Thijs van Leer – Introspection (1972)

FrontCover1Thijs van Leer (* March 31, 1948 – Amsterdam, Netherlands) is a Dutch musician, singer and composer, best known for heading the Dutch progressive rock band, Focus, as primary vocalist, Hammond organ player, and flautist. He went on to release many solo albums which were also classical music and jazz based. His main instruments are flute and different types of organs. He also sings, yodels and whistles.

Thijs van Leer received his first flute at the age of eleven from his father, a classical flautist. He studied History of Art at Amsterdam University; after when he began studying flute and composition at the Amsterdam Conservatorium. He received a degree for flute from Geneva Conservatoire and also studied piano, orchestration (with Rogier van Otterloo) and organ (with Anthon van der Horst).

While still at school, van Leer led a jazz group on piano. He went on to play the flute and sing with the Shaffy cabaret group. In 1969 he joined Martijn Dresden (bass) and Hans Cleuver (drums) to form a trio that covered songs by Traffic and backed other Dutch musicians, as well as playing their own material. Later in the year guitarist Jan Akkerman joined, completing the initial line-up of Focus. They released several albums in the early 1970’s.

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Thijs van Leer headed Focus through several line-up changes, and by 1977 he was the only remaining original member. The group disbanded in 1978. In 1985, van Leer briefly reunited with Jan Akkerman to make Focus 1985. In 2002, van Leer created a new Focus line-up, which has since released the albums Focus 8 and Focus 9 / New Skin. A British tour was undertaken in spring 2006. He also appeared as a guest musician on the album, Into the Electric Castle, by Arjen Anthony Lucassen’s musical project Ayreon.

In 2008 Explore Multimedia released van Leer’s first solo album in nearly a decade, The Home Concert. The album featured recordings made in his living room as he played material for Focus 9. The album is exclusively available via the internet, and at concerts. (bach-cantatas.com)

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And here´s his first solo-album:

The Focus-flutist released a series of albums consisting of lush and romantic classical music, and this was the very first one. Van Leer’s flute is backed up by a whole orchestra and sometimes also the wordless vocal-harmonies of Letty De Jong. The material on the album includes classical stuff like Fauré’s “Pavane, Op. 50” and excerpts from Bach’s “Mass in B Minor” and “St. Matthew Passion”.

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There are also symphonic versions of “Focus I” and “Focus II” here, and both versions prove what beautiful compositions these really are. The title-track is partly based in Albinio’s well-known “Adagio” but the theme itself sounds slightly re-written. There’s also a short baroque piece here credited to arranger and conductor Rogier Van Otterloo. At it’s best; the album is very beautiful, atmospheric and relaxing music. But just don’t expect it to sound like the energetic progressive rock that Van Leer did in Focus. (by Andrew)

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Thijs van Leer made an album with ‘light’ classical tunes…and orchestrated by Rogier Van Otterloo.
The album made him a respectful musician not only by the rockers but also with them who hated rock.A very professional and successful album ,indeed. The album was in the charts (Be) for over a year.
‘Focus’ fans would give him credit for this one….but soon part 2,part 3…. followed…the originality vanished….and the real classical flute lovers would be rather buy a James Galway record. (by beestie)

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Personnel:
Thijs van Leer ( flute)
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Letty de Jong (vocals)
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unknown orchestra conducted by Rogier van Otterloo

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Tracklist:
01. Pavane, Op. 50 (Fauré) 5.54
02. Rondo (v.Otterloo) 3.08
03. Agnus Dei (Bach) 5.03
04. Focus I (v.Leer) 4.10
05. Erbarme dich (Bach) 7.31
06. Focus II (v.Leer) 4.27
07. Introspection (v.Otterloo) 5.38

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Rachel Grimes – The Clearing (2015)

