Ever been curious to hear a musical setting of Keats's "Ode on a Grecian Urn"? Well here's your chance. It's the second movement of Holst's First Choral Symphony (although he called it "First," there was never a second). You know the poem: "Beauty is truth and truth, beauty…." This is a highly enjoyable piece, and in sections of the first and third movement, the composer of The Planets makes some sounds that recall his most popular work. But there's much more to Holst than space music. He was a master at writing for chorus, his word setting always highly colorful and never stiff or "Victorian" sounding. This performance is the best available, so if you're intrigued, go for it.
These three magnificent works belong in the repertoire of cellists everywhere. They are full of Villa-Lobos’ signature exotic instrumental textures, folk-like melodies, and abundant invention. They are also harder than hell to play, and difficult to balance. Villa-Lobos was a cellist himself, and loved the instrument’s low, dark register. Penetrating his dense orchestration without making the instrument sound like a dying cow is just one of the many challenges facing cellists attempting to come to grips with this marvelously expressive music, though recordings can solve this problem with sensitive microphone placement. Antonio Meneses understands both the music and its performance problems, and his lower register manages to sound gruff without undue signs of bovine distress. He’s helped by some very sensitive accompaniments; Pérez projects the music’s lush timbres without laying it on too thick.
Listeners who are sick of Tchaikovsky's First Piano Concerto, its bombastic opening, its pretentious ending, and all its pointless filigree in between, should hear this recording of that concerto plus the composer's other works for piano and orchestra by English pianist Stephen Hough, because they will be totally, completely, and utterly blown away. It's not just because Hough nails the notes technically or plumbs the depths interpretively, although he does both with a mastery and a dedication that rival Richter.
Astralasia are a magnificent blend of Ambient-Dub and Trance and a few other influences thrown in for good measure. This CD flew completely under the radar, released on the Russian darkwave label Shadowplay. According to the Shadowplay website, this CD contains 90% new material, with the remaining tracks appearing on previous releases. Strangely, some of these tracks have different names here - 'Universal Light' is 'Ashra Rising' and 'After the Rain' is 'Searching', both on Astralasia's previous album Cluster of Waves. As for the new material, it is all over the place, exactly what we've come to expect from this eclectic act…
A high point of the Moroccan music festival is without doubt the Mawazine Festival in Rabat, Morocco. Al Di Meola’s fantastic appearance in 2009 also represented a summit of different cultures and religions – Al Di Meola (guitar), Peo Alfonsi (2nd guitar), Fausto Beccalossi (accordion), Gumbi Ortiz (percussion), Victor Miranda (bass), Peter Kaszas (drums), and with special guests from Morocco, Said Chraibi (oud), Abdellah Meri (violin) and Tarik Ben Ali (percussion). On his third trip to Morocco, the public gave this exceptional guitarist a rousing reception and showed ist openness towards Western music – and Al Di Meola wowed the audience with a special repertoire.