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Caroline Shaw : Narrow Sea

Dawn Upshaw

Electronic - Released January 22, 2021 | Nonesuch

Hi-Res Booklet
The wide variety of ways one could refer to Caroline Shaw shows what a unique talent she is: Pulitzer Prize winner, vocalist, violinist, frequent Kanye West collaborator, and composer for cello, piano, voice, string quartet, viola, orchestra, and flower pots. Shaw's thick resume belies the relative brevity of her tenure so far on this planet (she's only 38), but over the last decade or so, she has piled a stunning variety of artistic successes upon one another. Such range, however, is not indicative of any sort of dilettantism in her approach to the work, which is consistently serious, thoughtful, well-researched, and inventive. And even though her work with Kanye may have gotten her some attention in some surprising circles, it was the success of 2019's Orange, which featured six of her string quartet pieces performed by Attacca Quartet, that brought her work a much wider audience. That extraordinary effort showcased her rigorous and uncompromising approach to composition, and was likely one of the most daring classical albums to crack the public consciousness in years. Now, she follows it up with an even more challenging and rewarding work. Narrow Sea is a short album—the five-part titular composition clocks in at just under 20 minutes, and the additional piece here, "Taxidermy," is less than 10—but it is rich with ideas. Composed for voice, piano, and percussion, Narrow Sea is both ethereal and earthy, and the spacious and expansive tangle of sounds benefits from the humanity of Dawn Upshaw's soprano, the complex and varied textures of Sō Percussion's instrumentation, and the gentle melodic anchors of Gil Kalish's piano. Shaw's facility at composing for voice is radiantly clear in Upshaw's mournful, searching interpretations of these spiritual lyrics (inspired by a text of 19th century hymns called The Sacred Harp), while her more exploratory tendencies are borne out wonderfully by the Brooklyn-based Sō Percussion crew, which works with everything from flowing water and insistent humming to Shaw's beloved flower pots. While the bulk of Narrow Sea is quite percussive, it's not an overtly rhythmic composition (aside from the heartbeat rhythm that sits a bit off-tempo during "Part 1"), depending instead on Kalish's piano work to anchor it. Album closer "Taxidermy" is densely rhythmic, with gamelan-esque marimbas and clanging flower pots underlying a thicket of vocal phrasings; it's a sharp contrast to the rest of the work, but stands as more invigorating evidence of Shaw's incredible abilities. © Jason Ferguson/Qobuz

Raphaël Cendo : Corps

Willem Latchoumia

Classical - Released January 18, 2021 | L'empreinte Digitale

Recorded 2015, Strasbourg, Festival Musica (live) : October 4, 2014 [Graphein] - September 24, 2015 [Corps] - October 28, 2016 [Action painting]

Ešenvalds : Translations

Ethan Sperry

Classical - Released March 13, 2020 | Naxos

Hi-Res Booklet
The multi-award-winning Latvian composer Ēriks Ešenvalds’ 21st-century choral sound is both exquisite and angular, and in this album he explores ideas of ‘translation’, legend and the divine. Oregon Poet Laureate Paulann Petersen, whose poetry is set on the first two tracks of this album, stated: ‘Art is translation. Art translates the ineffable into what we can see and hear, what we can experience, what touchesus. Art translates mystery for us without destroying that mystery'. With his expanded tonality and employment of shimmering singing handbells in Translation, and the angelic use of the viola and cello in In paradisum he creates music of ravishing refinement. In Legend of the Walled-In Woman Ešenvalds transcribes and employs an authentic Albanian folk song. © Naxos

Adès conducts Adès (World Premiere Recordings)

Thomas Adès

Classical - Released February 28, 2020 | Deutsche Grammophon (DG)

