Heat Wave Listening

Pretty hot here in Philly, and I am trying to progress on my song cycle for Collage New Music (October 15 premiere!). But still, I am always trying to do some listening. A few discs I’ve heard recently:

Haydn: Piano Sonatas II – Marc-André Hamelin. Hyperion.
It’s a safe bet you don’t have enough Haydn in your life, particularly the piano music. Here’s an excellent way to rectify that deficiency, part of a series of superbly performed and recorded albums by Hamelin surveying the piano sonatas. Known as a hyper-virtuoso, I didn’t find Hamelin’s skills intrusive. The uncannily glassy smoothness of the runs, the exquisitely balanced and articulated chords, the occasional exceptionally fleet tempo- all this seemed to serve the music rather than draw attention to itself. To very roughly generalize: Haydn’s sonatas are about intimacy and wit, rather than being pocket-sized opera arias or concerti, like some of Mozart’s sonatas, or heroically symphonic works like some of Beethoven’s. A tougher sell perhaps, but deeply rewarding.

By the way, at one time Hamelin played new music in a way that he has not for some time – a pity. But I am interested to see that he is releasing an album of Morton Feldman’s For Bunita Marcus, maybe this portends a repertoire shift.


All Rise – Jason Moran. Blue Note.
Subtitled “A Joyful Elegy for Fats Waller”, I felt that this album honors the pop side of Waller’s legacy as much or more than the jazz component, with vocals by Meshell Mdegeocello and arrangements that include virtuosic instrumental work but also have a few moments where, forgive me, the words “smooth jazz” came to mind. Sometimes it felt like he was simply referring to the source material rather than deeply engaging with it. I preferred the edgier moments when Moran’s playing takes flight. The album is brilliantly executed, but the jazz nerd in me prefers Moran albums like Ten and Modernistic.


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