Korean-born Dutch harpist Lavinia Meijer states as her goal "to make the harp better known as a solo instrument, with all its possibilities which are often still unknown to the wider audience." With this release she accomplishes her goal, not so much technically as musically. The harp does not do so much here that the attentive listener to the big early film scores won't have heard before. But Meijer's album falls nicely into the group of releases that are reconstructing the virtuoso solo repertoire of a century ago, rediscovering gems that were swept aside by self-serving modernist imperatives. The music on the disc is plenty spectacular technically. The opening Variations sur un thèm dans le style ancien plunge into tight, high figures with the first variation and deepen from there. But what's really intriguing about them is their distinctive take on the little neo-Renaissance current that flowed through the music of the early twentieth century. The two Divertissements of André Caplet are even more unexpected, especially the one marked "à l'Espagnole" (track 5).
After Taylor's Universe released Soundwall in 2007, a mix of jazz and prog that featured guest metal guitarist Michael Denner from Mercyful Fate/King Diamond fame, Robin Taylor and company decided to put together the supergroup called Art Cinema. Their self-titled debut dumps most of the jazz leanings for a more melodic prog-rock flavor, something that might surprise many of the fans of Taylor and his rather diverse avant-garde back catalog. The line-up for this release is Taylor (guitars, keyboards, percussion), Denner (guitars), Jytte Lindberg (lead vocals), Louise Nipper (lead & backing vocals), Bjarne Holm (drums), Carsten Sindvald (sax), Flemming Muus Tranberg (bass), Jon Hemmersam (guitars), and Pierre Tasson (violin)…
Ben Curtis' desertion of Secret Machines and the breakup of On!Air!Library! was justified by this group's first single, a sky-gliding confection that modernized the sighing, swirling, private dancefloor sides of Medicine, Seefeel, and My Bloody Valentine. Included as the finale on Alpinisms, the debut album from Curtis and O!A!L!'s singing Deheza twins, "My Cabal" has the feel of a bonus track; the later recordings that precede it, despite remaining squarely within the domain of late-'80s/early-'90s dream pop in terms of inspiration, are relatively individualist, going well beyond the lucid psychedelia and discreet flickers of Afro-beat and contemporary pop. What pushes these songs past mere worship involves cunning collisions of robust rhythm, caressing noise, and heavenly melody, with each element equally crucial. Good shoegaze/dream pop bands mastered one of them; the most exceptional of the heap, like this group, had all three down. The most striking example here is "Wired for Light," seemingly spawned by Siouxsie and the Banshees' "Peek-A-Boo" and M/A/R/R/S' "Anitina," full of clacking percussion that rattles the ribs, Middle Eastern accents, gale-force atmospherics, and layered vocals that could be casting a spell.
This is one of those great Rossinian singing competitions in which everyone–and, in particular, the listeners–wins. Composed as a piece of occasional entertainment for the coronation of Charles X in Paris, Rossini borrowed liberally from his recent comic success Le Comte Ory and fashioned a musical necklace chock filled with one shiny bauble after another. Each character has a showpiece aria, from the highs of soprano Cecilia Gasdia as a melodramatic poetess all the way down to the basso realms of Samuel Ramey and Ruggero Raimondi. The ensembles are as delicious as the solos, and Claudio Abbado, in a very theatrical mood (this was recorded live) keeps everything going wittily and with great elan. The plot is practically nonexistent, but with singing like this, it's hard to complain. A real dazzler–and great fun.–Robert Levine
Fazil Say first came to international attention as a pianist, but he used that career as a springboard for launching his own compositions, and he has become widely recognized in both fields. This release from Naïve includes a fascinating assortment of his works that draw on his background in the Western classical tradition, his Turkish heritage, and his interest in jazz. His 2008 Violin Concerto, subtitled "1001 Nights in the Harem," skillfully brings the harmonic language, modal melodies, and textures of traditional Turkish music to the format of the concerto.
Like American comedian W.C. Fields, American composer Elliott Carter never believed in giving the listener an even break. In the three string quartets recorded here, Carter used all the tools at his command a virtuoso technique, an adroit intellect, and an unsurpassed ability to write ruthlessly independent counterpoint to challenge and confound the unsuspecting listener.