Recent Listening

imagesBeethoven: The Violin Sonatas. Anne-Sophie Mutter, violin; Lambert Orkis, piano. Deutsche Grammophon.

I will be working on a violin and piano sonata in the not-too-distant future, so I have been feeding my ear with some listening, starting with the Anne-Sophie Mutter/Lambert Orkis complete Beethoven sonatas. These are extraordinary performances. The rhythmic unanimity of the pair is positively uncanny, especially given the judiciously flexible approach to pulse. Lambert is able to balance chords with stunning consistency and make broken-chord accompaniments hum discreetly, yet articulately. But these details are not the whole story – the larger scale forms are made transparent by the careful calibration of climaxes, by well-chosen tempi, by contrasts of finely delineated character. I recommend the set without reservation.

Unknown-1Paul Bley: 12 (+6) in a Row. Paul Bley, piano; Hans Koch, reeds; Franz Koglmann, flugelhorn. Hat Art.

This is an album of 18 succinct free improvisations, some using a Schoenberg or Webern row as a jumping off point, and featuring the three artists in various combinations alongside solo piano tracks. The concision of the individual pieces (none of them longer than five minutes) is an important selling point of the disc – nothing self-indulgent here. Adding further to the appeal are the subtle hints of boogie-woogie or other traditional jazz piano idioms that Bley weaves into the solo pieces; the playing may be spontaneous, but not without a sense of history. Uncommonly focussed and coherent music-making throughout.