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Country - Released February 26, 2013 | Nonesuch

Hi-Res Distinctions The Qobuz Ideal Discography - Hi-Res Audio - Stereophile: Recording of the Month

Country - Released February 22, 2013 | Nonesuch

Distinctions Stereophile: Recording of the Month

Jazz - Released February 8, 2013 | ECM

Hi-Res Booklet Distinctions Hi-Res Audio - Sélection JAZZ NEWS - Stereophile: Recording of the Month
Since relocating to America from his native Europe, Polish trumpeter Tomasz Stańko has assembled a crack band to articulate his ever fluctuating, often experimental musical ideas. His New York Quartet, consisting of pianist David Virelles, bassist Thomas Morgan, and drummer Gerald Cleaver is a study in contrasts. The septuagenarian trumpeter proves as wily as ever on Wisława, a double-disc titled for the late poet and Nobel Laureate Wisława Szymborska, who passed away in 2012, and whose work and persona proved influential in composing the material for this set. Several of these pieces bear the titles of her poems. Stańko's signature brooding, cranky, tone-altering phrasing and disconsolate spirit of tenderness are apparent throughout, but they don't necessarily dictate the album's flow. Two versions of the title track bookend the album and showcase those qualities in balladic form, as do others such as "April Song"; there is also plenty of fire here, evidenced by the aggressive interplay of the rhythm section on tracks such as "Assassins" and "Metafizyka." "Mikrokosmos" is a Stańko showcase, offering at its opening all manner of squeals, skronks, sputters, and sharply angled tones before Virelles adds a Latin touch and the quartet settles into a groove. Likewise in the "Dernier "Cri," where the spirit of Miles Davis' second quintet is evoked. The second disc opens with "Oni," led by Morgan's bass walk. It commences impressionistically, yet develops into an easy grooving post-bop thanks to the bassist and Cleaver's shimmering cymbal work. "Tutaj - Here" offers scintillating -- though often subtle -- interplay between Virelles and the trumpeter, while "Faces" presents the pianist's forceful, canny, harmonic assertions that the rhythm section responds to with near glee. Stańko is at his most fiery in this driven post-bop number that also recalls the Davis quintet's fearless sense of exploration. Throughout this set, Stańko leads this band as he has many others: by example. His democratic sensibilities allow his players to be fully themselves through his compositions, in turn adding depth and heft to them. Wisława deftly celebrates in a deliberate way, not only the memory of an honored person in Stańko's life, but also the profound inspiration of her life's work upon his own. © Thom Jurek /TiVo

Alternative & Indie - Released September 10, 2012 | 4AD

Distinctions Stereophile: Recording of the Month

Jazz - Released July 13, 2012 | ECM

Hi-Res Distinctions 4F de Télérama - Choc de Classica - Indispensable JAZZ NEWS - Stereophile: Recording of the Month

Jazz - Released July 13, 2012 | ECM

Hi-Res Booklet Distinctions 4F de Télérama - Choc de Classica - Indispensable JAZZ NEWS - Stereophile: Recording of the Month

Jazz - Released January 27, 2012 | ECM

Hi-Res Booklet Distinctions The Qobuz Ideal Discography - The Qobuz Standard - Hi-Res Audio - Stereophile: Recording of the Month

