It is an injustice of life that musical elegies and songs of consolation are customarily saved for the rituals following death, rather than employed in the moments immediately preceding the final breath. Skylark’s nectarous new release, "Crossing Over," lives at this intersection of existence and the void, and one can only hope to have a soundtrack like this at hand when the time comes — rather than keeling over in a grocery aisle to a MIDI reduction of Journey’sDon’t Stop Believing.Read More
Imagine for a moment that you’ve stumbled upon an abandoned estate. Entering, you discover that this place was left in haste, its objects largely left untouched, save for a thin blanket of dust. Like, say, Myst (sidebar: Myst is a PC game mommies and daddies used to play). This is a little what it is like to explore Qasim Naqvi’s latest release, "Preamble" – no ticking time clock, each corner is a reveal, and patience is rewarded with sorcerous encounters.Read More
If ass-kicking in classical music could be likened to that of late-80’s-to-early-90’s action heroes, Melia Watras is a Jean-Claude Van Damme of the viola – which is to say (sonically) muscular in all the right places, elegant in delivery of a solar plexus punch, and lousy with narrative-driving passion. A new recording called "Ispirare" showcases the American violist, who teaches at the University of Washington and as a soloist and member of the Corigliano Quartet has premiered dozens of works for her instrument.Read More
Never underestimate the power of a well-situated, cyclical arpeggio – especially in the hands of skilled, vigilant musicians. Much of English composer Jane Antonia Cornish’s portrait album, "Continuum," is built on this most fundamental element of classical music, and as anyone who has attended a concert in which a program swap offered an under-rehearsed, minimalist number can attest, this brand of music is not easily executed.Read More
It is an exquisite thing, when music raises a mirror, impelling the listener past his last defense before the beautiful, or despairing, or anticipative, or terrible, or emboldened thing is felt. At its basest form, it is emotional manipulation, but in the case of Peter Gregson’s "Touch," it is emotional bolstering – the kind that keeps us aural junkies itching for that sonic bump when we’re feeling all the feelings. For his fourth studio album, the composer/cellist strips down to a modest cadre of analog synth, strings hailing from Inscape Chamber Orchestra, cello, and piano, but what arrives through the speakers are voluptuous orchestrations of intimate, ruminative melodies.Read More
I’ve got a cranium full of Matt Haimovitz at the moment, and have not yet reached capacity. Clocking in at 3.75 hours, the cello soloist’s latest release, "Orbit," stockpiles the majority share of selections from five albums (on his Oxingale Records label), spanning 2003-2011, along with recent numbers by Phillip Glass and Luna Pearl Woolf.Read More
Hindemith defenders, grab that closet handle and step into the party. Composer Michel van der Aa has penned your new jam, replete with prodigious leaps in register, a bouquet of minor 9th and major 7ths, and frantic bursts of virtuosity unafraid to exploit a groove. The Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra’s composer-in-residence, perhaps better known for his electronic and theatrical efforts, is not merely aping P-Hind’s crackerjack string writing and devil-may-care harmonic scope, but his Violin Concerto (2014) is certainly firing through many of the same neural pathways for listeners.Read More
Imagine a site, a portal, where the boundary of another dimension is nothing more than a gauzy curtain or a thin door. Ok, stop thinking about "Being John Malkovich." The Galician Catedral de Santiago de Compostela is one such aperture and the burial place of Saint James, a sacred waypoint on a centuries-old pilgrimage beginning in France and terminating on the northwestern coast of Spain. This spiritually- and physically-demanding quest is the source of British composer Joby Talbot’s rousing Path of Miracles, exquisitely realized here by the chorus Conspirare and conductor Craig Hella Johnson.Read More
U.S. concert presenters are in dereliction of duty, if the itinerary listed on the Royal String Quartet’s website is any indication. The Polish ensemble isn’t slated to make any North American appearances this year, and judging by the superlative playing on its latest release, "Szymański and Mykietyn," it’s our loss.Read More
Michael Gordon is a lying liar who lies. How’s that for click-bait?
The lie in question is the title of his latest album, "Dystopia," in which the composer delivers some of the most effusive, life-affirming, Arcadia-esque sounds we’ve heard from theBang on a Can co-founder. Cracking into the titular piece, the listener is walloped with brass fanfare, piccolo seizure and percussion buccaneering that gives the impression that the orchestra is playing out a rambunctious and death-freeLord of the Flies scenario. The id is running rampant here, but in a coherent, meticulously-orchestrated chaos. Los Angeles, which serves as the germination point for this endeavor, is an emotionally complicated city, no doubt, but even the warped glissandi and string trills which bisect the goings-on play as burlesque rather than menace.Read More
What is the worst thing that would happen if you publicly admitted to being in throbbing love with the oeuvre of Phil Collins or the decidedly non-artisanal bite of Evan Williams bourbon? The pasty guy at the record store counter may mutter, “Typical…”, but it would be freeing, right? Andrew Norman’s Play is no such “guilty” pleasure, but the score reads as though written by a composer unrestrained by any hint of self-consciousness. It is also one that is acutely aware that audiences trek in and shell out bills to see a show not to hear music, but to watch it performed.Read More
Remember that gut-busting viral video by pianist Henry Hey in which he over-layed McCain and Palin speeches, emulating their cadences during the 2008 debates? The opening track of Florent Ghys’s "Télévision" brings this ambitious ruse back in a flood, minus the acerbic bent.Read More
On paper, the two pieces comprising A Far Cry’s new album, "The Law of Mosaics," sound about as appealing as a Mel-Gibson-themed needlepoint convention: 1) a composer’s Rome travelogue, 2) a deconstruction of classical music’s greatest hits. If you are still reading this, prepare to claim your reward, because the composers in question are sonic trespassers Andrew Norman and Ted Hearne, and coupled with dextrous performances by the enterprising, Boston-based string orchestra, "The Law of Mosaics" is an aural View-Master worth peering through.Read More
Imagine a dystopian future in which all that is left of recorded music are shards of vinyl, unspooled nests of tape and corrupted digital files. Drones hover above the smoldering wreckage, locating and feverishly uploading whatever fragments can be salvaged.
s_traits, a collaboration between composer John Supko and media artist Bill Seaman, is an excavation of this ilk, and one which is acutely coherent and utterly captivating. The album mines over 110 hours of source material culled from Supko’s percussion duo straits, field recordings, 1960’s and ’70’s soundtracks, and the collaborators’ cavortings with a piano.Read More
If the JACK Quartet continues producing definitive recordings at its current rate, preschools may be obligated to launch composition departments to fill the demand for new scores.
The group’s latest release zeroes in on áltaVoz Composers, a consortium of Latin-American composers schooled in the United States. All are ferociously talented yet underrepresented, and with their voices filtered through the discerning lens of JACK and the New Focus Recordings label, the results are luring and delectable.Read More