CDFrontCover1Rachel Grimes is a pianist, composer, and arranger based in Kentucky – most renowned for her work in Rachel’s, the groundbreaking chamber-rock ensemble that introduced an entire generation of underground rock fans to the unexpected similarities and appeal of neoclassical music. Grimes has toured the world as a solo pianist, and as a collaborator with chamber ensembles such as Portland Cello Project, astrïd, Cicada, the Amsterdam Sinfonietta trio, and Orchestra Kandinskij. Unhurried, at times fleeting, and stretching into the sky, The Clearing is a winding path of transient moments exploring personal memory, relationships, and mystery from a deeply internal place. The music is a wide spectrum of textures in strings, harp, piano, woodwinds, and percussion. Featuring an ensemble that includes Scott Morgan (LOSCIL), Scott Moore, Kyle Crabtree (Shipping News), Amsterdam Sinfonietta, Jacob Duncan (Liberation Prophecy), and Helen Money, The Clearing reveals a broad new chapter for Rachel Grimes. (rachelgrimes.bandcamp.com)

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Most rock musicians who’ve tried to take a flyer at classical music (or something like it) approach their compositions from a position of bombast (Emerson, Lake & Palmer), melodrama (Paul McCartney), high drama (Elvis Costello), or purposeful eccentricity (Frank Zappa). But as pianist and composer with the groundbreaking ensemble Rachel’s, Rachel Grimes showed it was possible to combine the sensibilities and tonal palettes of indie rock and chamber music in a way that flattered both styles and embraced their best qualities, and she’s continued to do so in her solo work. Grimes’ second proper solo album, 2015’s The Clearing, collects 11 short pieces (one just over a minute, another eight times that length) that Grimes first adapted from her own piano improvisations and then arranged using small ensembles of strings, woodwinds, and percussion. The titles used in The Clearing reflect a pastoral bent, celebrating the natural world outdoors, but the music reflects both the beauty and the dangers of the wilderness, finding a sense of ominous wonder amidst the trees and the night sky. Grimes writes and arranges in simple but bold strokes, allowing her accompanists to add texture and shade while the piano and strings establish melodic structures that provide a sturdy framework for the other elements.

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Some might debate if The Clearing should be filed under classical or pop, although the use of structures and ideas gleaned from chamber music doesn’t seem pretentious or a stunt in this context, but an approach well suited to the rich minimalism of her compositions. And by the same token, the rock elements of The Clearing aren’t trundled in for effect, but grow organically from the performances of Grimes and her gifted crew, just as the recording uses approaches common to pop to reinforce compositions written for orchestral instruments. Rachel Grimes has given us a collection of new pieces that quietly dazzle with their evocative power, intelligence, and strength, and The Clearing is something lovely and truly extraordinary that ranks with the best, most enveloping music of recent memory. (by Mark Deming)

In other words: What a beautiful album ! We need to keep her name in mind !

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Personnel:
Kyle Crabtree (percussion)
Jacob Duncan (saxophone, clarinet)
Lisa Spurlock Gilmore (harp)
Rachel Grimes (piano)
Aaron May (bass)
Jennifer Potochnic (oboe)
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cello:
Helen Money – Wendy Doyle – Örs Köszeghy
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viola:
Christian Frederickson – David Marks – Melinda Odle
Violin – Adriane Tilanus, Jane Halliday, Scott Moore

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Tracklist:
1 The Air 1:33
2 The Clearing 7:55
3 The Air of Place 1:03
4 The Herald 4:29
5 The Air in Time 1:27
6 In the Vapor with the Air Underneath 4:44
7 Transverse Plane Vertical 2:51
8 Transverse Plane Horizontal 3:10
9 The Air, Her Heart 1:56
10 Further Foundation 6:16
11 The Air at Night 7:01
12 And Today Was Her Birthday 6:19

Music composed by Rachel Grimes

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Alison Balsom – Bach Works For Trumpet (2006)

FrontCover1.jpgAlison Louise Balsom, Lady Mendes OBE (born 7 October 1978) is an English trumpet soloist, arranger, producer, music educator and spokesperson for the importance of music education. Balsom was awarded Artist of the Year at the 2013 Gramophone Awards and has won three Classic BRIT Awards and three German Echo Awards, and was soloist at the BBC Last Night of the Proms in 2009. She was the artistic director of the 2019 Cheltenham Music Festival. (by wikipedia)

None of the music on this disc was originally intended for trumpet. All of it in Bach’s days went first to singers, keyboardists and string players. But this point shrinks to a minor historical technicality when British trumpeter Alison Balsom plays. Her case for this music on trumpet is largely irresistible, enough to make one wonder whether Bach shouldn’t have written it her way instead. Incredible sensitivity is Balsom’s secret. In her hands, the trumpet rivals the human voice for expressivity and tonal coloring. Nary a note comes off as harsh or blaring, qualities typically associated with the instrument, and tenderness abounds. It’s hard to split musical hairs at this level of artistry. What’s more, Balsom retains at least part of the music’s original format, collaborating with soloists every bit her equal: organist Colm Carey, violinist Alina Ibragimova and harpsichordist Alistair Ross. Ross is a spry partner in the lengthy but fascinating Italian Variations while Carey more than compensates for the missing ensemble in the Bach-Vivaldi concerto transcriptions and other would-be orchestral works.

