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C. Breunig (Music); P. Miller (Lab)  |  Oct 08, 2015
Many young soloists have made their debut recordings in one or other of these works. Arabella Steinbacher – whom we associate more with 20th century concertos – says she’s never previously felt the need to record either until she began working with Charles Dutoit (there’s a 2009 Tchaikovsky video from Tokyo on YouTube). The problem is that she tends to slow the music to show off her beautifully cultivated sounds with the 1716 Stradivarius, although Dutoit could hardly be more accommodating. So I much prefer his 1983 Decca CD coupling with Kyung-Wha Chung, whose playing is utterly selfless (and the Mendelssohn finale has an elfin lightness).
B. Willis (Music); P. Miller (Lab  |  Mar 05, 2018
There’s a beguiling immature quality in Ariel Pocock’s voice – she’s in her mid-twenties but sounds much younger – that contrasts with the sophistication of her musical arrangements and the band backing her on this recording. Her vocalisations evoke a sweet innocence that older jazz singers can’t and shouldn’t try to imitate. The title track comes off almost like a college girl’s improvisation-on-the-spot – a really good one that succeeds so well it surprises even its creator. Amusingly, she tackles more than she can handle with Cole Porter’s ‘So In Love’, but it’s a valiant attempt, and the extended instrumental break is wonderful.
C. Breunig (Music); P. Miller (Lab)  |  May 03, 2016
Perhaps reissued to mark Arvo Pärt’s recent 80th birthday, this was a ground-breaking album release on LP in 1984 and some of the music was soon taken up by other artists: fellow Estonian Neeme Järvi with Cantus, Tasmin Litle with Fratres. ECM’s programme has 12 Berlin Philharmonic cellists playing it and the violin/piano version with Gidon Kremer and Keith Jarrett. Tabula Rasa is for two solo violins, prepared piano (Schnittke playing, no less) and small orchestra. Cantus, a threnody with strings and final tolling bell, written in memory of Britten, especially had a cult following (though it doesn’t inspire me!).
A. Everard (Music); P. Miller (Lab)  |  Nov 01, 2016
Your heart kinda sinks when you read that this, trumpeter Cohen’s principal artist début for ECM, is dedicated to his late father, and was written in the months following Cohen Sr’s passing. And when the album opens with the cheerily-titled ‘Life And Death’, which is all tinkling background piano and ponderous bass, brushed drums and muted horn, you get to thinking you’re going to be in for a long night of solemnity. However, while this set is undeniably contemplative and downbeat, it’s far from dull, not least due to the quality of musicians Cohen has assembled around him. These include Branford Marsalis sidesman Eric Revis on bass, and Nasheet Waits wielding the sticks, and a typically gorgeous ECM recording, which misses nary a detail.
J. Bamford (Music); P. Miller (Lab)  |  Apr 01, 2014
Nigerian-German singer-songwriter Joy Olasunmibo Ogunmakin – stage name Ayo – has enjoyed considerable success in Europe since her 2007 debut album Joyful and its follow-up Gravity At Last, both produced by renowned American sound engineer Jay Newland. This is her fourth studio album, produced and mixed by Newland once again, containing both the original version of her 2013 single ‘Fire’ and its subsequent remix featuring Congolese-French rapper Youssoupha [see Lab Report]. As usual her songs cover a mix of styles from reggae and rap to the country-esque ‘Justice’ and the beautiful ballad ‘Fallin’’ that bears comparison with Joan Armatrading at her most heartfelt. Standout tracks such as ‘Teach Love’ and ‘Complain’ showcase the album’s superior recording quality, with the backing instruments separated across a believable soundstage.
C. Breunig (Music); P. Miller (Lab)  |  May 01, 2015
96kHz/24-bit FLAC, BIS BIS-2091 (supplied by www. eclassical. com) Masaaki Suzuki turns to Mozart and the unfinished Requiem. The principal question here is whose edition do you perform, and in this recording Süssmayr’s completion is used together with additions by Joseph Eybler with an added ‘Amen’ fugue (discovered in 1960) after the Lacrimosa.
A. Everard (Music); P. Miller (Lab)  |  Dec 01, 2016
This set may take its title from Erik Satie’s decidedly strange cantata, based on a translation of Plato’s Dialogues, but it opens with the composer’s romantic early love-songs, ‘Trois Mélodies’, setting the ravishingly beautiful tone of the entire album. If you’ve ever wondered what reviewers mean by an ‘intimate’ recording, here’s your benchmark: the gorgeous voice of Canadian soprano Barbara Hannigan sounds like it’s not just in the same room but quite possibly on the same sofa as the listener. It’s so close-up you can almost feel every breath to spine-tingling effect, while accompanist de Leeuw maintains a discreet distance, seemingly to avoid breaking the mood. In the title work – which is either written straightfaced or a fine piece of deadpan humour – Hannigan may take a step back from the close-up magic, but this is still a glorious recording.
