After important contributions to Heinz Holliger’s “Romancendres” and acclaimed performance, with Carolin Widmann, of Schumann’s Violin Sonatas, here is the first New Series solo recording from Hungarian pianist Dénes Várjon. It is a recital that draws the listener in from the first moments – beginning with the dark, brooding language of Alban’s Berg’s Piano Sonata Op. 1, shaped in the shadow of Schoenberg, and continuing into the nebulous regions of Janáček’s impressionistic and near-contemporaneous “In the mists”, finally emerging into the clear light of Liszt’s immense - and immensely-influential - B-minor Sonata.
On Dallёndyshe (“The Swallow”), her second ECM album, Elina Duni sings songs of love and exile. The troubled history of the Balkan regions has inspired many such songs and the pieces here, primarily from Albanian traditional sources, are interpreted with intensity and insight by Elina and her band. The Tirana-born and Swiss-raised singer has become an exceptional musical storyteller embodying the songs’ narratives, in a way that transcends genre definitions and language limitations.
“There is no more important reason for composing music than spiritual renewal.”–Sofia Gubaidulina. Shostakovich once famously said of his student, Sofia Gubaidulina, “I want you to continue along your mistaken path.” Mistaken, that was, in the former Soviet Union, where the deliverance preached through her devout composing sat uncomfortably with censors. So much so that when she composed her Seven Words in 1982, she was obliged to leave out “…of Our Savior on the Cross” from its title. Nevertheless, this riveting work is one of the twentieth century’s reigning masterpieces.
This gargantuan package – a ten-LP set now compressed into a chunky six-CD box – once was derided as the ultimate ego trip, probably by many who didn't take the time to hear it all. You have to go back to Art Tatum's solo records for Norman Granz in the '50s to find another large single outpouring of solo jazz piano like this, all of it improvised on the wing before five Japanese audiences in Kyoto, Osaka, Nagoya, Tokyo, and Sapporo. Yet the miracle is how consistently good much of this giant box is.
Excellent addition to any jazz-fusion music collection
I'm afraid I cannot discuss this album in terms of "meribolant soul melodies" or such, but if you're looking for a peaceful and relaxed solo album from one of the top jazz guitarists, CHARACTERS might be just right for you.
The 2010 ECM album Purcor - Songs for Saxophone and Piano features tenor/soprano saxophonist Trygve Seim and pianist Andreas Utnem dueting on various original and traditional compositions. Although this is the first time the two musicians have recorded together, their partnership extends back to the mid-'90s when Utnem, working with Norway's Church City Mission foundation, invited Seim to perform with him at several church services. Choosing from a mix of liturgical compositions for mass and some original pieces, Utnem then played in his own classical- and jazz-based style while Seim improvised around him. The result, as heard on this album, is a kind of hybrid of classical, jazz, and folk styles fits nicely into the softly introspective, and cerebral ECM approach.
Are you ready for extreme 18th century keyboard? The typically sparse packaging graphics of this ECM release may indicate only to German speakers what's contained inside: a "Tangentenflügel" is a tangent piano, a rare keyboard instrument of Mozart's time that used hammers, striking the strings at a tangent, but no dampers. The sound combines qualities of a clavichord (its nearest relative, but the tangent piano is louder), a fortepiano, and a harpsichord.
Sofia Gubaidulina is one of the originals of our era. A new release comes to us from ECM this week, confirming and extending that idea. Canticle of the Sun (ECM New Series) presents the title work as performed by the Riga Chamber Choir, Maris Sirmais conducting, with Nicolas Altstaedt as cello soloist plus two percussion and celesta. The disk also features the world premiere recording of "The Lyre of Orpheus" with Gidon Kremer as violin soloist, Marta Sudraba, cello soloist and the Kremerata Baltica.