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June 29 , 2011

Reviews of the Week

The ECM New Series account of Tchaikovsky’s Piano Trio op.50 - coupled on disc with Victor Kissine’s “Zerkalo” - by Gidon Kremer, Giedré Dirvanauskaité and Katia Buniatshvilli has been receiving much positive international press and radio coverage. “Their playing electrifies from the first note,” observed WDR’s Michael Lohse, “confronting us with a Tchaikovsky who has absolutely nothing to do with the clichés of the sentimental salon musician.” The BBC Music Magazine is struck by how contemporary Tchaikovsky sounds here. “Their interpretation of the Tchaikovksy is inflected with a modernist aesthetic,” writes Erik Levi, “bringing into focus the music’s highly original narrative and its astonishingly resourceful approach to colour.” At Bayerische Rundfunk-online Fridemann Leipold noted that “the shared sense of breathing, the harmony of the three players, is overwhelming. Kremer proves (once again) at the very height of his incomparable violin playing, with his always pure intonation and controlled vibrato. Tchaikovsky's masterpiece is explored here with a freedom and intimacy that leaves one breathless. This is a new reference recording, a milestone in the discography, a recording for eternity.” In a major piece in the Franfkfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, Gerhard R. Koch concurs, praising the way in which “suggestive instrumental sovereignty, emotional power and experiences with new music complement each other in this recording. Last but not least, the dynamic ambitus is as extreme as it is differentiated.”

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“Lysøen” the tribute to Norwegian composer-violinist Ole Bull by Nils Økland and Sigbjørn Apeland continues to get enthusiastic reviews. Here’s Fiona Talkington in UK ‘world music’ magazine Songlines: “Hardanger fiddle and violin player Nils Økland makes music that sounds as if he were spinning fine lace between the moon and the stars. There is an exceptional delicacy and an absolute precision to his whispering melodies and playful pizzicato, yet he is totally in touch with the deep soul of the music. We've known Økland for years as an outstanding musician as at home in the jazz, experimental and contemporary music worlds as he is with traditional music. I've heard him as soloist with orchestras, on top of a mountain with a jazz trio, and as a solo performer of chamber music. His partner here, playing piano and harmonium is Sigbjørn Apeland, who has also been a part of great music making in Norway for as long as I can remember. ‘Hommage à Ole Bull’ refers to a great Norwegian musician of the 19th century. Bull owned an island a short boat ride from Bergen and made his home in Lysøen, a fairy-tale villa with turrets, towers, stained-glass windows and twisted pillars. This is where Økland and Apeland recorded their music, inspired by the beauty and driven by their own heritage. Traditional tunes, melodies by Bull and Grieg, and the performers' own compositions make up the 16 tracks, ranging from the playfulness of a Bull waltz to a deeply moving version of 'Solveig's Song' from Grieg's 'Peer Gynt'. Albums don't come more exquisite than this.”

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An ECM album at the top of Amazon’s Techno Charts? It happened this week with “Re: ECM” by Ricardo Villalobos and Max Loderbauer – simultaneously #1 in Amazon.de’s Dance/Techno listings and Top Ten placed on both iTunes and Amazon’s jazz charts. This double album, in which DJ-composers Villalobos and Loderbauer create new sound sculptures by – for instance - aiming an arsenal of sampling machines and analog synths at Ricardo’s ECM collection, has also found favour with critics and led, in turn, to some gratifying discussion of the original sound-sources at the heart of this ‘remix’ project: “Stunning new milestone for a venerable label, but nothing less should be expected from Manfred Eicher’s Edition of Contemporary Music…The results forge beyond the usual ambient or soundtrack terrain. Rarely less than intricately pin-drop mesmerizing, bottomless oceans of sonic resonance morph around ghostly pulses spectral melodies and striking stretches.While new musical strains such as dubstep flounder in lame clichés these otherwordly launch pads have spawned something supremely evocative, perfectly in sync with this monumental label’s ever-visionary ethos.” Kris Needs, Record Collector.