Under the direction of the principal conductor and artistic director of the Salzburg Mozart Week, Mark Minkowski, the Musiciens du Louvre perform on two of Mozart’s original instruments. Mozart’s Violin Concerto and his Piano Concerto in A major are played on instruments that were once in the composer’s possession. Thibault Noally plays the Violin Concerto on a violin from the workshop of Pietro Antonio Dalla Costa and “conjures up Romantic brilliance from the well maintained instrument”, then Francesco Corti brings Mozart’s fortepiano to life again, thereby spreading “collective Mozart happiness all round” (Salzburger Nachrichten).
Between 1961 and 1986, Herbert von Karajan made three recordings of the Mozart Requiem for Deutsche Grammophon, with little change in his conception of the piece over the years. This recording, from 1975, is, on balance, the best of them. The approach is Romantic, broad, and sustained, marked by a thoroughly homogenized blend of chorus and orchestra, a remarkable richness of tone, striking power, and an almost marmoreal polish. Karajan viewed the Requiem as idealized church music rather than a confessional statement awash in operatic expressiveness. In this account, the orchestra is paramount, followed in importance by the chorus, then the soloists. Not surprisingly, the singing of the solo quartet sounds somewhat reined-in, especially considering these singers' pedigrees. By contrast, the Vienna Singverein, always Karajan's favorite chorus, sings with a huge dynamic range and great intensity, though with an emotional detachment nonetheless. Perfection, if not passion or poignancy, is the watchword. The Berlin orchestra plays majestically, and the sound is pleasingly vivid.
While the connection between Cuban pianist Omar Sosa and Italian trumpeter Paolo Fresu was established back in 2006, their partnership truly blossomed with Alma (Ota Music, 2012), a beauty of an album with a soft sell approach. That record—quite possibly the most moving item in either man's discography—prioritized heart over all else, and this follow-up date follows suit.
From the title it's fairly obvious that Stanko is dedicating this work to his former boss and compatriot, the late Kryzsztof Komeda, who had passed a few years before. But it's difficult to believe that this was recorded in 1970. Stanko's quintet was so fully versed in the free jazz aesthetic and pursued to fuse it to the European classicism and avant-gardism of his native Poland. There are five tracks here, all part of a larger suite that is opened and closed by a theme. Stanko's writing is for a large harmonic palette realizable by two saxophones and his own trumpet with a rhythm section.
This is the most beautiful of Mozart playing, his last piano concerto given here by Emil Gilels with total clarity. This is a classic performance, memorably accompanied by the VPO and Böhm. Suffice it to say that Gilels sees everything and exaggerates nothing, that the performance has an Olympian authority and serenity, and that the Larghetto is one of the glories of the gramophone. He's joined by his daughter Elena in the Double Piano Concerto in E flat, and their physical relationship is mirrored in the quality, and the mutual understanding of the playing: both works receive marvellous interpretations. We think Emil plays first, Elena second, but could be quite wrong. The VPO under Karl Böhm is at its best; and so is the quality of recording, with a good stereo separation of the two solo parts, highly desirable in this work.
Moving to Capitol/EMI after a one-off record at Island/Universal, Jennifer Lopez seizes the opportunity of a new label to jump-start her career with A.K.A. It isn't quite a complete reboot, however. Its executive producer is RedOne, who worked on 2011's Love?, but this record attempts to push J-Lo further into modern dance, by having her duet with T.I., Pitbull, and Rick Ross, not to mention Iggy Azalea, who was the hottest rapper in the U.S. upon the June release of A.K.A. Iggy's showcase arrives on "Acting Like That," one of several tracks produced by Leon Youngblood, and his contributions – which also include the title track and "So Good" – are the moments on the record that get it right, balancing the heavy club throb with pop hooks that rely on feel as much as Lopez's vocals…