I admit I approach any new recordings of these, my favorite Tchaikovsky symphonies, with a bit of trepidation. Over the years I’ve encountered one too many recordings, as well as concert performances, that lay on the incurable Romanticism a bit too thick. Thematic presentations are muddled and tempos are stretched so that each movement, regardless of the tempo indication, seems to plod at the same pace.
It’s as if some conductors believed that Tchaikovsky, who always wore his heart on his sleeve, needed help expressing his feelings.
It's not often that you hear the words "jazz" and "violin" used in the same sentence. But over the past few years, violinist Christian Howes has become one of the artists to masterfully bring these words together.
Let me make one thing clear: I am not a gamer. I am, however, an admirer of the recordings of La Pieta, the Canadian all-female string orchestra, and their leader, violinist Angele Dubeau. In particular, I appreciate their impeccable musicianship and the good taste of the arrangements that are composed for the ensemble. In recent recordings, they've championed the music of notable contemporary composers Philip Glass, John Adams, and Arvo Part, all favorites of mine.
Drummer, composer, producer, and vocalist Terri Lyne Carrington has been on the scene for over 20 years, and her interpretation of jazz has always blurred the alleged boundaries of the genre. She's a self-proclaimed jazz head who creates complexly evocative melodies and harmonies cross-bred with funk, soul, and pop elements.
There's a certain intensity of spirit in jazz and improvised music, to the point where it occasionally aligns with religious worship. You especially see it around Christmastime, when certain musicians who happen to be Christians purpose their craft in observance of the season.
Of course, sometimes jazz musicians just like playing familiar songs.
Here are five records, all from 2012, which run the gamut of Christmas jazz. From deep meditations on the holiday's narrative to more offbeat ways to get into the spirit, inventiveness isn't a scarce resource this winter.
Originally published on Mon December 10, 2012 10:46 pm
Though it may not be on any singles charts, the theme from Angry Birds is likely one of the most widely heard pieces of music ever. For Canadian violinist Angèle Dubeau, that's just one reason to take it seriously — even though it originated in a video game.
Originally published on Sun December 9, 2012 7:09 pm
From mezzo-soprano Cecilia Bartoli's ambitious revival of the early Baroque composer Agostino Stefani (and yes, she's got another outrageous album cover) to three very different roles for the violin, here's a clutch of classical albums I returned to again and again this year for sheer delight and aural inspiration. Bartoli lavishes extravagant attention on the music of a fascinating but forgotten link in the history of opera.
It's true — opera is totally over the top. Plots can strain even the barest semblance of credulity (too many cases of ghosts and mistaken identities to count), with characters that could get you thrown out of an introductory writing course, down to the blushing ingenues and the evil connivers who might as well be twirling waxed mustaches.