Classical - Released December 1, 2011 | New World Records

Distinctions Stereophile: Recording of the Month
When Scott Joplin's 1911 opera Treemonisha was rediscovered in the 1970s, only a vocal score had survived, and various composers, including William Bolcom and Gunther Schuller, created orchestrations for full modern orchestra. Schuller's version was produced by the Houston Grand Opera and recorded by Deutsche Grammophon in 1976. Conductor Rick Benjamin, in the fascinating and exceptionally thorough program notes to this 2011 New World Records version of the opera, makes a virtually irrefutable case for Joplin's intention that a 12-member pit orchestra, a standard theater ensemble of the era, should accompany Treemonisha. Benjamin's version is considerably less grand than that of the Houston recording, and it is certainly closer to what the composer intended. The textures are varied but transparent, and the voices are always easy to hear and understand. It emphasizes the intimacy of the piece, which was always intended for small venues and makes clear its provenance as a distinctively American work rather than an imitation of European grand opera. Set in Arkansas during Reconstruction, the opera's story is disarmingly sweet and simple, and it was ahead of its time in at least two regards, in offering the model of a woman as a civic leader, and in its foreshadowing of the Civil Rights' movement's rejection of returning violence with violence. There are several ragtime numbers, the genre for which Joplin is most remembered, but most of the music is more traditionally lyrical and operatic, made up of solos, conversational dialogues, ensembles and choruses. The influences of 19th century African American music, as well as popular song of the era, are evident throughout, and Joplin's handling of the vernacular material is both natural and subtly sophisticated. Especially in this version, which makes it suitable for small companies, Treemonisha is a work that amply deserves a place on more operatic stages. Benjamin leads the Paragon Ragtime Orchestra and Singers in a lively and loose-limbed account of the engaging score. Soprano Anita Johnson stands out in the title role and tenor Chauncey Packer is especially strong as Remus. The rest of the cast is never less than very fine. The sound quality is clean, detailed, and well-balanced overall between the singers and the orchestra, but the stereo separation can be extreme and tends to isolate voices in one channel or the other. © TiVo

Classical - Released August 2, 2011 | Profil

Booklet Distinctions Stereophile: Recording of the Month
Unquestionably the most popular and accessible of Anton Bruckner's works are his Symphony No. 4 in E flat major, "Romantic," and the Symphony No. 7 in E major, and both symphonies make this four-CD package from Profil an attractive item for the beginning Brucknerian. But the recording of William Carragan's completion of the Symphony No. 9 in D minor makes this essential listening for anyone who has wondered how Bruckner might have concluded his final masterpiece. Left unfinished at his death, the Ninth's first three movements have been performed for over a century as the only authentic version, and many have accepted the Adagio as a fitting ending, despite the composer's indications to the contrary. Bruckner's sketches for the Finale have been scrutinized by several scholars, and various attempts have been made to provide a fourth movement. Carragan revised his original 1983 completion three times, and this 2010 version is a convincing ending, unifying the extant material into a stirring movement that is impressively consistent in style and substance with the rest of the symphony. The live performances of all three symphonies by Gerd Schaller and the Philharmonie Festiva are first-rate, with great attention to detail and controlled pacing that give the music propulsive movement and coherence. Because of the completion, the recording of the Ninth is split between two discs, while the Fourth and the Seventh occupy separate CDs. Taken altogether, this is a fine set that many collectors will want to snap up. © TiVo

