Music, song, and poetry have long enjoyed a stimulating relationship; coming together for expressive ends and sometimes colliding in dramatic showdowns. None more so than in these vocal works by two composers who often explore extremes, Milton Babbitt and Michael Hersch. Babbitt’s ‘Philomel’ (1964) was an audacious stab at recasting conventions of song (such as voice with accompaniment) by redistributing the text between live voice, recorded voice, and analog synthesizer. The fragmentary words and syllables by poet John Hollander retell Ovid’s story of the rape and subsequent transformation of Philomel into a nightingale; aptly paralleled by the metamorphosis of the human and artificial sonorities.
In honor of the Tito Gobbi centenary (in 2013), the Associazione Musicale Tito Gobbi has unearthed and released this Otello, performed in the courtyard of the Doge's Palace in Venice, in August 1966. While technical challenges involved in broadcasting a production back in the '60s, from a venue not designed for theater, caused occasional problems involving camera work and sound, the resulting black-and-white video is well worth having, particularly for Gobbi's brilliant Iago. Although an earlier Gobbi Iago is available from VAI, filmed in Japan in 1959 opposite Mario Del Monaco's titanic Moor, this later document finds the extraordinary baritone no less nimble physically and vocally. In fact, the vastness of the performing area and the evocative atmosphere of the Palazzo Ducale seem to draw from Gobbi a sort of ownership of the environment that is perfect for Iago, as he darts about controlling events like a sardonic puppeteer.
For the Commodores, losing Lionel Richie in 1982 was a lot like L.T.D. losing Jeffrey Osborne and Rose Royce losing Gwen Dickey – it was a severe blow, although not a fatal one. In fact, the Commodores had a few major hits after Richie's departure, including 'Nightshift' (a number one R&B/number three pop smash) in 1984 and 'Goin' to the Bank' in 1986. Released in 1983, Commodores 13 was the band's first post-Richie album as well as its first album without producer James Carmichael (who had been working with the Commodores since 1974). This LP came out around the same time as Richie's second solo album, Can't Slow Down, which sold over eight million copies in the U.S. alone. Commodores 13 didn't do nearly that well, although it's a generally decent, if uneven, record that had a number 20 R&B hit in 'Only You.'
Georg Philipp Telemann is one of the composers whose cause Ricercar has always championed with fervour. To commemorate the 250th anniversary of his death, Ricercar now presents a reissue of its vast repertory, which makes up a complete portrait of the output of this inspired contemporary of Johann Sebastian Bach: his sonatas, trios, fantasias, concertos and suites written for all sorts of instruments are accompanied by several sacred compositions, cantatas, and a St Matthew Passion which, like a number of other works in the set, is released on disc for the first time.