Recent Listening

Recommended discs new and old:

Live at Bradley’s II: The Perfect Set – Kenny Barron Trio. A superb set from 1996, featuring two Monk compositions, plus a Monk inspired Barron original. Barron’s piano is masterly, Ray Drummond’s bass warm and clear, Ben Riley’s drums subtle, the recorded sound exceptionally fine, and the groove astonishingly relaxed yet propulsive.

Mozart: Don Giovanni – Ghiaurov, Crass, Watson, Gedda, Ludwig, Berry, Freni, Montarsolo; New Philharmonia Orchestra and Chorus; Otto Klemperer. This is a classic release from 1966, with a (nearly) all-star cast. Gedda’s sweet timbre, and Freni’s freshness are standouts.

Daniel Asia: Of Songs and Psalms – Arizona-based composer’s latest disc includes his fifth Symphony – a song-symphony on texts by Yehuda Amichai, Paul Pines, and Hebrew and English prayers. It seems to be American composers who insist that the genre of symphony is not dead, with Harbison, Zwillich, Wernick, Hartke, Corigliano, and Rouse among the practitioners, alongside Asia. (Adams writes symphonies in all but the title.) The combination of vernacular texts plus Hebrew sacred texts in this piece recalls Harbison’s Four Psalms, but there the discourse is more obviously symphonic in scale (though it is not called a symphony). Asia’s piece is more of a song cycle, with relatively short settings. Its symphonic nature is more cumulative than apparent in the individual units. The text settings are natural in declamation and varied in character – from the Kurt Weill-ish “Through Two Points Only”, to more sober meditations. A Nonet for winds and strings rounds out the album with, crisp, clear, dissonant counterpoint, couched in an intriguing form – six movements, with 1, 3 and 5 brief variations on the same material, 2, 4, and 6 more substantial statements. Performances are excellent throughout the album.

Siren – Uri Caine Trio – Eleven Caine originals, plus “Green Dolphin Street”, all filtered through Caine’s polyvalent sensibility. Free stuff, hard swing, motivically economical atonality, tricky metric games – Caine’s is an eloquence that melds multiple voices. John Hébert, bass, and Ben Perowsky, drums, are his co-conspirators in music that refuses to be tied down. Here is a concert by the trio from the Library of Congress in 2010:

Snow day listening miscellany

– WBGO has lots of worthwhile listening at their website The Checkout. (Thanks to Outside Pants for the link.)

-recommended recent listening:

Brad Mehldau – Art of the Trio, Volume One. This is early Mehldau from 15 years ago. Perhaps a bit less edgy than some more recent work of his; impressive for the compellingly projected melodic lines – when I say “projected”, I don’t simply mean the tune is brought to the fore – it has to do with how it is articulated, a sense of a presence speaking.

Daniel Asia – Purer Than Purest Pure (BBC Singers, Odaline de la Martinez) A beautifully performed collection of Asia’s choral music. The more recent pieces are groups of Cummings settings – often playful and charming, handsomely laid out for the chorus. The disc also includes earlier pieces that explore darker moods.

Recent and Upcoming Listening

Recent Listening:

Eleanor Cory – Of Mere Being (CRI) and Chasing Time (Albany): attractive lines capable of blossoming floridly; compelling, jazz-tinged harmonies; convincing forms; superb performances.

Upcoming Listening:

Daniel AsiaPurer Than Purest Pure (Summit): choral works, with BBC Singers conducted by Odaline de la Martinez.

Andrew RindfleischNight Singing (Innova): performances by Zeitgeist, including improvisations by the composer.

Morris RosenzweigHome and Away (Albany): music for varied ensembles in performances by the New York New Music Ensemble, Canyonlands, NOVA, and members of the Utah Symphony

So where’s Meryl?

Yes, Meryl Streep was at the American Academy of Arts and Letters Ceremonial week before last, being inducted as an honorary member. But somehow she didn’t get into the following pictures, so you will have to be satisfied with a bunch of composers.

L to R: James Primosch, Steven Stucky, Ellen Taafe Zwilich, Pierre Jalbert, Shulamit Ran, Daniel Asia, David Felder, Barbara Petersen of BMI

L to R: David Felder, Daniel Asia, James Primosch

New music trivia buffs will have noted that all the composers in these pictures are published by the Theodore Presser Company – so thank you to Judith Ilika, head of promotion at Presser, for wielding the camera.