A double-length live set from the legendary Modern Jazz Quartet – recorded in Scandinavia in 1960, almost as a summation of the group's growing genius in the 50s! The tunes are a mix of John Lewis and Milt Jackson originals, plus other songs all given the wonderful MJQ twist – distilled into a sublime blend of piano, vibes, bass, and drums – all delivered with a sense of class, but never too much polish. The album is live, but still has that sophisticated composure that made the group so unique at the time – and the whole thing's a perfect complement to their famous studio albums on Atlantic!
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.
Jordi Savall's exemplary performance of Handel's Water Music and Music for the Royal Fireworks is among the finest available on disc: refined and precise, but very big, with blood-stirring grandeur. This is just the kind of extroverted, rousing presentation that best highlights the music's open-air ceremonial function. Savall's Le Concert des Nations is essentially a chamber orchestra with double or triple winds, but the sound he elicits from the group is majestic and surprisingly powerful. The playing is crisp and the rhythmic articulation bracing, but the sound is never brash. In fact, more often than not it is seductively sensual, a heady integration of precision and supple, shapely phrasing. Handel left no authoritative edition of the score of Water Music and it has traditionally been divided into three suites, but Savall reorders the material into two suites, a decision that makes more sense in terms of key relationships and that sounds entirely satisfying.
The Elbphilharmonie, the “hall of wonders” (The Guardian), is undoubtedly the new landmark of Hamburg, a monumental synthesis of breath-taking architecture, a unique location and a world-class concert hall. In varying instrumentation the NDR Elbphilharmonie Orchestra under the baton of Principal Conductor Thomas Hengelbrock and several top-class soloists explores in the opening concert the possibilities of the Elbphilharmonie’s Grand Hall and ist acoustics with an exciting programme that spans across all musical eras, from the Renaissance to the present. It culminates in a brand-new commissioned work, created especially for this occasion by the most important living German composer, Wolfgang Rihm.