Thursday, December 18, 2014

Music "Wishlist" No. 2 for the Holidays...

Although Pop music is not  in my bailiwick area, I have great regard for the form, and listen as often as I can to the many geniuses representing this aspect of the language.
I have chosen the following as suggestions to you, which are among my favorites:

The Tatum Hampton Rich Trio
This 1955 release is, for me, a golden example of what three of the leading instrumentalists of their time can do as they perform together.
The Force that was the pianist Tatum acts as a kind of binder/catalyst  that  propels Lionel Hampton and Buddy Rich (and Tatum himself) up into a level of discovery that is absolutely spellbinding. The chemistry formed by their simply getting together results in a fragment of History becoming formed, especially in "Hallelulah" and "Making Whoopee".

Shearing and Torme 'Do' World War Two
George Shearing, the legendary pianist, and his close friend Mel Torme, he of the velvet voice, collaborate in a delightful array of tunes coming out of  the Second World War. This collection  is numbered among  the final  recorded  performances  of this acclaimed  duo before the passing of Torme.

Tony Bennett and Lady Gaga

This recently released gem combines two vocalists who are, unbelievably, some sixty years apart. However, the magic of indestructible Youth is portrayed by way of story-telling through Song,  in spite of the reality that Bennett, at age 88, and Gaga, at age 28, sing tunes that Bennett was quite possibly singing publicly before our Lady  was born.

Cleo Laine and John Dankworth
Look for "Turkish Delight", based on Mozart's "Turkish Rondo" as done by the superbly gifted British pop singer, Cleo Laine and her husband.
And do not stop the search then and there. If you are not familiar with the artistry of Cleo Laine, listen to some of the tunes that she recorded. She was one of the most powerful pop singers in the history of this form, as you will discover.


Tuesday, December 16, 2014

A "Wishlist" of Musical Performances for the Holidays...

Not having done this for the past few years on this blog, I thought that I should give, at long last, some of you a handful of suggestions for Holiday gifts for music lovers among friends or family:

Music for Unaccompanied Violin by Bach - Performed by Jascha Heifetz
History labels Heifetz, generally, as the dominant violinist of the twentieth century, what with his unparalleled technique and  the inimitable essence of language he possessed. The bowing techniques he exhibited as well  were brilliantly demonstrated in these masterpieces by the legendary German composer.

The Mazurkas - Performed by Artur Rubinstein
The little gems by Chopin were recorded more than once by Rubinstein; so, do look for the last of his recordings of this form.
Chopin himself, more than once, remarked that composing  the Mazurkas was his favorite pursuit as a composer, and he was unconditionally attached to this form. Some of his most powerful  examples of compositional technique appear in a handful of these pieces, which, seemingly, may lend credence to his
embrace of the Mazurka as a form of poesy within the circle of his greatness, as one of the giants of 19th century creative entities.

The Preludes of Debussy - Performed by Walter Gieseking
Gieseking, who tends not to be heard these days, exhibited an uncanny power to extract different sounds out of the piano key, which results in recordings, if they are revivified technologically, that defy description.
Do see if you can obtain his recordings of the Impressionistic period that have been re-mastered, and you will hear a pianist who was, in my estimation, able to move further away from any of his contemporaries,  from the reminder that the piano is, after all, a member of the Percussion family. I heard him live just one time, and I shall never forget the magic of a sound like no other player of the piano.

Brahms Concerto in "B" flat - Performed by Vladimir Horowitz
Remarkable indeed is the reality that the legend Horowitz, more than once, stated that he did not especially like performing Brahms. It seems that the great pianist felt 'uncomfortable'  performing the composer's music  in public, and said as much.
And yet; the power of Brahms is, for me,  at its greatest, in this overwhelming reading recorded in the early '40's with his father-in-law Toscanini. Personally, I cannot fathom the music of Brahms being portrayed more beautifully than in this recording.

The  Concertos of  Beethoven(the first four) - Performed by Leif Ove Andsnes
These are recent recordings by the Norwegian pianist, and are a revelation to me.
I have heard these compositions veritably all my life, and have, of course, some degree of familiarity in connection with the sense of Victory that Beethoven established over personal tragedy, as so many of the history books tell and re-tell about this composer.
However, it appears to me that Andsnes captures not so much the meaning of 'victory' as it pertains to the composer, but rather an astonishingly lucid   view of pure positivism that Beethoven truly demonstrates in his language.
From the Heiligenstadt  Letter in 1802 to his final breath in 1827, Beethoven's true core of personal Victory is given us in this  reading of  the Concerti by Andsnes.

My next "wishlist" will deal with pop music...