Alternative & Indie - Released June 20, 2011 | 4AD

Distinctions Pitchfork: Best New Music - Sélection Les Inrocks - Stereophile: Recording of the Month
Part of the beauty of Bon Iver’s debut album, For Emma, Forever Ago, was the intimate, backwoods feel of the recording and the simplicity of Justin Vernon’s soaring, open wound of a voice with only minimal musical backing to distract from its impact. Even though Vernon had a few other people playing on the album, it was easy to imagine a solitary broken soul spilling his guts onto tape for hours at a time while the world went on without him. It was a truly aching, somewhat claustrophobic sound that was beautiful and unique. After a couple years in which his life was basically turned upside down thanks to the success of For Emma, Vernon’s second album is quite different. Where For Emma was stripped down and intimate, Bon Iver is packed with guest musicians, horn sections, strings, and extra vocalists. Every inch of sonic space is filled with sound, each one fighting for space and distracting from Bon Iver’s strength, namely Vernon’s vocals. It’s probably unfair to expect Vernon to replicate the sound of For Emma, but he could have found a middle ground between tender restraint and totally overdoing it. Instead, he’s working like mad to distance himself from the sound he established so well in a desperate attempt to make a “masterpiece” instead of For Emma, Pt. 2. Perhaps if he were a more skilled producer and arranger, things would have been better. Unfortunately, his style comes off more like sub-Enya with a beard than a true studio wizard. The muted, over-washed sound of the record is murky when it should be mysterious, flat when it should be 3-D, and his reliance on clichéd synth sounds is somewhat perplexing. While most of the record is underwhelming sonically, the last track, "Beth/Rest," is laughable. Sounding like it was recorded using a five-dollar Casio and featuring some of the worst dueling sax/guitar solos you’d ever imagine, it shoots for a majestic, album-ending feel but instead sounds like the theme song to a horrible '80s movie about unicorns (only not that good). Despite disasters like that, there are still enough moments of tender beauty and restraint to remind you why Bon Iver is worth caring about. The relatively restrained "Wash," which pits Vernon’s aching vocal orchestra against a jagged, repeating piano line (and only minimal strings and pedal steel), the first two-thirds of "Holocene" (before the mix bursts with saxes and unnecessary effects), the simple and affecting "Michicant" (if you can ignore the distractions) -- these have hints of the grace and understated emotion that made For Emma what it was. Hints aren’t enough to make the record a success, though, and by reaching too far, Vernon and Bon Iver fall flat with a huge thud. It’s a shame Vernon felt he had to take Bon Iver outside the cabin and into the world. He was doing just fine on his own and didn’t need all those people and instruments cluttering up the air. “Woods” proved that all Vernon needed to break a heart was his voice and some Auto-Tune. Though he can be praised for not just copying himself and trying to progress, to be honest, For Emma, Pt. 2 would have been far more satisfying than this overblown debacle. © Tim Sendra /TiVo

Classical - Released May 27, 2011 | Nonesuch

Booklet Distinctions 5 de Diapason - Choc de Classica - Exceptional Sound Recording - Stereophile: Recording of the Month
In terms of the scale of his compositions, John Adams' career is somewhat anomalous for a contemporary composer. While the usual pattern tends to be for a composer to begin a career writing smaller pieces (which have a far likelier chance of being performed) and then expanding to larger forms as his or her reputation grows, Adams (with very few exceptions) was writing large-scale operas and orchestral and choral works starting in the early '80s and didn't begin devoting himself to chamber music with any regularity until the mid-'90s. This CD includes the premiere recordings of two significant chamber works from late in the first decade of the 20th century, Son of Chamber Symphony (2007) and the String Quartet (2008). While the first Chamber Symphony (1992) was a forward looking piece, incorporating new levels of textural complexity and compositional sophistication, Son of Chamber Symphony tends to look backward. Its first movement is reminiscent of the wacky energy of the original Chamber Symphony and the sinuous melodic arabesques suspended over a thrumming accompaniment of the second movement calls to mind the opening of The Death of Klinghoffer. If the third movement creates an unmistakable sense of déjà entendu, there's an explanation; it's Adams' riff on the "News" aria from Nixon in China. While Son of… may not break new ground, it's an attractive work that ought to (and probably will) achieve traction with fans of its predecessor. Adams had written an earlier string quartet, the tongue-in-cheek John's Book of Alleged Dances in 10 brief movements, but he considers this newer quartet his first serious work in the genre. It incorporates some of the irreverent whimsy of the earlier piece, but the refinement and subtlety of its development demonstrate Adams' appreciation of the string quartet as the genre in which composers have frequently distilled their most profound and essential insights and is a noteworthy contribution to the repertoire. The St. Lawrence String Quartet plays it with all the care and finesse it brings to classics of the literature and with plenty of fire. Adams leads the International Chamber Ensemble in an energetic and polished performance of Son of Chamber Symphony. Nonesuch's sound is clean, detailed, and realistically present. © TiVo

Classical - Released November 22, 2010 | Warner Classics

Hi-Res Distinctions Hi-Res Audio - Stereophile: Recording of the Month

Alternative & Indie - Released October 11, 2010 | Domino Recording Co

Distinctions 4F de Télérama - 4 étoiles Classica - Sélection Les Inrocks - Stereophile: Record To Die For - Stereophile: Recording of the Month

Classical - Released February 8, 2010 | Alia Vox

Booklets Distinctions Gramophone Editor's Choice - Stereophile: Recording of the Month