Balsom falls short only in the selections from a Violin Partita and a Cello Suite. Even a player as marvelous as she is cannot match the chordal richness of those instruments on the trumpet; much original depth is lost in translation. These two missteps aside, Balsom and Bach are an ideal combination. -(by Zachary Lewis)

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I love baroque music for trumpet, and Alison Balsom captures the playfulness of it beautifully. All the pieces on this CD are adaptations for trumpet from Bach’s chamber music (as well as arrangements that Bach had adapted himself from pieces by Vivaldi and Marcello), accompanied very effectively by Colm Carey on the organ, Alina Ibragimova on violin, Alistair Ross on harpsichord and chamber organ, and Mark Caudle on viola da gamba. By combining modern trumpet with organ, these pieces open up another dimension in one’s listening experience and enjoyment of music; purists might be sceptical about it, but it is definitely worth listening to. Showing consummate skill, Alison Balsom plays each note crisply and clearly with perfect control, and as someone who used to play the trumpet myself, I know that this is by no means an easy task. My particular favourites are the allegro of the concerto in D, the largo of the concerto in C minor, and the badinerie from the orchestral suite no. 2.

All too often we make the mistake of having music on in the background, whilst doing the housework for example, but this CD deserves to be listened to without distractions. Wonderfully uplifting, it will improve any rainy day. Recommended. (by Petra Bryce)

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Personnel:
Alison Balsom (trumpet),
Colm Carey (organ)
Mark Caudle (viola de gamba)
Alina Ibragimova (violin)
Alistair Ross (harpsichord, chamber organ)

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Tracklist:

Concerto in D Major BWV. 972 (after Vivaldi):
01. Allegro 2.05
02. Adagio 3.51
03. Allegro Assai 2.10

Suite No. 2 in D Minor, BWV. 1008:
04. Sarabande 2.41
05. Gigue 2.38

06. Aria Variata In A Minor (Italian Variations) BWV 989 / 9.24
07. Partita No. 3 in E, BWV 1006: Gigue 2.07

Trio Sonata In C Major BWV 529:
08. Allegro 4.55
09. Largo 5.16
10. Allegro 3.31

Concerto In C Minor (After Marcello) BWV 974:
11. Allegro 3.13
12. Largo 3.41
13. Presto 3.12

14. Klavierbüchlein für Anna Magdalena Bach, II: Aria: Bist du bei mir, BWV 508 / 2.42

Concerto In A Major BWV 1055 (Transposed To C Major):
15. Allegro 4.08
16. Larghetto 5.02
17. Allegro Ma Non Tanto 4.24

18. Suite No. 2 in B Minor, BWV. 1067: VII. Badinerie 1.31
19. Mass in B Minor, BWV 232: Agnus Dei 5.02

Music composed by Johann Sebastian Bach

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Raymond Lefevre – Soul Symphonies 1 (1971)

FrontCover1.jpgRaymond Lefèvre (November 20, 1929 – June 27, 2008) was a French easy listening orchestra leader, arranger and composer.

Born on November 20, 1929 in Calais, France, Raymond Lefèvre is best known for his interpretation of the 1968 theme “Soul Coaxing (Ame Caline)” (composed by Michel Polnareff), which became an international hit. He also wrote soundtracks for movies with Louis de Funès such as La Soupe Aux Choux (1981) or the legendary series Le Gendarme de Saint Tropez. During the late 1950s and early 1960s he accompanied Dalida on most of her recordings (Bambino, Por Favor, Tu peux tout faire de moi, Quand on n’a que l’amour), amongst many others. He started his musical career in 1956 on the Barclay Records label. His recordings were released in the United States on the Kapp and Four Corners record labels until 1969.

