Contrabass Conversations writes......Mark Helias is a renowned bassist, composer and producer who has performed throughout the world for more than four decades with some of the most important and innovative musicians in Jazz and Improvised Music including Don Cherry, Edward Blackwell, Anthony Davis, Dewey Redman, Anthony Braxton, Abbey Lincoln, Cecil Taylor, and Uri Caine. Mark recently released Some Kind of Tomorrow with saxophonist Jane Ira Bloom.
We talk about what life has been like during the pandemic, this latest remote album collaboration with Jane and about remote collaboration in general, and many lessons learned from Mark's years working as a jazz bassist.
The debut album of Joe Lovano's Trio Tapestry was one of 2019's most talked-about releases. This musical concept is taken to the next level on its second album, Garden of Expression, a recording distinguished by its intense focus.
Lovano, a saxophonist whose reach extends across the history of modern jazz and beyond, plays with exceptional sensitivity in Trio Tapestry. The music he writes for this group-tenderly melodic or declamatory, harmonically open, rhythmically free, and spiritually involving-encourages subtle and differentiated responses from his creative partners, creating interactions in which Lovano describes as "magical." Carmen Castaldi's space-conscious approach to drumming further refines an improvisational understanding that he and Lovano have shared since the early 1970s. The trio is also an inspired context for Marilyn Crispell's solos, counter melodies, and improvisational embellishments. Her feeling for sound-color helps the chamber music character of the group bloom.
Joe Lovano sat down with Ruth Fisher of JazzFM's Full Circle. Ruth commented that she was "Really thrilled to be in conversation with the incredible sax man. SEE THE POST
Hilary Hahn's new recording pays homage to the rich cultural heritage of a city that has been close to her heart throughout her career. Released by Deutsche Grammophon on 5 March 2021, Paris sees the American violinist resume her productive partnership with the Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio France and its Music Director, Mikko Franck. The three-time Grammy Award-winner's album presents the world premiere of Einojuhani Rautavaara's Deux Sérénades, commissioned by Mikko Franck. It also includes Ernest Chausson's Poème and Sergei Prokofiev's Violin Concerto No.1, which received its first performance in the French capital in 1923.
Montana Public Radio's John Floridis interviewed HH about the new recording. LISTEN TO THE SEGMENT
udiscovermusic.'s Sharon Kelly writes.....Oboist Albrecht Mayer has released his new album Mozart, a personal and affectionate tribute to one of the greatest composers who ever lived. Albrecht Mayer has lived with Mozart's music for almost half a century. He first discovered the composer while he was a boy soprano in the Bamberg Cathedral Choir, an early experience which is perhaps partly responsible for the warm, singing quality of his oboe playing. Albrecht Mayer's new album Mozart is inspired by his lifelong love for the composer's music and is his first all-Mozart album. Photo: Christoph Köstlin
READ THE FULL udiscovermusic. ARTICLE
In her first new recording in a decade, Joy Harjo – the first Native American named Poet Laureate of the United States – digs deep into the indigenous red earth and the shared languages of music to sing, speak and play a stunningly original musical meditation that seeks healing for a troubled world – I Pray for My Enemies, was released from Sunyata Records/Sony Orchard Distribution on March 5, 2021.
Collaborating with producer/engineer Barrett Martin on this unique new album, Harjo brings a fresh identity to the poetry and songs that have made her a renowned poet of the Muscogee Creek Nation and one of the most authentic and compelling voices of these times.
"The concept for I Pray for My Enemies began" says Harjo, "with an urgent need to deal with discord, opposition. It could have been on a tribal, national or a personal level. I no longer remember. The urgency had a heartbeat and in any gathering of two or more, perhaps the whole planet, our hearts lean to entrainment – that is, to beat together."
