The Edge of Light // Gloria Cheng and Calder Quartet // Harmonia Mundi UK — Radiant sonorities by Messiaen and Saariaho, including Saariaho’s Prelude and Ballade, two works for solo piano.
Le Cirque // Anderson-Fader Duo // Furious Artisans — Contemporary classical played by guitar duo with refreshingly catholic tastes, from Wuorinen to Lang. Despite this variety, the album holds together well — maybe because things can’t help sounding good on guitar duo, including a haunting Gillian Welch arrangement here.
Handel: Bad Guys // Xavier Sabata with Il Pomo d’Oro and Riccardo Minasi // Aparté — Grab bag of villainous Handel arias, incongruously written for the warbling counter-tenor range. Sabata sings strongly and expressively, but he’s not going to make anyone quiver in their (historically informed) boots.
Haydn: Piano Concertos, Nos. 3, 4 & 11 // Marc-André Hamelin with Les Violons du Roy and Bernard Labadie // Hyperion — Remarkably clear and lively performance, though Hamelin’s playing is sometimes too dry & distant for my taste
Stainless Staining [EP] // Lisa Moore // Cantaloupe — Resonant, entrancing piano music by an Irish composer Donnacha Dennehy, augmented with samples of G# overtones. [soundcloud]
Mendelssohn: Songs without Words, books 1-4 // Ronald Brautigam, Mendelssohn // BIS — Sensitive performances of early Romantic-era miniatures for solo piano, played on a historical instrument.
Norwegian Woods OST // Jonny Greenwood // Nonesuch — Radiohead guitarist would be doing pretty well for himself even if he just wrote movie soundtracks.
Johannes Brahms: The Complete Trios // Smetana Trio (w/ Premysl Vojta, Ludmila Peterkova) // Supraphon — This Czech trio brings it.
Where [we] Live // Sō Percussion // Cantaloupe — Album realization of a Kickstarter-backed, collaborative, multi-media performance exploring concept of ‘home’: toy percussion instruments, spoken word, singing, electronics — the works. Based on this trailer, looks like ambitious stuff. Performance has already premiered at Walker Art Center in Minneapolis, with future performance during the BAM Next Wave Festival in Brooklyn, December 19-22. [soundcloud]
Heavy// ETHEL // Innova — Adventurous, rock-solid contemporary string quartet playing. Includes Don Byron’s ‘Four Thoughts on Marvin Gaye’ and works by Julia Wolfe and David Lang. [streaming on ETHEL website]
Recent additions of note to the WOBC classical collection:
JAKOB KULLBERG W/ SZYMON BYWALEC, NEW MUSIC ORCHESTRA: Momentum: Nordic Cello Concertos (Aurora) — includes Amers, a lush piece for cello, orchestra, and electronics by the never-disappointing Kaija Saariaho.
JONNY GREENWOOD: The Master: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack (Nonesuch) — Radiohead guitarist once again demonstrates his composing chops with his work on a P.T. Anderson movie. Warm, organic compositional voice, sometimes mixing in just the right amount of paint thinner.
MICHAEL TILSON THOMAS, SAN FRANCISCO SYMPHONY: American Mavericks: Cowell, Harrison, Varèse (SFS Media) — iconoclastic American music, feat. Oberlin alum Jeremy Denk on the Henry Cowell Piano Concerto. [soundcloud]
SONAR QUARTETT: Walter Zimmermann, Songs of Innocence and Experience (mode) — works for string quartet and solo strings, sometimes with drones, tape, or voice. Folk melodies and children songs, seen through an avant-garde lens.
EDDY VANOOSTHUYSE W/ PAUL MEYER, BRUSSELS PHILHARMONIC: John Corigliano, Elliott Carter, American Clarinet Concertos (aeon) — rewarding Belgian take on two engaging late-20th century American clarinet concertos.
THE KING’S SINGERS: Royal Rhymes and Rounds (signum) — crisply sung a capella vocal works centered around British monarchs, released for the Diamond Jubilee. Includes some works by Henry VIII — perfect Bring Up the Bodies reading music.