Hi-Res Distinctions Diapason d'or - 5 étoiles de Classica
Written in 2018 for his favorite pianist Kirill Gerstein, Thomas Adès’s Concerto for Piano has been a worldwide success. Commissioned by the Boston Symphony, where the piece premiered on March 7, 2019, and where it was recorded, it is already part of the program of fifty soon-to-be concerts in Europe and in the US, all to be performed by its exclusive dedicatee. A twenty-minute-long piece with a classical three-movement structure, the concerto mixes every genre and influence with kaleidoscopic and skillful talent. The new piece includes many influences, mainly hinting at Twentieth-century piano concertos, such as works by Ravel, Prokofiev, Bartók, Poulenc, and Rachmaninov, as well as Gershwin’s jazzy style, peppering the whole composition. This new piece takes the past into account and will be recognizable to traditionalist audiences of classical music concerts. The second part of the album, that Thomas Adès, one of the most well-known and performed contemporary composers, also dedicates to himself, includes his Totentanz (“Dance of Death”) for mezzo-soprano, baritone, and orchestra. The piece was composed in 2013 for the famous London Proms’ series to celebrate Britten and Lutosławski’s hundred-year anniversary, two essential composers of the twentieth century. Recorded during a concert that took place in Boston in 2016, Totentanz is inspired by a famous mural in Lübeck’s Saint Mary’s Church, bombed by the allied forces in 1942. Adès’ Totentanz is part of a rich tradition where the fragility of the human condition is explored in relation to contemporary tragedies. Written on anonymous texts from the 15th century, the Totentanz consists of drinking songs on the theme of death embodied by the baritone. Throughout the work, we witness the reactions of different individuals of humanity faced with death - preacher, pope, emperor, cardinal, king, monk, knight, doctor, usurer, businessman, sacristan, craftsman, farmer, daughter, child - who are embodied by the mezzo-soprano. When the Pope and Emperor appear jaded, the King is panicked while the peasant, fatalist, accepts his fate... © François Hudry / Qobuz

Dessner : Tenebre

Ensemble Resonanz

Chamber Music - Released October 11, 2019 | resonanzraum records

Hi-Res Booklet Distinctions Diapason d'or
Tenebre is the title of one of the works on this album by rock-to-classical crossover sensation Bryce Dessner, and also of the album as a whole: on offer here are four separate works, not a single work called Tenebre. The pieces have been played, and in some cases recorded, in other settings previously. As such, the album offers a good starting point for those curious about this musician, whose experiments with classical music have lasted longer than those of his rock compatriots who have attempted such a thing. His success has now extended to continental Europe, for the performers here, Ensemble Resonanz, are from Germany. This group has experimented with the presentation of contemporary music in the setting of a nightclub called "Club Resonanz," and overall, it would be hard to imagine a group more sympathetic to Dessner's aims. The question of whether you can spot Dessner, the rock songwriter, in the music of Dessner, the classical composer, is not a simple one and seems to have been partly responsible for his commercial success. The connections aren't obvious, but there's a certain rock attitude added on to Dessner's postminimalist and downtown New York influences, and Ensemble Resonanz gets this. Sample the evocatively titled Skrik Trio. Dessner's staying power depends on where he goes from here, perhaps with a larger work, but this is an excellent snapshot of where things stand now. © James Manheim /TiVo

