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January 18 , 2013

Reviews of the Week

British critic Garry Booth on Magico: Carta de Amor by Jan Garbarek, Egberto Gismonti and Charlie Haden

The roots of these exquisite improvisations are in folksongs from Norway, Brazil and even the Spanish Civil War imbuing the programme with a melancholy wash of colours and ever changing shades. It doesn’t mean the playing is loose – indeed the intensity, suspense and release is what makes this music so arresting. Posted over 30 years ago, Carta de Amor was worth the wait.
Garry Booth, BBC Music Magazine

The box set containing four albums by Jack DeJohnette's group Special Edition is recommended by important media on both sides of the Atlantic

Described neatly by one critic quoted in the booklet notes as’Afro-centric experimentalism’, these four albums represent a leap forward for a musician whose instrumental skills had thus far been largely deployed in bringing other leaders’ music to life. DeJohnette’s rise as a composer and arranger during this period planted a flag in the territory of the sound of surprise – remind yourself of the marvellous riffy hooks in ‘Ahmad the Terrible’ and ‘Ebony’, for example – that’s never been displaced. Highly recommended.
Roger Thomas, BBC Music Magazine

...his best work feels flush with anticipation, as if he were stepping to the plate for the first time. Special Edition, a changeable band most active in the 1980s, captured that feeling especially well on the four albums it released on ECM: ‘Special Edition’, ‘Tin Can Alley’, ‘Inflation Blues’ and ‘Album Album’. Now packaged as a boxed set, these recordings exude toughness and exuberance, along with a limber equilibrium. Working with two or three saxophonists (including David Murray and Chico Freeman, at different times), and doubling himself on piano or melodica, Mr. DeJohnette combined avant-garde combustion with a cool lyrical instinct.
Nate Chinen, The New York Times

English media welcome the first complete CD edition of Keith Jarrett's Hymns/Spheres

While the dramatic opening to ‘Hymns’ is conventionally beautiful and ecclesiastical-sounding, Jarrett soon pulls out all the stops (well, half of them anyway) to create a beguiling soundscape that seems poised somewhere between Messiaen and Tangerine Dream.
Phil Johnson, Independent On Sunday

Utilising pitches and notes discovered outside of the tempered scale gives the music a heightened sense of drama and tension that is wonderfully released by Jarrett’s use of dynamics, showing as much control as he would over his more familiar instrument of choice.
At the time of the original LP release critics made much of the comparisons with the music of Ligeti and Messiaen, but to these ears Jarrett approaches his music as if he too has the right to create organ music on his own terms. And this he does, with many of his familiar traits at the piano not being replicated on the larger keyboard, but being modified at the time of performance to produce music that is both dignified and absorbing.
Nick Lea, Jazz Views

German and American media on Kim Kashkashian's interpretation of music by Kurtág and Ligeti on Music for Viola

Während andere Bratscher noch neidisch im 18. Jahrhundert herumspähten, in dem sie solistisch zu kurz kamen, und das 20. Jahrhundert, das sie reich beschenkt hat, nur ab und an besuchten, spielte sie gleichermaßen Brahms und Schnittke, Hindemith und Eötvös, gern auch mal spanische Gesänge, und inspirierte ihren armenischen Landsmann Tigran Mansurian zu wunderbaren Stücken wie denen für Bratsche und Percussion.
Der Offenheit entspricht jener Ton aus vielen Farben, mit dem Kashkashian auch in der stark gewachsenen Szene exzellenter Violaspieler unverwechselbar geblieben ist. Die erste, vielleicht einzige, bei der man finden kann, dass die Geige neben der Bratsche vielleicht doch ein etwas beengtes Instrument ist, und die überhaupt weniger vom Instrument herzukommen scheint als vom Gesang. […]
Im finalen "Klagelied" heult die Bratsche wahrhaftig, da verschwimmen die Kerntöne im Glissando wie unter Tränen. So passt es fabelhaft, dass gleich danach György Ligeti den Beginn seiner Sonate mikrointervallisch verzerrt. Insgesamt aber sind Ligetis sechs Sätze, zu Beginn der 1990er entstanden, verblüffend retrospektiv. Nicht regressiv, wohlgemerkt: Hier wird etwas gespiegelt. Im "Loop" etwa Rhythmik und Harmonik des mittleren Bartók, zum Paarlauf in Doppelgriffen gedrängt. Nicht nur im "Prestissimo" lässt Hindemiths Bratschen-Solosonate von 1922 grüßen, und in der "Chaconne" kann man gar an Pfitzners fiktive Renaissance denken. Das finale H-Dur als Sextakkord ist freilich ein solches Fragezeichen, als grinse Ligeti: Macht's euch nicht zu einfach! Oder ist es open end, ein Blick in die Zukunft? Kim Kashkashian, diese wunderbare Künstlerin, spielt so lebendig, dass selbst eine CD jedes Mal etwas anders klingt.
Volker Hagedorn, Rheinische Post

