listening experience of vinyl as the real thing’, he added. Now the cynic night say ‘yes, but you also said that about Pono, Neil, and whatever happened to that?’.
A. Everard (Music); P. Miller (Lab)  |  Aug 21, 2017
Possibly all you need to know about this album is that ‘Glauco Venier plays sonorous sculptures built by the artists Harry Bertoja and Giorgio Celiberti’, so if that description sets you up to expect something extremely arty, you’re definitely on the right track. In fact Venier plays piano, gongs, bells and metals on this programme of self-composed pieces and reinterpretations of pieces from the classical canon, and the result falls somewhere between delicately contemplative and a harmless wash of sound that passes the listener by. Part of the reason is that much of the content here sounds very similar, and one really needs to work hard to hear the shimmers of percussion and the like behind the piano figures. It’s all very subtle and precise and beautifully recorded, as PM notes in his lab report [below], but I’m just not sure it’ll bear repeated listening.
C. Breunig (Music); P. Miller (Lab)  |  Aug 14, 2017
Arguably better known for her classical operatic roles (though her farewell stage performance was in 2013), French soprano Natalie Dessay here chooses 11 jazz standards and well-worn – nearly all intimate – songs from musicals. A Deluxe Edition (limited territories only) has a second part where she acts as narrator for sparse musical equivalents composed by Graciane Finzi to eight paintings by Edward Hopper. That version ends with Barber’s Adagio and which, since WW2, has remained an emblematic piece for America. You don’t get, or need the words here, for Dessay’s American is completely idiomatic.
C. Breunig (Music); P. Miller (Lab)  |  Aug 07, 2017
‘Shavings from the master’s work bench. ’ The Argentinian pianist kicks this cliché into touch and his account of the last set of Bagatelles, beautifully timed to highlight every facet, is perhaps the best we’ve had. You wonder if Beethoven pondered their suitability for expansion – this was his last piano opus. Goerner’s Hammerklavier impresses in its outer movements, with majesty in the first (repeat taken) and torrential in the 238 risoluto bars of finale counterpoint.