Most of Sara Sant'Ambrogio's recordings have been as cellist with the Eroica Trio, but she takes on the odd numbers of J.S. Bach's Six Suites for unaccompanied cello in this 2009 solo outing, and it's an ambitious undertaking. This album faces comparisons with several great recordings of the suites, and this young cellist likewise faces scrutiny for playing works associated with such names as Casals, Fournier, and Rostropovich, past masters of the instrument.
Known in her heyday as "the blues sensation of the West," the big-voiced Sara Martin was one of the best of the classic female blues singers of the '20s. Martin began her career as a vaudeville performer, switching to blues singing in the early '20s. In 1922, she began recording for OKeh Records, cutting a number of bawdy blues like "Mean Tight Mama." She continued recording until 1928. During this time, Martin became a popular performer on the southern Theater Owners' Booking Association circuits, eventually playing theaters and clubs on the east coast as well. In the early '30s, Sara Martin retired from blues singing and settled in her hometown of Louisville, Kentucky. While she was in Louisville, she ran a nursing home and occasionally sang gospel in church. Sara Martin died after suffering a stroke in 1955.
Sara Mingardo has been creating quite a stir in baroque circles but this is my first chance to catch up with her. In one sense she may be considered a "typical" baroque singer, in the sense that she uses a completely straight vocal production, from which vibrato has been rigorously excluded, and cultivates a somewhat plangent, nasal sound, with the result that a casual listener might suppose he was listening to a counter-tenor.
Alice Sara Ott's 2008 recording of Franz Liszt's 12 Transcendental Etudes may be the right prescription for jaded listeners who are sure they've heard all they need of this composer. To the extent that any pianist can make Liszt's music sound fresh, innovative, and interesting again, after years of mistreatment at the hands of sentimentalists and show-offs, Ott succeeds brilliantly on all three points.