Uncommonly Classical

‘Similar Motion” – Works for String Quartet by Philip Glass, Arthur Kampela, and Claude Debussy / Momenta Quartet

Posted by on Oct 18, 2015 in Contemporary, Modern | 0 comments

‘Similar Motion” – Works for String Quartet by Philip Glass, Arthur Kampela, and Claude Debussy / Momenta Quartet

The Momenta Quartet, an ensemble in residence at Temple University in Philadelphia, specializes in music written by living composers. They have also received great acclaim for performances they have given of music written by composers of past generations and centuries. This beautifully engineered recording represents their debut for Albany Records, an acclaimed American label with a similarly vital role in the promulgation of new American music. The CD takes its title from Philip Glass’s 1969 composition “Music in Similar...

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Maximilian Steinberg (1883-1946): Passion Week, Op. 13; Rimsky-Korsakov: Chants for Holy Week / Cappella Romana; Lingas

Posted by on Oct 11, 2015 in Romantic | 0 comments

Maximilian Steinberg (1883-1946): Passion Week, Op. 13; Rimsky-Korsakov: Chants for Holy Week / Cappella Romana; Lingas

Of the two works on this recording, the major one, by virtue of the quality of the composition coupled simply with the revelation of its existence, is Passion Week by Lithuanian born Russian composer Maximilian Steinberg (major, too, because the piece takes up three-quarters of the total time of the album, a fact not in and of itself a ‘virtue’). This world-premiere recording of Steinberg’s sacred masterpiece is rounded out on the album by Rimsky-Korsakov’s Chant Arrangements for Holy Week, which dovetails seamlessly at...

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Roman Statkowski (1859-1925): Piano Music / Barbara Karaskiewicz

Posted by on Sep 21, 2015 in Romantic | 2 comments

Roman Statkowski (1859-1925): Piano Music / Barbara Karaskiewicz

The Polish composer Roman Statkowski (1859-1925) studied at the St. Petersburg Conservatory with Anton Rubinstein and Nicolay Rimsky-Korsakov, and in 1890 he began his teaching career in Kiev. He then spent about a decade managing various piano stores, and spent the rest of his career teaching composition at the Warsaw Conservatory. Statkowski wrote two operas, six string quartets, music for violin and piano, some songs, and a great many short pieces for piano, but his name and much of his music remained virtually unknown for the better part...

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Fritz Brun: Symphony No. 4; Rhapsody for Orchestra / Moscow Symphony Orchestra; Adriano, conductor

Posted by on Sep 9, 2015 in Romantic | 0 comments

Fritz Brun: Symphony No. 4; Rhapsody for Orchestra / Moscow Symphony Orchestra; Adriano, conductor

If you’ve been following and collecting the splendid series of recordings being issued by Guild Records of the symphonies by Swiss composer Fritz Brun, you likely need little encouragement to acquire this most recent release beyond an awareness it exists. In this issue, Brun’s Fourth Symphony (1925) has been programmed alongside the composer’s Rhapsody for Orchestra (1957). All but one of the installments in the Guild series is performed by the Moscow Symphony Orchestra, as is the case here, and all are conducted by...

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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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