Ian Matthews left Fairport Convention in 1969, and while the U.K.'s greatest folk-rock band was beginning to reinvent itself in a more traditional and very British direction, Matthews began digging deeper into the American influences that had marked his old band's first era. Later That Same Year, the second album from Ian's new group Matthews Southern Comfort (it was released in late 1970, a mere six months after their debut, hence the title), is a beautiful set of songs that splits the difference between West Coast folk-rock and early country-rock, with Gordon Huntley's pedal steel and Roger Coulam's lending an air of sunny sadness that dovetails beautifully with Matthews' silky tenor. Matthews wrote three of the songs on Later That Same Year, and they rank with the album's finest moments, especially the ethereal harmonies of "And Me" and the graceful simplicity of "My Lady," but Matthews also borrows some excellent material from American writers, including a cover of Neil Young's "Tell Me Why" that remains faithful while creating a languid mood of its own.
There's little competition for the best recordings of Bruch's symphonies, but what competition there is is stiff, very, very stiff. On one side, there are Kurt Masur's opulent accounts with the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchester from the late '80s, on the other, there are James Conlon's urgent readings with the Gurzenich-Orchester Kölner Philharmoniker from the mid-'90s. And yet Michael Halász and the Staatskapelle Weimar have found a way to top them both by delivering performances of surpassing warmth and beauty that still have unstoppable drive and momentum in this 2008 recording of Bruch's First and Second symphonies. One is reminded here and there of the composer of the famous violin concertos, but for the most part, Halász turns in performances of such conviction and authority that it makes one think Bruch's reputation as a symphonist has been seriously underestimated for the past century and a half. Captured in clear, colorful digital sound, this disc deserves to be heard by all fans of 19th century German symphonic music.
In an age of artistic conformity, Jan Dismas Zelenka (1679-1745) had a refreshingly individual voice. In his own time he was described as 'a reserved, bigoted Catholic, but also a respectable, quiet, unassuming man, deserving of the greatest respect'. His music earned Bach's respect for its serious contrapuntal procedures; today's listeners, though, are more immediately charmed by Zelenka's quirky turns of phrase and flashes of original genius. There are plenty of these in the Passion oratorio Gesù al Calvario (1735), one of the composer's three late oratorios. This is an essentially contemplative oratorio. All the 'action' is concentrated into a single scene in which the three Marys and St John are waiting on the Mount of Calvary for Jesus after he has been sentenced to death. The crucifixion itself is not depicted, just the emotional reactions to it.
One of the architects of bebop in the 1940s, Max Roach continued to lead innovative and exemplary jazz groups into the 21st century. He cut his first discs with Coleman Hawkins in 1943, and soon afterwards worked with Dizzy Gillespie both on 52nd Street and on record.