He was accepted at the Paris Conservatory when 17 years old. During the early 1950s he played the piano for the Franck Pourcel orchestra. In 1953 he played the piano at the Hilton Hotel in Los Angeles. He started his musical career in 1956 on the Barclay label and recorded his debut album that year.

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He worked on the French television programmes Musicorama (1950s) and Palmarés des Chansons (1965, 1966, 1967) accompanying such famous artists as Dalida, Claude François, Richard Anthony, with his own orchestra.

His recording of “The Day the Rains Came” was a best seller in the United States in 1958. The song “Ame câline” (Soul Coaxing) became an international hit in 1968 and “La La La (He Gives Me Love)” was a minor hit in 1968 in Canada and the United States. In 1969 his recording of “La Reine de Saba” (Queen of Sheba) became a big hit in Japan. From 1972 until the early 2000s (decade), he undertook several successful tours of Japan.

He worked on the soundtracks of many Louis de Funès movies.

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Lefèvre conducted entries four times at the Eurovision Song Contest, three times for Monaco (in 1961, 1962, and 1963) and once for Luxembourg (in 1970).

Raymond Lefèvre died on June 27, 2008 at the age of 78. (by wikipedia)

And here´s his first album of the very sucessful “Soul Symphonies” … I guess the best way to play Classic tunes in a very uniques Easy Listening was ..

Enjoy, dream (like me) or whatever !

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Personnel:
Raymond Lefevre Orchestra

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Tracklist:
01. Allegro De La 40ème Symphonie De Mozart (Mozart) 3.05
02. Largo De Dvorak De La Symphonie Du Nouveau Monde (Dvorak) 3.03
03. Aria De Jean-Sebastien Bach (Bach) 2.45
04. Largo De Haendel (Händel) 2.31
05. Aranjuez (D’Après L’Adagio 2ème Mouvement Du Concerto D’Aranjuez De Joaquin Rodrigo-Vidre) (Rodrigo-Vidre) 4.43
06. 5ème Symphonie De Beethoven (Beethoven) 2.53
07. Prelude En Do De Jean-Sebastien Bach (Bach) 2.53
08. Adagio De La Sonate Pathetique De Beethoven (Beethoven) 3.07
09. Modinha (Préludio Tiré Des Bachianas Brasileiras № 1 De Villa-Lobos) (Villa-Lobos) 3.41
10. Adagio Cardinal (Vacquez) 2.40
11. Andante Maggiore Du Concerto Pour 2 Mandolines De Vivaldi (Vivaldi) 3.33
12. Le Canon De Pachelbel (Pachelbel) 3.29
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13. Concierto en do menor para oboe – 2º mov, Adagio (Marcello) 2.40
14. Concierto para una voz (Saint-Preux) 3.31

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Raymond Lefèvre (November 20, 1929 – June 27, 2008)

Various Artists – The Classic Christmas (1996)

FrontCover1.jpgMany large-scale religious compositions are performed in a concert setting at Christmas. Johann Sebastian Bach’s Christmas Oratorio (Weihnachts-Oratorium, BWV 248), written for Christmas 1734, describes the birth of Jesus, the annunciation to the shepherds, the adoration of the shepherds, the circumcision and naming of Jesus, the journey of the Magi, and the adoration of the Magi.[16] Peter Cornelius composed a cycle of six songs related to Christmas themes he called Weihnachtslieder. Setting his own poems for solo voice and piano, he alluded to older Christmas carols in the accompaniment of two of the songs.

Various notable composers have written instrumental works for Christmas, including Antonio Vivaldi’s Violin Concerto RV270 “Il Riposo per il Santissimo Natale” (“For the Most Holy Christmas”) and the Christmas Concerto (1690) by Arcangelo Corelli. Other classical works associated with Christmas include:

  • Pastorale sur la naissance de N.S. Jésus-Christ (c. 1670) by Marc-Antoine Charpentier; Christus (1847)
  • an unfinished oratorio by Felix Mendelssohn
  • L’enfance du Christ (1853–54) by Hector Berlioz
  • Oratorio de Noël (1858) by Camille Saint-Saëns
  • The Nutcracker (1892) by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky
  • Fantasia on Christmas Carols (1912) and Hodie (1954), both by Ralph Vaughan Williams
  • A Ceremony of Carols (1942) by Benjamin Britten.