Music for Viola is a release of elemental music from a performer who dispays the utmost confidence and attention to detail. [...] With this recording, Kashkashian’s breathing can be heard subtly under the viola, which provides something of a guide: by following her breath, the listener can hear where the phrases begin and where they end in the mind of the performer. In the Kurtág miniatures, the intent of each line or idea is clearly delineated. In the second work on the album, Sonata for Violin Solo by György Ligeti, Kashkashian points to the composer’s intent through the dark, dense sponge of notes with which Ligeti packs the music.
In Ligeti’s late masterpiece, Kashkashian leaves space, giving an unhurried performance of all six miniatures, even through the frenzied technical challenges of “Prestissimo con sordino.” She does not overstate Ligeti’s concentrated, microtonal line in “Hora lungă,” nor the heavy, rich chords decorating the melody in “Loop,” The album closes with “Chaconne chromatique,” a movement that drives the composition through torturous spirals, eventually emerging into a place of relative simplicity. Though this work has more notes-per-pound than the Kurtág, the two share the common vocabulary that both of these Hungarian composers inherited.
While both works have been recorded on other well-reviewed albums, this recording is well worth owning. Kashkashian’s performance is authoritative, and the placement of these two works side-by-side adds depth to both approaches to solo viola writing. And in the deepest winter, it is a comforting thing to have a warm, quiet place in which to retreat with Kashkashian and the Györgys.
Caitlin Smith, Icareifyoulisten.com

US-reviewers are impressed by Anna Gourari's Canto Oscuro

If you have not yet heard Canto oscuro pianist Anna Gourari’s recent debut for ECM Records, you are missing out.The CD’s program combines affecting performances of transcriptions by Ferrucio Busoni of chorales and the Chaconne in d-minor by J.S. Bach with modern repertoire by Paul Hindemith and Sofia Gubaidulina (another Chaconne). The recording shows Gourari capable of performing repertoire in a wide range of moods: from the brash Ragtime movement found in the Hindemith suite to the gravitas and grandeur required in the Bach/Busoni transcriptions. One through line: she makes technically demanding repertoire sound far too achievable by mere mortals.
Christian Carey, Sequenza21.com

Anna Gourari’s recording for ECM is devastating: it’s hard not to listen to the disc in its entirety whenever you put it on. The somber, dark works in particular are infused with great emotional power. [...] As usual with this label, the recording is atmospheric but articulate.
Andrew Quint, Absolute Sound

Austrian daily Kleine Zeitung on Valery Afanassiev's Schubert recording Moments musicaux

Nicht als nette, harmlose Miniaturen interpretiert Valery Afanassiev die Moments musicaux von Franz Schubert. Unter den Händen des zu langsamen Tempi neigenden Pianisten, der einen tiefsinnigen Booklettext beisteuert, gewinnen sie ebenso existenzielle Dimensionen wie Schuberts Klaviersonate in D-Dur, D 850.
ENR, Kleine Zeitung