The story about an ordinary man who once stood before a difficult choice …
The musical works on this disc are all quite lovely and moving; yet somehow, they seem oddly incongruent with the festival they are intended to celebrate. The one song most closely associated with Hannuka is Ma 'oz Tzur (aka Rock of Ages and/or O Mighty Fortress, references to the Holy Temple), and it is universally sung to a well-known traditional melody. Here, in a setting by Aaron Miller (1911-2000), arranged by Neil Levin, it is not only the shortest track on the disc, but it is presented in Yiddish rather than Hebrew, and in a Klezmer-like setting that is nothing at all like its familiar tune. Not until the concluding section of Samuel Adler's The Flames of Freedom do we hear the traditional melody, but set against a piano accompaniment that takes a decidedly non-traditional turn in its harmony.
Stumbling by chance across this recording, you could be forgiven for assuming that it probably represents yet another foray into long lost repertoire by an insignificant composer. In reality, however, Jacquet of Mantua (1483-1559) was actually one of the most distinguished composers of sacred polyphony in the generation between Josquin and Palestrina, with a vast output comprising 23 masses, over 100 motets and many other sacred works (including a St John Passion).
Reissue of the album recorded with Dusko Goykovich, et al. 24bit digitally remastered. Cardboard sleeve (mini LP). This is one of the rarest of all Blue Note albums, and one that is a must for record collectors. The Francy Boland/Kenny Clarke big band was one of the most exciting orchestras of the 1960s and ‘70s. Much less known but also brilliant was a unique octet co-led by Boland and Clarke just prior to the big band.
Schnittke's Piano Quintet, a creative response to his mother's death, is an austere, haunting work full of grief and tenderness that marks one of his early ventures into polystylistic writing. The opening piano solo is unique, a spare statement of puzzlement in the face of tragedy. It gives way to a waltz, as if recapturing a lost past, then the graceful dance melody literally disintegrates as the strings venture off into other regions, vainly trying to reassemble the theme and failing. At the end of its touching five movements the music's despair is transformed into serene, hard-won acceptance. Shostakovitch's 15th Quartet, his final statement in that form, premiered just months before his death. It's six slow movements are shot through with contemplative sadness and regret. The music is so rich in texture and substance that attention never flags.
Channeling the lessons of the experimental Porcupine into more conventional and simple structural parameters, Ocean Rain emerges as Echo & the Bunnymen's most beautiful and memorable effort. Ornamenting Ian McCulloch's most consistently strong collection of songs to date with subdued guitar textures, sweeping string arrangements, and hauntingly evocative production, the album is dramatic and majestic; "The Killing Moon," Ocean Rain's emotional centerpiece, remains the group's unrivalled pinnacle. The 2003 reissue of Ocean Rain features improved sound, new liner notes, loads of photos, and a wealth of bonus tracks. The bulk of the bonus tracks is made up of the Life at Brian's sessions, which found the band playing some of their "hits" like "The Killing Moon," "Stars Are Stars," "Silver," and "Villiers Terrace," as well as a faithful cover of the Beatles' "All You Need Is Love" in a relaxed, acoustic but still very dramatic setting.