Informal Scratch Messiah performances involving public participation are very popular in the Christmas season. Performances of George Frideric Handel’s oratorio Messiah are a fixture of Christmas celebrations in some countries, and although it was originally written for performance at Easter, it covers aspects of the Biblical Christmas narrative. (by wikipedia)

And here´s a nice collection of classic Christmas compositions.

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Personnel:

Bernhard, Hannes, Wolfgang Läubin, Norbert Schmitt, Simon Preston:

Bernhard Läubin (trumpet)
Hannes Läubin (trumpet)
Wolfgang Läubin (trumpet)
Simon Preston (organ)Timpani
Norbert Schmitt (timpani)

Luciano Pavarotti & The National Philharmonic Orchestra:
Luciano Pavarotti (vocals)
The National Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Kurt Herbert Adler

Berliner Philharmoniker:
conducted by Herbert von Karajan

Wiener Sängerknaben:
conducted by Uwe Christian Harrer

Wiener Philharmoniker:
conducted by Claudio Abbado

Philharmonia Orchestra:
Bryn Terfel (vocals – Bass on 06.)
Kathleen Battle (vocals on 13.)
conducted by Paul Daniel (on 06.)
conducted by Carlo Maria Giulini (on 13.)

Orpheus Chamber Orchestra:
Edward Brewer (organ)
counducted by Guillermo Figueroa

London Symphony Orchestra:
Cheryl Studer (soprano vocals)
counducted by Ion Marin

Wiener Philharmoniker & Anne-Sophie Mutter:
Anne-Sophie Mutter (violin)
counducted by James Levine

José Carreras – Coral Salvé De Laredo – Sociedad Coral Debilbao:
José Carreras (vocals)
conducted by Damián Sanchez

The Monteverdi Choir & The English Baroque Soloists:
conducted by John Eliot Gardiner

Bryn Terfel & Malcolm Martineau:
Malcolm Martineau (piano)
Bryn Terfel (Baritone)

Dresdner Kreuzchor:
conducted by Matthias Jung

Choir Of St. Paul’s Cathedral & English Chamber Orchestra:
Kiri Te Kanawa (Soprano)
Thelma Owen  (harp)
conducted by Barry Rose

Martha Argerich & Nicolas Economou:
Martha Argerich (piano)
Nicolas Economou (piano)

London Symphony Orchestra & Plácido Domingo:
Plácido Domingo (Tenor)
conducted by Karl-Heinz Loges

Jessye Norman, Daniel Barenboim, Wolfram Christ:
Daniel Barenboim (piano)
Wolfram Christ (viola)
Jessye Norman (Soprano)

The English Concert Choir & The English Concert:
conducted by Trevor Pinnock

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Tracklist:

Bernhard, Hannes, Wolfgang Läubin, Norbert Schmitt, Simon Preston:
01. Sinfonies De Fanfare: Rondeau (Mouret) 1.58

Luciano Pavarotti & TheNational Philharmonic Orchestra:
02. O Holy Night (Minuit Chrétien) (Adam) 4.16

Berliner Philharmoniker:
03. March from  The Nutcracker (Tchaikovsky) 2.22

Wiener Sängerknaben:
04. O Christmas Tree (O Tannenbaum) (Traditional) 1.39

Wiener Philharmoniker:
05. The Sleighride (Die Schlittenfart) (Mozart) 2.33

Philharmonia Orchestra:
06. White Christmas (Berlin) 5.01

Orpheus Chamber Orchestra:
07. Jesu, Joy Of Man’s Desiring (Jesus Bleibet Meine Freude (Bach) 3.26

London Symphony Orchestra:
08. Ave Maria (Gounod/Bach) 2.11

Wiener Philharmoniker & Anne-Sophie Mutter:
09. Méditation From Thais (Massenet) 6.43

José Carreras – Coral Salvé De Laredo – Sociedad Coral Debilbao:
10. The Nativity (Ramirez) 3.58

Bernhard, Hannes, Wolfgang Läubin, Norbert Schmitt, Simon Preston:
11. See, The Conquering Hero Comes (Händel) 3.02

The Monteverdi Choir & The English Baroque Soloists:
12. Jesy, Joy Of Man’s Desiring (Jesus bleibet meine Freude) (Bach) 2.31

