Uncommonly Classical

Orfeo(s): Italian & French Cantatas / Sunhae Im, soprano; Berlin Early Music Academy

Posted by on Aug 26, 2015 in Baroque | 0 comments

Orfeo(s): Italian & French Cantatas / Sunhae Im, soprano; Berlin Early Music Academy

Harmonia Mundi’s collection of cantatas on the story of Orfeo is exactly what I want from new recordings of early music. The Akademie für Alte Musik Berlin and Sunhae Im are exemplary in their playing and singing; the audio engineering and sound quality are deeply satisfying; and the perspectives of several composers on one character provide historical insight not available elsewhere. Perhaps the most famous Orfeo is Monteverdi’s opera L’Orfeo from 1607, but each of these pieces was written about 100 years later. The prevailing music...

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Metropolitan Hilarion Alfeyev: De Profundis – Compositions for orchestra & choir / Russian Nat’l Orchestra; Moscow Synodal Choir; Alfeyev

Posted by on Aug 17, 2015 in Contemporary | 0 comments

Metropolitan Hilarion Alfeyev: De Profundis – Compositions for orchestra & choir / Russian Nat’l Orchestra; Moscow Synodal Choir; Alfeyev

Noted theologian, church historian, author and Archbishop, Metropolitan Hilarion Alfeyev is among the most performed Russian composers working today. Born in 1966, Hilarion Alfeyev studied at the Moscow State Conservatory. In 1987, he was ordained a priest, later to become an Archbishop, and in 2010, was elevated to Metropolitan (in the Russian Orthodox Church, a ‘Metropolitan’ presides over the governing council of Bishops for a given church province or region). This Pentatone Super Audio CD release contains a selection of both...

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Gaetano Veneziano (1665-1716): In Officio Defunctorum – Nocturns for the Dead / Ensemble Odyssee

Posted by on Jul 30, 2015 in Baroque | 0 comments

Gaetano Veneziano (1665-1716): In Officio Defunctorum – Nocturns for the Dead / Ensemble Odyssee

Ensemble Odyssee’s album of music by Gaetano Veneziano (1656–1716) and Alessandro Scarlatti (1660–1725) is as much about the group and their approach to performance as it is about the composers and music they’ve chosen. That is, when an ensemble champions the work of a composer, they put both that composer and their own musical knowledge and taste on display. This is the relationship Ensemble Odyssee has with Veneziano, whose music they have recorded previously on the Pan Classics label. Here they continue to perform his work with...

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Velázquez and the Music of His Time / Cappella Mediterranea; Clematis; Namur Chamber Choir et al.

Posted by on Jul 17, 2015 in Baroque | 1 comment

Velázquez and the Music of His Time / Cappella Mediterranea; Clematis; Namur Chamber Choir et al.

Velázquez and the Music of his Time is a compilation CD assembled to coincide with a 2015 exhibit at the Grand Palais in Paris of Diego Velázquez’s (1599-1660) most important paintings. Aside from Velazquez’s 120 surviving works of art, his appointment to Philip IV of Spain in 1623, and his work with the Academia di San Luca in 1649, we know little about the painter’s life. The booklet that accompanies this recording, and is available online, gives a fine account of what is known about his life and work. He did make a painting in...

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Walter Braunfels: Orchestral Works, Vol. 2 / BBC Concert Orchestra; Johannes Wildner

Posted by on Jun 30, 2015 in Post Romantic | 0 comments

Walter Braunfels: Orchestral Works, Vol. 2 / BBC Concert Orchestra; Johannes Wildner

This second disc from Dutton of orchestral music by Walter Braunfels continues a small revival of the German composer’s music, which appears to have been jumpstarted by the 2010 release of his early opera Die Vogel from the Los Angeles Opera. All three of the works here are world premiere recordings, and likely the first time each has been played since early in the 20th century. Johannes Wildner leads the BBC Concert Orchestra in superb performances. Walter Braunfels (1882-1954) writes in the German classical-romantic tradition. The...

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Music from America & Abroad for Oboe, Bassoon & Piano / John Dee, oboe; Timothy McGovern, bassoon; Cara Chowning, piano

Posted by on Jun 18, 2015 in Contemporary | 0 comments

Music from America & Abroad for Oboe, Bassoon & Piano / John Dee, oboe; Timothy McGovern, bassoon; Cara Chowning, piano

This recording of 20th-century music from Italy, the British Isles, Canada, and Germany uses oboe, bassoon, and piano in various combinations. Everything is tonal, lyrical, imaginative, and truly beautiful. After spending many years holding principal positions in orchestras in the United States and Canada, oboist John Dee and bassoonist Timothy McGovern now combine careers as solo musicians with positions on the faculty of the University of Illinois in Champaign-Urbana. During the past decade audiences in Illinois have had the treat of...

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FourTune: Polish Flute Quartets of K. Meyer, Slowinski and Penderecki

Posted by on Jun 9, 2015 in Contemporary | 0 comments

FourTune: Polish Flute Quartets of K. Meyer, Slowinski and Penderecki

FourTune is an ensemble of excellent Polish musicians who have put together a terrific program of later 20th-century Polish music for flute and string trio. The flute is clearly the soloist in Krzysztof Meyer’s Capriccio per sei strumenti, written in 1987 and 1988. The piece is a wonderful study in color, texture, and contrast, with a first movement rhapsody of differently-textured episodes that uses the alto flute, and a second movement that pairs the standard C flute with single string voices. There is a particularly lovely section in...

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Salomon Jadassohn (1831-1902): Symphonies Nos. 1-4 / Brandenburg State Orchestra, Frankfurt; Griffiths

Posted by on May 23, 2015 in Romantic | 0 comments

Salomon Jadassohn (1831-1902): Symphonies Nos. 1-4 / Brandenburg State Orchestra, Frankfurt; Griffiths

Having fallen into obscurity shortly after the composer’s death, the music of Salomon Jadassohn has enjoyed a re-evaluation in recent years. This cpo release was my first acquaintance with the German composer’s music and based on the merits of what’s to be heard here, Jadassohn’s finely crafted and engaging music certainly deserves to be known by a much wider audience. In this program of the composer’s four symphonies and two brief concertante works, the Brandenburg State Orchestra of Frankfurt is conducted by...

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George Crumb: Songs – Voices from the Heartland; Sun and Shadow / Ann Crumb, soprano; Orchestra 2001

Posted by on May 13, 2015 in Contemporary | 0 comments

George Crumb: Songs – Voices from the Heartland; Sun and Shadow / Ann Crumb, soprano; Orchestra 2001

This Bridge Records release of two books of songs by George Crumb makes for a very nice collector’s item. The songs, which have made few appearances on CD, are collected here in their entirety, and receive an elegant and thorough presentation as Volume 16 of Bridge’s Complete George Crumb Edition. Among the performers are the composer’s daughter, Ann Crumb, and Orchestra 2001, the Philadelphia contemporary music ensemble that is in the process of recording all seven of Crumb’s American songbooks. Listeners who favor organization,...

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Carl Czerny (1791-1857): String Quartets / Sheridan Ensemble

Posted by on May 11, 2015 in Classical | 1 comment

Carl Czerny (1791-1857): String Quartets / Sheridan Ensemble

What circumstances would compel a composer to purposely conceal his finest compositions, while at the same time publishing an abundance of, if not mediocre, certainly second-rate music? The name Carl Czerny (1791-1857) has been known to generations of pianists as the author of the most widely used method books and exercises for the student pianist. He also published well over 800 opuses of études, nocturnes, sonatas, variations and other pieces for piano, popular in the salons and parlors of 19th-century Vienna. However, it is not widely...

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