Join Spokane Public Radio's 'Soundspace' as Zan hosts a phone interview with the multi-instrumentalist musician, poet, performer, activist and 23rd U.S. Poet Laureate, as she speaks about what inspired her recent album. LISTEN
KDFC - KUSC's Brian Lauritzen and Jeffrey Freymann write.....Minari tells the story of a Korean family that moves to Arkansas in the 1980s, hoping to find their American dream by working a farm. For almost every film, the score is the last element to be added – after all the other editing has been done, and the actors have moved on to their next projects. But composer Emile Mosseri approached his score to Minari another way, writing many of the original themes when there was only a script, and the film hadn't yet been shot.
He says he sent director Lee Isaac Chung sketches for the score even before he was officially hired as the film's composer, and thinks that the music would have had a less important role if it had been written later.
Mosseri has only scored a handful of films, including the critically acclaimed The Last Black Man in San Francisco and Miranda July's Kajillionaire, yet won this nomination (one of six for the film) with a score about the intersection of two cultures that doesn't try to sound like either of them.
Listen to Brian Lauritzen and Emile Mosseri chat on KDFC: San Francisco & KUSC: Los Angeles
WFMT's Lisa Flynn writes.....The new album by Charles Richard-Hamelin presents two important works by Frédéric Chopin and consolidates the musician's place in the highest ranks of the pianistic world. Describing the 24 Preludes, Richard-Hamelin says: "One can hear the entire scope of Chopin's output inside the microcosm that are the Preludes. Across all the different major and minor keys, we get hints of his Études, Nocturnes, Impromptus, Mazurkas, and even fragments of larger works such as the Ballades. Yet, there is also a sense of an overarching story being told in 24 chapters of various lengths and weights. It is Chopin at his most beautiful, heart-wrenching, experimental, dissonant, sometimes even violent. It is a fascinating journey through the human psyche and my interpretation aims to show precisely that."
For April 13, 2021, Charles Richard-Hamelin: Chopin Preludes is the WFMT: Chicago 'Featured New Release'
Icelandic pianist and post-classical composer Eydís Evensen has confirmed details of her debut album, BYLUR, which will be released on 23rd April, 2021 by XXIM Records, Sony's new imprint for innovative, post-genre instrumental music.
On 26 March 2021 the ambitiously multifaceted musician/composer Clark presents his chillingly affecting ninth studio album Playground In A Lake, on which he broadens horizons and tries new things, with profound results.
Three-time GRAMMY Award-nominated pianist Joey Alexander follows his major-label debut album, WARNA (Verve Records), with three new singles "SALT" (March 19: LINK), "Under the Sun" (April 23), and "Summer Rising" (May 28) set for global release on Verve.
How do the great musicians prepare to play the great works? Each has his or her own methods, and tends to keep the strategy quiet, a secret key to success.
One thing that distinguishes the subtle Benjamin Grosvenor, 28, from the rest of the pack of young star pianists is his extensive knowledge of historical recordings. This listening has paid off in a spellbinding Liszt recording out on Decca on Friday, crowned with a typically thoughtful account of the treacherous Sonata in B minor.
"I almost feel like you should know the notable recordings of a work like this," Grosvenor said of the sonata in a recent interview. "More than anything, it helps you understand what works and what doesn't work. You react to some things positively and you react to some things negatively, and that fuels your imagination."
What do you think about the opening bars of the sonata, which are so spare compared to what follows?
It's foreboding, and mysterious, and a little bit threatening. It would be quite interesting to just line up eight recordings of the first bar. For someone who is a music lover but who is not that acquainted with putting a piece together, it might just be interesting to hear how two notes can essentially be interpreted in so many different ways.
There are many valid approaches. What Vladimir Horowitz does in a large hall in his Carnegie recording, this kind of demonic thing, works very well. Cherkassky's is interesting; it sounds like he's improvising, like it's something that's just come to him in the moment, but it's obviously conscious because he executes it in the same way at the end of the slow movement as well.
I was aiming for something mysterious, almost - so the notes are not too present. They're quite soft, very much like plucked strings, the bass more in it than the treble, like what Alfred Brendel does.
So comparisons with orchestral sounds help you define what you are trying to achieve, even in a work as pianistic as this?