Philharmonia Orchestra:
13. Pie Jesu From Requiem (Fauré) 4.06

Berliner Philharmoniker:
14. Christmas Concerto (Corelli) 3.52

Bryn Terfel & Malcolm Martineau:
15. The Three Kings (Die Könige) (Cornelius) 2.37

Dresdner Kreuzchor:
16. Silent Night (Stille Nacht) (Gruber/Mohr) 3.35

Choir Of St. Paul’s Cathedral & English Chamber Orchestra:
17. Ave Maria Op.52/6 D 839 (Schubert) 3.38

Martha Argerich & Nicolas Economou:
18. Dance Of The Reedpipes (Tchaikovsky) 2.12

London Symphony Orchestra & Plácido Domingo:
19. Muñequite Linda (Magic Is The Moonlight) (Grever) 3.50

Jessye Norman, Daniel Barenboim, Wolfram Christ:
20. Geistliches Wiegenlied Op. 91/2 (Brahms) 6.12

The English Concert Choir & The English Concert:
21. Hallelujah from Messiah (Händel) 3.58

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The Classical Jazz Quartet – Christmas (2002)

FrontCover1.jpgOkay, let´s start with another collection of Christmas albums:

As high-concept jazz groups go, few have been as fun, laid-back, and boisterous as the Classical Jazz Quartet. Taking classical compositions and transforming them into upbeat jazz anthems, the group isn’t afraid to make drastically unique changes to the music they cover. The group first came together when bassist Ron Carter contacted pianist Kenny Barron to work together. Discussing the prospect of covering Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker Suite, vibraphonist Stefon Harris and drummer Lewis Nash were soon called in and the group decided to go ahead with the project. Released in 2001, their rendition of the classic Christmas ballet was a playful reinvention that swung hard and fun. A year later, The Classical Jazz Quartet Plays Bach did the same for the 17th century baroque composer. (by Bradley Torreano)

The Classical Jazz Quartet recorded a series of sessions utilizing Bob Belden’s arrangements of classical music, though this session draws primarily from Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker Suite. The cast of musicians, including pianist Kenny Barron, vibraphonist and marimba player Stefon Harris, bassist Ron Carter, and drummer Lewis Nash, is never less than impressive, though the album production and, occasionally, Belden’s charts don’t always serve their considerable talent. Handel’s famous Hallelujah from The Messiah is a promising start, though it is strangely and suddenly truncated by a rapid fadeout just over the five-minute mark.

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Better is the extended workout of J.S. Bach’s Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring, which gives the musicians a chance to stretch out. The remainder of the album is devoted to music from The Nutcracker Suite, which duplicates the music heard on The Classical Jazz Quartet Play Tchaikovsky, meaning that those already owning that CD aren’t likely to purchase this release for just two new tracks. “The Swingin’ Nut” (Overture Miniature) is a bluesy chart that gets stuck in a boring vamp instead of developing upon its famous theme as a source for improvisation. But the remainder of Belden’s arrangements inspire top-notch performances, especially the playful “Blues à la Russe” (Russian Dance Trepack) and the delicious bossa nova treatment of “Mirlitonova” (Dance of the Reeds). Highly recommended for listening, at any time of year. (by Ken Dryden,)

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Personnel:
Kenny Barron (piano)
Ron Carter (bass)
Stefon Harris (vibraphone, marimba)
Lewis Nash (drums)

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Tracklist:

01. Hallelujah From “The Messiah” (Händel) 5.25
02 Jesu, Joy Of Man’s Desiring (Bach) 8.40
03 Overture Miniature From “The Nutcracker” (Tchaikovsky) 6.28
04 March From “The Nutcracker” (Tchaikovsky) 4.50
05 Dance Of The Sugar Plum Fairy From “The Nutcracker” (Tchaikovsky) 6.54
06 Russian Dance Trepack From “The Nutcracker” (Tchaikovsky) 5.59
07 Dance Of The Reeds From “The Nutcracker” (Tchaikovsky) 6.54
08 Waltz Of The Flowers From “The Nutcracker” (Tchaikovsky) 7.24

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Vladimir Horowitz – Horowitz The Poet (1991)