Short Stories

Tchalik Quintet

Classical - Released September 20, 2019 | Alkonost Classic

Hi-Res Booklet Distinctions 5 de Diapason

Michel Boédec : #1653

Michel Boédec

Classical - Released July 24, 2019 | Lanvellec Editions

Hi-Res Distinctions 5 de Diapason

Mark Andre : Hij

Mark Andre

Classical - Released March 22, 2019 | Wergo

Booklet Distinctions 5 de Diapason

Posadas : Erinnerungsspuren - Zyklus für Klavier

Florian Hoelscher

Solo Piano - Released November 30, 2018 | Wergo

Distinctions 5 de Diapason

Beffa : Douze études

Tristan Pfaff

Solo Piano - Released November 23, 2018 | Ad Vitam records

Hi-Res Booklet Distinctions 5 étoiles de Classica

Cheung : Cycles & Arrows

Various Artists

Chamber Music - Released August 24, 2018 | New Focus Recordings

Booklet Distinctions 5 de Diapason

Stefano Gervasoni : Pas Perdu

Ukho Ensemble Kyiv & Luigi Gaggero

Classical - Released August 10, 2018 | Winter & Winter

Hi-Res Booklet Distinctions 5 de Diapason

Michael Hersch: End Stages & Violin Concerto

Patricia Kopatchinskaja

Classical - Released July 6, 2018 | New Focus Recordings

While the Violin Concerto from 2016 by Michael Hersch (born 1971) seems like a frightful chaos, the work soon takes a more linear and legible turn, even though its content remains tremendously violent from end to end, even in those less frenetic passages where the melodic line seems to warn of impending danger... The work was commissioned by violinist Patricia Kopatchinskaja, who is an ardent supporter of music less ordinary, which requires nerve and endurance. As for end stages (all lower case in the title) from 2017, it explores the "end stages" of musical discourse, an apparent allusion by the composer to the illness and deaths of loved ones which have dogged him for years. The eight movements, far from fading away, give the impression of slowly closing in on themselves. The famous Orpheus Chamber Orchestra, to which the work is dedicated, performs it here. As it is wonted to do, the ensemble plays without a conductor, which is a terrific tour de force, given a score of such complexity. But as each musician is forced to listen to the other, the concentration is extreme – and it shows. © SM/Qobuz

Schnelzer : Tales from Suburbia

Claes Gunnarsson

Symphonic Music - Released July 6, 2018 | BIS

Hi-Res Booklet Distinctions 5 de Diapason

Gérard Pesson : Musique de chambre, Cantates

Instant Donné

Chamber Music - Released June 29, 2018 | NoMadMusic

Booklet Distinctions 5 de Diapason

Heinz Holliger : Choral Utopia

Marcus Creed

Vocal Music (Secular and Sacred) - Released March 30, 2018 | Wergo

Distinctions 5 de Diapason
The Swiss Heinz Holliger is now a renowned conductor and composer of new music – one of the few to succeed in writing modern music while capturing the interest of a broad audience. For the first time, he devotes an entire album to his choral works from 1971 to 2012. The texts set to music range from Paul Celan to poems in Hebrew or Bernese dialect. To serve it, what could one dream of better than the Stuttgart Vocal Ensemble brilliantly directed since 2001 by Marcus Creed? Note that the choir master gives his place to the composer to let him conclude this program by the magnificent piece Utopie Chorklang 2004. © Qobuz

Wang Lu : Urban Inventory

The Third Sound Ensemble

Classical - Released March 16, 2018 | New Focus Recordings

Booklet Distinctions 5 de Diapason

Jake Heggie : Great Scott

Joyce DiDonato

Classical - Released March 3, 2017 | Warner Classics

Hi-Res Booklet Distinctions Gramophone Editor's Choice - 5 étoiles de Classica
In Great Scott, the Kansas-born mezzo-soprano, one of today’s best-loved classical singers, creates a role conceived specifically with her in mind. The character she plays, Arden Scott, just happens to be an opera star, and she is the lynchpin of what Fred Plotkin of WQXR, the USA’s leading classical music radio station, welcomed as a “deeply moving and musically brilliant work” that “should enter the standard repertory just as Heggie’s two previous masterpieces – Dead Man Walking and Moby Dick – already have”. Jake Heggie, who has been described as US opera’s most successful composer, chose the celebrated playwright Terence McNally as his librettist for Great Scott. The two previously collaborated on the gripping Dead Man Walking, which has become something of a modern classic since its premiere in 2000. Joyce DiDonato first performed its central role, Sister Helen Prejean, at New York City Opera in 2002 and will do so again in concert stagings in London and Madrid in January/February 2018, coinciding with the album release of Great Scott. © Warner Classics

Fantaisie Mécanique : Music with organ

Jean-Baptiste Robin

Classical - Released March 1, 2017 | Brilliant Classics

Booklet Distinctions 5 de Diapason - 4 étoiles Classica

Dubugnon: Arcanes symphoniques, Triptyque...

Orchestre National de France

Classical - Released January 13, 2017 | Naxos