Classical music picks
These classical music picks highlight some new releases in chamber music – both ensemble and opera, a recording that traverses the boundary between orchestral jazz and contemporary classical, and a new release for lovers of English music history.
String quartets / by Dmitri Shostakovich and his contemporaries (volume 1) and String quartets / by Dmitri Shostakovich and his contemporaries (volume 2)
“[T]he Pacifica Quartet is one of the best chamber ensembles out there…even so, there’s no dearth of fine Shostakovich cycles, from the Borodin Quartet to the Emerson. These performances, every bit as fine as those, would be excellent by themselves, but they do risk getting lost in the discographic shuffle. So it was an inspired idea to pair them in this series with other important works in the same medium by Shostakovich’s contemporaries…. A great start to a very promising series.” – (adapted from ClassicsToday.com review)
Apparent distance / Taylor Ho Bynum Sextet
“A truly transcendent recording, “Apparent Distance is a four-part suite, commissioned through a 2010 New Jazz Works grant from Chamber Music America and the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation. In the liner notes, Bynum writes My goal is not just to blur the lines between composition and improvisation (a long-time pursuit), but to try to upend the listeners expectations in other ways: circular melodies without beginnings or ends, disguised unisons and non-repetitive vamps, transitions that are simultaneously jarring and organic. Most importantly, I want to spotlight the striking individuality and virtuosity of all the players, albeit in a context where the needs of the ensemble reign supreme a concerto for sextet, if you will. Since the composition s premiere in August 2010, the sextet has performed the work on tour and at the Saalfelden Jazz Festival (Austria), the Banlieues Bleues Festival (France), and the Crosscurrents Festival (New York). Jim Macnie of the Village Voice writes ‘Whether they’re lines that swirl upward, chasing their own tail, or lines that spill downward, like a Slinky on a staircase, the elemental motifs of the cornetist/composer’s pieces are full of springy kinetics. But they re more than mere nu-jazz puzzles. Bynum wrings emotion from his crew. His use of texture and trajectory has to do with his appreciation of passion.” – (adapted from Amazon.com summary)
The Okavango Macbeth [sound recording] / [music by Tom Cunningham].
“The Macbeth story as played out in a troupe of baboons in Botswana? This fanciful idea inspired the writer Alexander McCall Smith and the composer Tom Cunningham to come up with their chamber opera, The Okavango Macbeth. Set in the Okavango Delta in northern Botswana, the opera deals with the efforts of an ambitious female baboon, Lady Macbeth, to encourage her husband, Macbeth, to murder the dominant baboon, Duncan…[I]n this extraordinary and unusual tale, a new operatic gem has emerged.” – (adapted from Liner notes)
The classical music map of Britain / Richard Fawkes.
“Why is Chelsea so important to the Mozart story? Who really headlined at the first ever Glastonbury Festival? Which small Welsh village do Faure, Stravinsky and Prokofiev have in common? ‘The Classical Music Map of Britain’ is a charming and fascinating journey around the UK from a classical music perspective. Extensively researched and beautifully written, every entry explains why each place was so special to the composer in question, which pieces were composed there, and whether it is currently open to the public. Including hand-illustrated maps depicting key areas of interest, ‘The Classical Music Map of Britain’ is an enchanting adventure around some of our lesser-known landmarks – perfect for any lover of history or classical music.” – (adapted from Amazon.com summary)