FrontCover1.jpgVladimir Samoylovich Horowitz (October 1 [O.S. September 18] 1903 – November 5, 1989) was an American classical pianist and composer born in the Russian Empire. He was acclaimed for his virtuoso technique, his tone color, and the excitement engendered by his playing. He is widely regarded as one of the greatest pianists of all time. (by wikipedia)

Vladimir Horowitz had a complicated relationship with Schubert’s last piano Sonata. He revered the Sonata from the 1930s on, but felt it was too small scale a work for performance in today’s large concert halls. He finally gave it a try in 1953, playing it at the 25th Anniversary of his American Debut. One critic wrote that “Horowitz subjects poor, innocent Schubert to the most neurotic bombardment.” The hypertense, oversized 1953 performance is one of the most uncomfortable piano recordings ever made.

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Despite his difficulties in bringing it to life, Horowitz remained fond of the Sonata and often played it at home. His conception mellowed over the years, and friends urged him to perform it again. Horowitz played the Schubert at several recording sessions in March of 1986, about one month before his Moscow concert. So, his mind may have been elsewhere during these sessions. On the positive side, there is a welcome sense of relaxation, he plays the often neglected first movement repeat, and he gets the tempos right. It’s nice to hear the second movement, marked Andante sostenuto, played at the intended tempo – instead of Adagio or even Largo. But there are too many negatives here: Horowitz gussies up the piano writing (adding fifths in the left hand and lowering bass notes), breaks apart phrases, and generally disrupts the flow of the music to the extent that what is left is a parody of Schubert’s most sublime piano sonata. He’s also not quite up to snuff technically in the last movement.

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The pianist himself recognized the problems with this performance – calling it “fussy” – and refused to grant Deutsche Grammophon permission to release it. (Other pieces recorded during those sessions, Schubert’s Moment Musical No. 3, the Schubert-Liszt Serenade, and Soirees de Vienna No. 6, were released on the “Horowitz at Home” CD in 1989.) In 1991, Wanda Toscanini Horowitz overrode her late husband’s rejection and allowed the Sonata to be released. It says something about Mrs. Horowitz’s musical judgment that she approved the release of a substandard performance of a highly regarded musical work, but she refused RCA permission to release Horowitz’s astounding live performances of Balakirev’s Islamey and Liszt’s St. Francis Walking on the Water because she felt they were unmusical warhorses. She was clearly more interested in associating her husband’s name with snob repertoire than in great performances.

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Horowitz had a more steady relationship with Schumann’s Kinderszenen. The pianist played it frequently in concert from the 1940s on. This version, his fourth official recording of the work, is from a live performance in Vienna’s Great Golden Hall in May of 1987, one of Horowitz’s last concerts. In many ways, it’s also his finest recording of Kinderszenen. Horowitz’s two studio renderings, from 1950 and 1962, are fairly straightforward accounts, with occasional lapses into pianistic micromanagement and hints of nervousness when there should be repose. A 1982 live recording is almost the opposite, with bizarre rubatos, distended ritards, slack rhythm, and almost no coherence. But here, in 1987, Horowitz has pulled himself together and plays with simplicity, controlled freedom, and conviction. It is often said that the elderly sometimes return to a childlike state. In old age, Horowitz had achieved communion with Schumann’s visions of childhood lost.

The sound is fine in both works, with remarkably little audience noise during the live Kinderszenen. (by Hank Drake)

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Personnel:
Vladimir Horowitz (piano)

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Tracklist:

Franz Schubert: Piano Sonata In B Flat Major, D 960:
01. Molto Moderato 19.12
02. Andante Sostenuto 8.02
03. Scherzo: Allegro Vivace Con Delicatezza 4.12
04 Allegro Ma Non Troppo 7.38

Robert Schumann: Kinderszenen:
05. Von Fremden Ländern Und Menschen 1.35
06. Kuriose Geschichte 1.05
07 Haschemann 0.32
08. Bittendes Kind 0.50
09. Glückes Genug 0.40
10 Wichtige Begebenheit 0.51
11. Träumerei 2.34
12. Am Kamin 1.19
13. Ritter vom Steckenpferd 0.40
14. Fast zu ernst 1.29
15. Fürchtenmachen 1.38
16. Kind Im Einschlummern 1.40
17. Der Dichter spricht 2.07

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VladimirHorowitz1October 1, 1903 – November 5, 1989)