5 classic music albums to listen to now

The Elijah Collection (Contemporary Huddersfield Records)

Over the past decade, Australian composer Lisa Lim’s fame has grown steadily, with consistently strong chamber and orchestra albums released on experimental music labels such as Wergo and Kairos.

“Singing in Tongues” combines vocal and operatic music by Lim between 1993 and 2008 – all handled convincingly by Elision Ensemble’s longtime collaborators. The oldest piece here is an abstract shot of “The Oresteia”. Its extended, airy techniques, snippets of luminous vocal harmony, and bursts of full-range sound give a sense of Lim’s approach to musical drama: it’s more about traveling between bells than it is about moving from one plot point to the next.

This approach has remained remarkably consistent, but that doesn’t mean it hasn’t evolved. The album’s latest piece – “The Navigator,” which concludes this collection – is the greatest invention of a slippery winding. Portions of the work were made available on YouTube, on The Barry Kosky Show. But this first full audio recording reveals Lim’s control over her style. As the piece progresses from a written introduction for Alto’s recorder “Ganassi” to the opening of the first guitar-led scene (“The Unwinding”), her skills as a leading playwright emerge.
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The recent boom in archival collections dedicated to leaders tends to be a sore reminder of how narrow the repertoire some major artists took after World War II – with lasting consequences for the field. But these two attractive combinations offer an exception to the rule.

Born in Kiev in the late Tsarist Empire but settled in Paris, Igor Markevich, a polyglot, was a major composer before taking to the stage after the war, much to the horror of Nadia Boulanger. Trained as a conductor with Pierre Montaux and Hermann Schirchen, he shared liveliness and rhythmic strength with the former and clarity and cleavage with the latter.

“My stock extends from Purcell to Dallapicola,” Markewicz said in 1957. For him, “diversity” was crucial if the musician was to understand where his favorite, Stravinsky, really comes from. So combined with the wonderfully vibrant Haydn, committed Beethoven with no ounces of heft and a Tchaikovsky cycle that has rarely been improved since it was set in the 1960s, these chests find Markevitch driving Victoria, Berwald and Halffter, as well as exploring less- Stravinsky is known to date Zarzuela. All fresh, alive, necessary – he was a true leader.
David Allen

Boston Modern Orchestra Project; Jill Rose, conductor (BMOP/Voice)

Along with advocates of living composers, the Boston Modern Orchestra project, under the direction of its founding director, Jill Rose, has been drawing attention for 25 years to Americans in the mid-20th century, as in this exceptional recording of the work of Walter Beeston (1894-1976).

The biggest find here is the 1933 Piston Concerto for Orchestra, where it received its first recording. The piston is usually grouped with composers who shared the American neoclassical styles. However, elements of prickly modernism often pass through its degrees, as in this concerto. It begins with a first vibrant movement, followed by a shirzo-driven movement with a perpetual motion that works the strings.

The ominously engaging third movement begins, with a seemingly disturbing arcade, the theme played low and stopped by a pop. The music gets darker, more elusive and textured, with each variation as the instruments enter, building a steady in intensity until the choral calms things down, resulting in an extended lively allegro with an industrious counterpart. The album contains a Stravinsky-influenced Divertimento for Nine Instruments; Pointed and Fun Clarinet Concerto, with Michael Norsworthy as the soloist; and the premiere of Variations on a Theme by Edward Burlingame Hill.
Anthony Tomasini

Ariana Venditelli, soprano; Accordis Ensemble Andrea Bocarella, ukulele and conductor (Naïve)

This is the latest installment in Vivaldi’s expansive release on Naïve, which records a massive collection of recorded masters and is set to culminate in 2027, a year before its 350th birthday. In a monthly review feature earlier this year, I wrote about the album from the early 17th century the Madrigal Room of Sigismundo de India; These “cants for every soprano” Vivaldi, almost a century ago, are the fruit of this form. While the theme is still love, in both contemporary and ancient settings, Vivaldi’s poetry places it in his multi-part alternation of recitation and arias more for pedestrians; This is offset by the heightened acoustic fascination of the high baroque.

Dexterity is no problem for Ariana Venditley’s soprano – her tone is floaty, but it’s also graceful and powerful. Given the intimate accompaniment of Andrea Bocarella and Abchordis Ensemble, Vendittelli responds to the different moods of these six cantata: the dreamy melancholy of “Aure, voi più non siete”; The lightness emanating from ‘Tra l’erbe i zeffiri’ and ‘La farfalletta s’aggira al lume’; dash of “Si levi dal pensier”; and the burning bone of “Sorge vermiglia in ciel la bella Aurora”, the album’s highlight.
Zachary Wolf

(freedom to spend)

This year has proven to be rewarding for fans of singer, composer and visual artist Pamela Z. Although the performance has been widely canceled due to the pandemic, it has brought new work to the Prototypes Festival in New York and on German radio. She also released her second full solo recording, “A Secret Code,” while one of her tracks was included in a compilation album produced by Resonant Bodies Festival.

There is another time to view this veteran demo. “Echolocation,” her long-running, and cassette-only recording from 1988, was reissued on the Freedom to Spend imprint. Her tracks include winning early pieces such as “Badagada” and the poem collection “Pop Titles “You””—both mainstays in her repertoire. But the rest of the collection offers a rare look into this less documented period of her practice.

Because of her skills in live episodes and solo concerts, it’s fun to hear her in the leader of the band. The track “I Know” features synthesizers performed by Donald Soeringen. These keyboard shapes indicate an affinity for both the new wave of the 1980s as well as some Philip Glass products of the 1970s. During “An In”, Bill Stefanacci’s skeleton drum programming is associated with the progressive pop of the era. Connecting these diverse reference points, as always, is Z’s innovative approach to sound, which includes her bel canto training as well as selective listening across musical genres.
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