By David Smith. Posted in Ambient, Analysis and Opinion, Classical, Dance, Drone, Electronic, Experimental, Jazz, Post-Rock, Techno, Vital Albums, World | No Comments »
Here is my top 20 music releases for 2015, with no claim that they are somehow objectively the best or that I listened to everything anyone else did. I have found things that delighted me on other people’s lists, and the point of the exercise is not to replicate or compete with those lists but to highlight some things you may not have found, things that might delight you. The sequence changed every time I made a shortlist, so take the numbers with a pinch of salt – all of them could be at least plus or minus 5 on a given day.
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Following on from my list of music by still-living composers, here’s one of older music. The usual caveats apply regarding how representative of the year’s releases this is, with the added proviso that I tend to avoid new recordings of repertoire that’s already in my collection, which brings the selection somewhat away from the mainstream. That said, I’ve covered a lot of ground and the 15 albums collectively serve to demonstrate just how broad the term “classical music” is—and how new centuries-old music can sound.
Anna Prohaska. Behind the Lines [DG]
The Austrian soprano marks the centenary of the First World War, with a selection of songs spanning several centuries and countries. From the opening folk song segueing into a piece from Beethoven’s “Egmont” music, through such varied composers as Roger Quilter and Wolfgang Rihm, to the final pair of Whitman settings by Kurt Weill, Prohaska is always at home. A superb, moving recital.
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“It’s breathtaking…The achievement here is enough to make the stars weep.” – Sarah Liss, cbc.ca
Heavenly – that’s a concise but accurate description of Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra’s newest release, The Galileo Project: Music of the Spheres – a fusion of the arts, science and culture in the 17th and 18th centuries captured in an imaginative DVD and CD soundtrack commemorating Galileo’s first public demonstration of the telescope. It’s not only heavenly in its subject matter, but it’s pure heaven both visually and in an aural sense. With the recent January launch of their very own recording label, Tafelmusik Media, the Toronto-based ensemble (touted by Gramophone as one of the world’s top baroque orchestras) place themselves at the very cutting edge of what they describe as the “classical online recording revolution” of the 21st century. The new label’s first releases hit shelves on March 27, 2012, and include the debut of The Galileo Project. It is Tafelmusik’s ace card and playing it now assures their new label gets off to an impressive running start.
The Galileo Project was conceived in 2007 and brought to fruition in 2009 with its premiere performance at The Banff Centre in Alberta. Since that time, Tafelmusik has been touring the world with performances before awe-struck audiences. Now, for the first time ever, listening audiences everywhere can experience this one-of-a-kind production through DVD and an accompanying studio-produced CD of the gorgeous baroque music featured in the concert. The DVD/CD set was co-produced by Tafelmusik and The Banff Centre and is being distributed by Naxos USA through the Americas and by Naxos Global Logistics in the rest of the world, as well as through most digital retail outlets.
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Christina Pluhar & L’Arpeggiata (Photo by Marco Borggreve)
Such a scenario suggests chaos, the very antithesis to the highly structured form which defines baroque music. Yet the early music group, L’Arpeggiata, manages to turn the baroque world on its head without disintegrating into a chaotic clamor. On the contrary. This Parisian-based group of highly skilled musicians and their director, lutenist and harpist Christina Pluhar, intimately know the music they perform and when they blend their specialty of 17th century early baroque music with characteristic forms of ground bass patterns inherent in ancient folk traditionals (the ciacconia, tarantella, folia, passacaglia, bergamasca, jácaras, fandango, etc.), magic happens. To understand L’Arpeggiata’s repertoire, a little background on some of these forms is in order: