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July 13 , 2012

Reviews of the Week

Carolin Widmann and Alexander Lonquich are hailed in the New York Times for their recording of the C-major fantasy, the B-minor Rondo and the A-major Sonata by Franz Schubert

Sometimes it is hard to understand why a work widely deemed a masterpiece fails to catch on with performers. But the reason Schubert’s astonishing Fantasie in C for Violin and Piano (D.934) is played infrequently is obvious to all performers who have tackled it: The piece is tremendously difficult. Though there have been some excellent recordings, a recent one offers an especially vibrant and commanding performance by two impressive German artists: the violinist Carolin Widmann and the pianist Alexander Lonquich. [...] The instrumental writing is akward, especially for the piano. But it must be played with the kind of effortless grace and delicacy this duo demonstrates. [...] This rewarding album includes beautiful accounts of Schubert’s Rondo in B minor and Sonata in A. The sonata is also pretty hard, especially the restless scherzo. You would not know this, though, by the fleet, crisp and sly performance from these superb Schubert players.
Anthony Tommasini, The New York Times

Alexei Lubimov impresses the Financial Times with his recording of Préludes by Claude Debussy

Everything Lubimov plays is thought through in depth and mature, musicianly detail, so that the performance never sounds intellectualised or manicured. To the two books of Préludes he brings a variety of nuance that is the very opposite of processed piano-playing, and the colours of the music are enhanced by his choice of instruments – a 1925 Bechstein for Book One and a 1913 Steinway for Book two.
Andrew Clark, Financial Times

British daily The Herald on Garth Knox' Saltarello

It’s nothing less than a survey of 1000 years of Western musical tradition. The violist with his long-time musical associate, cellist Agnes Vesterman, goes back to his folk roots with traditional airs and dances, moves forward through a hymn by Hildegard von Bingen, into the medieval period with music by Machaut, on through John Dowland’s Flow My Tears and Purcell’s Music For A While; into the Baroque with a sizzling Vivaldi concerto actually written for the viola d’amore, and bang up to date with an atmospheric two-part piece for viola and electronics, written for Knox by leading Finnish composer Kaija Saariaho.
It’s a gobsmacking disc, and Knox’s playing throughout, in a very un-showy way, is out of this world: he includes one of his own compositions, entitled Fuga Libre, where his strength, power and technical prowess are mind-boggling.
Michael Tumelty, The Herald

The Guardian's John Fordham is thrilled by the enery displayed in the playing of Keith Jarrett's so-called European quartet on Sleeper

This enthralling double album is a previously unreleased concert set from Tokyo in 1979 and features Keith Jarrett’s ‘European quartet’ of Jan Garbarek on saxes and flute, fellow Norwegian Jon Christensen on drums and Swedish bassist Palle Danielsson. The band made their last live album, Personal Mountains, on the same trip – this one covers many of the same vivid Jarrett originals, and is the better set. But you don’t need to know that history to hear the band’s exuberance over Jarrett’s teasing yet hard-rocking vamps, Garbarek’s brusque power and the rhythm section’s energy and freedom.
John Fordham, The Guardian

The Sunday Herald on the co-operation of Arild Andersen with Tommy Smith & the Scottish National Jazz Orchestra for Celebration

In the jazz world, having your celebration of the music associated with ECM Records considered suitable for relase by the label itself is a pretty impressive accolade. Inviting the marvellous Norwegian double bass player Arild Andersen, whose association with the label stretches back to some of its earliest releases, to be the featured soloist may have smoothed the way. But while Andersen’s playing is as majestic, nimble and big-toned as expected, the Scottish National Jazz Orchestra’s quality of musicianship and ensemble sound make it an equal partner – at the very least- in this enterprise.
Rob Adams, Sunday Herald

Andy Sheppard's approach to improvisation on Trio Libero fascinates the reviewer of American magazine Stereophile

Andy Sheppard first sequestered himself for four days with Michel Benita and Sebastian Rochford, improvising together and recording everything. Sheppard has said, ‘We seemed to be able to improvise virtually complete tunes.’ He worked on editing and harmonizing the material, and used much of it two years later for this album, the trio’s ECM debut.
This backstory is relevant because it illuminates their creative process. As Sheppard describes it: ‘Improvise, write it down, develop it, then replay the tune with fresh improvisation.’
ECM is the word headquarters for ‘spontaneous composition’. This ensemble goes further because their spontaneous compositions are run through twice: refined, recomposed, and reimagined. Every piece here is a concise, elegant, self-contained song.
Thomas Conrad, Stereophile