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Reviews in Miniature Pt 1

August 6, 2010

This is going to undoubtebly become a semi-regular feature for a while.  Truth be told, I have about 30 albums I’m really excited to talk about that have been released since Mid-May and I’ve barely mentioned any of them.  Admitting defeat or realistically accomplishing my goal?  You decide….

Baltic Runes is an album of choral works by Baltic/Finnish composers and performed by the Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir under the direction of Paul Hillier.  The EPCC perform so well on the album and Hillier’s sculpting of the music is magnificent.  I love the dark tone the choir resonates throughout most of the album, which is even more remarkable when they lighten the sound up for a handful of passages.  I pretty much love or hate all of the pieces on the album, with Jean Sibelius’ Rakastava being the highlight.

Concertos II is a set of three concertos by Martin Matalon, Steven Burke, and Ross Bauer performed by Sequitur.  The soloists performer are Greg Hesselink, Jacqueline Leclair, and Michael Lowenstern with Paul Hostetter conducting the group.  If you’re interested in some really amazing performances, this is the place to go.  The soloists and ensemble members play the bejeezus out of the music on this disc which at times is extremely difficult to execute.  Its not the most listener friendly album, with many of the complicated modernist tracks stretching past the 7 minute mark in length.  My favorite on the album is the opening track, Trame 1.

David Stock: String Qurtets 5, 6, 7 all performed by the Cuarteto Latinoamericano is an awesome listen.  I’m not exaggerating when I say these pieces now sit alongside my Shostakovich quartets and the late Beethoven quartets as my favorite works for the ensemble.  Played superbly, the three works explore such a large territory of the emotional space that the String Quartet was designed to navigate.  If I had to pick, I would the end of the Sixth Quartet as my favorite moment on the album.

Voyage is an album of pieces performed by Jonathan Keeble (flute) and Ann Yeung (harp) which is interesting because there are a few nearly-household-names on the album who also, to me, provide some of the least interesting music.  The flute and harp timbre gives me a little bit of trouble, only because I think there’s too much sameness in what the two instruments bring to the table.  Luckily, this duo is broken up by tracks for solo flute + electronics by Stephen Andrew Taylor that I love (and then a few tracks for the duo with electronics that are also fun but not as interesting to me).  Keeble also gives provides a gorgeous arrangement on the album of Marcel Grandjany’s O bien aimee that shows he understands how to make these instruments sing, which is also my favorite track on the album.

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