As a pianist you've been playing the piano all of your life; you have a natural association with piano sound. So it's only when you're forced to put it into words that you try to make those associations. But it is an appropriate way to think, because, for most composers, the piano is always trying to imitate other instruments, because of its nature as a percussion instrument. Again, it's a line of thought that adds fire to the imagination, and the colors that you then draw out.
One of the challenges in the piece is how to create tension over the whole, or even just over shorter periods of double octaves, or continuous fortissimo dynamics. You picked out a section near the start as an example.
In this double-octave passage there is a lot of fortissimo playing, and you vary that in terms of dynamics, but the meter is the same for a while, with these continuous quavers.
Horowitz, in the final rise and descent, just pushes through. There's lots of wrong notes, but it's raw. It's exceptionally difficult because of the octaves, but if you can push through it in that way I think it's very effective, all the way to the lowest note on the piano.
So when you are playing the piece live, does atmosphere matter more than precision in passages like this?
Yes, this is music that's probably not supposed to be played cleanly. Part of the struggle is, it is technically difficult, but that's what makes it exciting. Someone said of Horowitz that his playing is not exciting because he plays fast, but because he plays faster than he can. In this music there's an element of that. Lupu generates the tension in a different way; it's tension by holding back, by creating a limit that you're working against.
Then the slow movement poses quite different challenges.
It's magical music. The most incredible bit for me is this ascending line in the right hand, the scales after the climax. It's the most static point of the piece, and a groove needs to be found between static to the point of no motion, and finding the magic that's in it. Not to play it too casually. Claudio Arrau there is very special; it's such a wonderful moment with these triple pianissimos - finding that beautiful color, and where to take the time.
Then comes the fugue, a moment when I'm always wondering how fast a pianist is going to try to play. Is this another place where aura matters more than accuracy?
The counterpoint needs to be clear. So it's the point at which you can still characterize it, and that point is different for each pianist, as long as it builds and builds gradually to the right point.
Intellectually speaking it's not necessarily correct, but I quite like the idea of treating the first five bars as a kind of fanfare. They don't carry enough to push forward out of the slow movement, so to me they inevitably sit somewhere in between if you are going to take it at that tempo. I like the change of pace there.
The magic, and the music, of the slow movement return on the very last page.
It's this final transition from darkness to light: the rumbling in the left hand, then the way that it ascends to the top of the piano. Those diminished chords are little shards of light, then it comes away to the very low notes, then these transcendent last chords. That's what the last page is about: transcendence. You can't help but think that the last note is an awakening from a dream.
Close listening brought out the enormous range of possibilities in a work that presents an intellectual challenge of interpretation as much as a punishing test of technique. The piece is a Faustian struggle between the diabolical and the divine; the question is how to make it cohere over more than 30 minutes.
Image“You react to some things positively and you react to some things negatively,” Grosvenor said, “and that fuels your imagination.”
"You react to some things positively and you react to some things negatively," Grosvenor said, "and that fuels your imagination."Credit...Kalpesh Lathigra for The New York Times
There is no single answer. The example of Radu Lupu points in one direction. "It has this great inevitability about it," Grosvenor said of Lupu's interpretation. "In terms of the way he controls the pulse it's quite symphonic, and also in the kinds of sounds he produces."
Shura Cherkassky, a figure beloved of pianophiles whose impulsive, visionary performances were so idiosyncratic that Grosvenor said he would never dare imitate them, offers something else in a live recording from 1965. "Sometimes it feels kind of improvisatory and sometimes he doesn't quite do what's written in the score," Grosvenor said. "But he somehow makes this miracle of his own unique narrative from it."
Perils lurk whichever way a pianist turns. "The danger in pursuing this symphonic, quite rigid, controlled outlook is that it could quite easily become something more of an academic exercise than the fantastical piece that it is," Grosvenor said. "And obviously if you go along the Cherkassky route, you could make it sound like something that doesn't make much sense."
If Grosvenor successfully traces a course between those extremes, he also takes inspiration from how his forebears have resolved the many difficulties in a work of this scale. These are edited excerpts from the conversation.
Hot on the heels of his 2020 Diapason d'Or and Gramophone Award triumphs, British pianist Benjamin Grosvenor presents his first album in a renewed exclusive partnership with Decca Classics.
The album, Liszt, is released on 19th February 2021, signifying Grosvenor's most substantial solo recording to date, centred around the works of the Romantic piano virtuoso and composer, Franz Liszt. The release marks Benjamin's sixth album on Decca Classics, following the award-winning Chopin Piano Concertos in 2020.
Grosvenor says, "Decca Classics has been my recording home for the last decade, and I'm pleased that we are continuing our partnership with this new release. The music of Liszt has been central to my repertoire since I was introduced to it as a child, by my grandfather. I wanted with this recording to show the composer in his different aspects, including some of his original compositions, but also displaying the extraordinarily re-creative abilities he showed in his transcriptions."
British pianist Benjamin Grosvenor presents a new recording of two concerto favorites: Chopin's Piano Concertos Nos.1 and 2, released on Decca Classics. Recorded with Elim Chan and the Royal Scottish National Orchestra (RSNO), the record marks Benjamin's fifth album on Decca Classics, following the hugely successful Homages in 2016, and is his first orchestral album since 2012.
These works have been an active part of Grosvenor's repertoire since his early teens: "Chopin was the first composer to whom I felt a strong connection as a child. I have always been drawn to his music, and his piano concertos are among some of the finest in the repertoire." Of the new recording, which came to fruition following a successful performance of the Piano Concerto No.2 with Elim Chan and the RSNO in 2018, Benjamin notes: "I am delighted to have the opportunity to collaborate with Elim and the outstanding musicians of the RSNO." Benjamin appears this spring in the US performing the Piano Concerto No.1.
In this new recording, British pianist Benjmain Grosvenor explores works by great composers paying tribute to their predecessors. Among these works, Mendelssohn looks back to the Prelude & Fugue form made so popular by Bach; and Franck does likewise (adding a Chorale as a central section). Busoni takes Bach's great solo violin Chaconne, presenting it in a bold transcription for piano; Chopin breathes new life in to the traditional ‘Barcarolle' of Venetian gondoliers, followed ten years later by Lizst's tribute to Italian folksong, Venezia e Napoli. From the 20th Century, Ravel looks to the traditional baroque suite for inspiration for his Tombeau de Couperin (available only on the digital release). The new album will be released by Decca on September 9, 2016.
16 NEW 49 TOTAL
SYND: Classical 24, CBC Direct: SiriusXM, MOOD Markets include: New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, San Francisco, Boston, Philadelphia, Wash DC, Atlanta, Houston, Seattle, Cleveland, Minneapolis, Portland, Detroit, Denver, Austin, Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, Madison WI, MN(State), KS(State), IN(State), Honolulu, Canada Online: AccuRadio
Benjamin Grosvenor presents Dances, a glittering album shining the spotlight on music from Bach to Boogie Woogie via Chopin, Scriabin, Granados and the Blue Danube. Grosvenor states: "This album's inspiration comes from a letter in 1909 from Busoni, proposing a ‘dance program' comprising original compositions and transcriptions.With Bach's 4th Partita as its starting point, this recording presents a chronologically and geographically wide-ranging recital of works by composers (and transcribers) to whose output the keyboard was central, featuring both familiar and more obscure gems from the piano repertoire."
26 NEW 53 Total
SYND: PRI/Classical 24, CBC Direct: SiriusXM, Music Choice, Spafax Markets include: New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Boston, San Francisco, Philadelphia, Wash DC, Houston, Dallas, Cleveland, Seattle, Atlanta, Minneapolis, St. Louis, Portland, Denver, Austin, Pittsburgh, Detroit, Baltimore, New Orleans, Austin, Louisville, Buffalo, Honolulu, Canada Online: Taintradio