C. Breunig (Music); P. Miller (Lab)  |  Aug 01, 2016
This young Italian pianist was silver prizewinner at the 2013 Van Cliburn Competition and makes her Warner concerto debut with Pappano. They had not worked together before but in May are touring with the Tchaikovsky – which Rana had been playing for almost ten years. And 3-4m in she certainly hits her stride: arguably her first-movement cadenza is over-complicated but mostly this is as good as its gets – robust technique, a wide dynamic range and real bravura at the ends of (ii) and (iii). Pappano provides a big, even brash, accompaniment and the piano is well balanced in the big hall acoustic.
A. Everard (Music); P. Miller (Lab)  |  Aug 01, 2016
Well, this turned out to be an unexpected treat: Becca Stevens plays multiple instruments to an annoyingly high standard, but does so with such style and in so easy-going a manner that the result is anything but annoying. She also sings superbly, too: her voice is warm and lush, but packed with expression, and capable of wonderful harmonies with accordion/keyboard player Liam Robinson and bassist Chris Tordini. Oh, and she writes great songs into the bargain, such as the attractively clever title track of this, her third album, which was recorded in multiple studios (and indeed three separate states) by producer Scott Solter. It’s a fine multilayered crossover between jazz, folk and rock, combining Stevens’ originals with great covers – her version of Steve Winwood’s ‘Higher Love’ has both style and solid bass, and like the whole set an open, informative balance.
C. Breunig (Music); P. Miller (Lab)  |  Jul 01, 2013
These gifted Zurich graduate string players joined forces in 2004: this is their debut recording, produced last July at the University of Arts concert-hall (the booklet PDF includes full technical details). Their musical responses are lightning-fast and in the Haydn ‘Fifths’ Quartet their slow movement is poised, the finale high-spirited. The great Bartók Fourth is exemplary as an abstract realisation (not unlike the Juilliards’), superbly played but with little of the ethnic colouring you hear with the Hungarian Qt [DG]. The sound is as fresh and clean as Swiss air, notwithstanding the resonance of the hall, with richness to the cello and clear decay of notes.
J. Bamford (Music); P. Miller (Lab)  |  May 01, 2014
Young Dutch saxophonist Ben van Gelder’s 2012 debut album Frame Of Reference, published by his own BvG Music enterprise and released on vinyl as well as CD, is followed up by a fresh outing recorded in New York’s prestigious Sear Point Studios. Less contemplative than his auspicious debut and featuring pretty much the same line up of Craig Weinrib (drums), Peter Schlamb (vibraphone) and Rick Rosato (bass on all but two tracks), but with pianist Aaron Parks replaced by Sam Harris, van Gelder’s quintet once again exhibits a medley of styles, shifting from angular unisons to freewheelin’ blowing. It’s hard to believe they’re all in their 20s such is the maturity of their playing, van Gelder’s inventive compositions certainly belying his age. It’s a pity the sound isn’t more open and airy, the textures at times masked by the slightly cramped soundings.
A. Everard (Music); P. Miller (Lab)  |  Sep 01, 2015
If perchance you woke up this morning and thought to yourself ‘Y’know what? The one thing really missing from my music collection is a jazz bass solo cover of Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit”’, then here’s just the album for you. If not, then you’ll be pleased to know that track is one of very few misfires on this set by bassman Ben Williams – well, along with the over-rapped and insubstantial ‘Toy Soldiers’ immediately after it. Otherwise this is a tightly-recorded, fine-sounding package. It’s a bass-player’s album, which means the instrument is prominent in the clean, crisp mix, but fortunately Williams is a very fine, very expressive player, as is the band with which he’s surrounded himself here, whether on the harder-hitting cuts or the more lyrical tracks.
C. Joseph (Music); P. Miller (Lab)  |  Aug 20, 2018
That sombre cover portrait sets the tone for Benny Andersson’s latest solo project, which consists of 21 tracks from his decades-long career reinterpreted for piano. The mood is generally melancholy, and the album largely concentrates on Andersson’s post-Abba material, including songs written for musicals such as Chess, as well as his current ‘group’ – the Benny Andersson Orkester. Inevitably, though, it’s the handful of familiar Abba classics that stand out. The piano version of ‘My Love, My Life’ lacks the lush harmonies of the original, but the bittersweet melody still shines through.
C. Breunig (Music); P. Miller (Lab)  |  Aug 01, 2015
96kHz/24-bit FLAC, BIS-2124 (supplied by www. eclassical. com) The Fifth Symphony has fared well on records, right back to the 1946 Koussevitsky/RCA and particularly with American orchestras. Prokofiev’s 1915 Diaghilev ballet commission for Ala et Lolli, a mythological Scythian concoction, met with rejection: the composer ‘did not understand a thing about dance’, said Balanchine.
J. Ford (Music); P. Miller (Lab)  |  Aug 01, 2013
44. 1kHz/24-bit ALAC/FLAC/WAV, Anti-/Epitaph (supplied by www. hdtracks. co.