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November 8 , 2013

Reviews of the Week

American acclaim for András Schiff's recording of the Diabelli Variationen

The predictably penetrating, intense playing of the mighty Diabellis on this disc is to be expected from Andras Schiff, but there's a twist: he does them twice, first on a 1921 Bechstein and then on a Hammerflügel fortepiano from Beethoven's era. The result is a primer on pianism, rounded out by Beethoven's final piano sonata and the Opus 126 Bagatelles.
Zachary Woolfe, The New York Times

UK classical-music magazine The Strad on the Keller Quartet’s recording of string quartets by Görgy Ligeti and Samuel Barber on Ligeti Barber

It’s hard to know what to admire most about this remarkable new disc – the bravery of the strange but compelling juxtaposition of repertoire; the technical brilliance of playing; or the profound, considered musicality of the Keller players’ performances. [...] There’s a sense of fantasy and vivid characterisation right from their start of their Ligeti First Quartet (heavily indebted to Bartók), and a glassy purity to their sound that ensures each instrument is heard in individual clarity [...] They rise magnificently to the Second Quartet’s weird, sometimes theatrical demands, too, negotiating Ligeti’s musical jokes with dry wit. [...] The famous Barber Adagio is deliciously jarring in between the two Ligeti quartets, especially in the Keller’s brisk, unsentimental performance, light on vibrato but high on ringing purity. It’s as if they’ve stripped the piece of its mawkishness and returned it to the simple, moving statement that it is. All in all, a disc of revelations
David Kettle, The Strad

More international acclaim for Zsófia Boros’ ECM-debut En otra parte

Mit ‘En otra parte’ (Der Titel geht zurück auf ein Gedicht von Roberto Juarroz) hat sie nun ein lupenreines Gitarrenrecital lateinamerikanischer Prägung vorgelegt, das durch seinen unprätentiösen Ton aufhorchen lässt. Es ist keine Virtuosen-Show, mit der die schon länger in Wien lebende Gitarristin hier punkten will, sondern ein ruhiges, kontemplatives Programm, das durch seine Musikalität besticht.
Dierk Wieschollek, Fono Forum

Not only is her musicanship exquisite but her soul and her ability to transmit emotion, and intuit thoughts and feelings is quite extraordinary. I listened to the CD repeatedly and as it moved through its story, was captivated by its beauty. From the first note to the last, it was a complete experience that I didn’t want to end. [...] Boros caresses each string of the guitar as if she were speaking, reciting, or singing – the notes coming off of her fingers with just the right amount of intensity; she explores her choices tastefully with perfect execution, very tempered, fluid, and with a natural rhythmic movement she dances with her instrument in synchronicity with life; without struggle in complete abandonment to the art she embraces with an innocence and inquisitiveness of a child yet with a maturity and knowing beyond her years – a fine balance of mastering and youthful curiosity.
Nora McCarthy, Jazz Inside Magazine

Reviewers in France and the UK are fascinated by the box set Selected Signs - Music selected for the exhibition ECM - A Cultural Archaeology at Haus der Kunst Munich

Et tant pis si je vous fais (sou)rire: le carton fin et doux de ce coffret sent bon. Son odeur a la même noblesse capiteuse que celle de certains livres. On devrait envoyer chaque jour un courriel de remerciement à Manfred Eicher, l’homme et l’ âme d’ECM, qui n’connaît pas le crise et continue comme si de rien n’était de faire (sur)vivre l’objet-disque.
Frédéric Goaty, Jazz Magazine

The sheer range of musical styles present is quite breathtaking and should appeal to most people. You will hear plenty of jazz mixed with ambient minimalism combined with improv of varying types and soundtrack projects. [...] There’s also a host of intriguing cross-over pieces that spark interest and tickle the imagination. And this is the point of the box set. Combining musical styles and artists in such a way that you can never really relax into a comfortable rut. There is always something happening. New challenges to the ear make listening to this musical sequence anticipatory.
Paul Rigby, Hi-Fi World

The Guardian welcomes the release of Keith Jarrett’s Concerts Bregenz München in their entirety on CD

Keith Jarrett once said that while a composer can hang around for ecstatic states to show up, an improviser needs them at eight o'clock tonight. That's audible in Jarrett's piano-playing and his famous vocal tics on this partly-reissued three-disc set of 1981 solo concerts in Germany – but he plays with a high-risk confidence, deploying his rich classical,jazz and gospel vocabularies with more freedom even than on the 1975 Koln Concert that made him a star. At Bregenz, he is at his most stompingly rhythmic, and quickwittedly accurate in switching from romantic dances to springily capricious ones. At Munich, he begins in a contrapuntally lyrical dream-state, wheels through high-speed free-improv, pulsing pop-grooves and glockenspiel-like flickers, and departs on his film-theme Mon Coeur est Rouge and the gentle gospel ballad Heartland. There's plenty of solo Jarrett material around, but this period in his career seemed to balance the energy of youth and the resources of experience in a very special way.
John Fordham, The Guardian

Ralph Alessi's Baida is reviewed on UK website Jazz Views

In other truly creative bout of recording sessions, Baida sees the release of another debut recording for a new artist to the ECM roster with trumpeter Ralph Alessi bringing his unique and haunting trumpet sound to the label, and a powerhouse New York rhythm section to compliment it.
Baida features ten original compositions from the trumpeter, with the opening title track being
reprised to close the disc, and displays a remarkable range of melodic and rhythmic variety without out ever losing sight of the overall mood and sound created by the superb and sympathetic quartet assembled. [...] Alessi’s trumpet sound can be by turns full and brassy, or move to extreme fragility and tenderness, whether playing open or using the harmon mute. His ballad playing is quite breath taking on ‘Sanity’ and on the beautiful and poignant ‘Maria Lydia’ for his mother who passed away shortly after the album was completed. [...] This is a remarkably assured release from Alessi, who is proving to be a most commanding and compelling player and composer, and this is hopefully just the beginning of a long and fruitful tenure with ECM.
Nick Lea, Jazz Views

German magazine Jazzthetik on 39 Steps by the John Abercrombie Quartet

Zwei Harmonieinstrumente in einer Band geraten sich normalerweise leicht ins Gehege, aber bei zwei absoluten Meistern ihres Fachs wie Abercrombie und Copland ist das natürlich kein Problem. Sie umgarnen sich in wunderbarer Weise und passen so gut zueinander, weil beide einen charakteristisch zurückhaltenden Ton bevorzugen. ‚Wenn ich Gitarre spielen würde, würde ich wie er klingen wollen’, sagt Copland sogar über den Bandleader und steuert gleich zwei Songs – das verwunschene ‚LSD’ und das schleppend groovende ‚Spellbound’ – zu dessen neuem Album bei. Alle vier Musiker kennen sich seit Jahrzehnten und haben unzählige Aufnahmen in unterschiedlichen Konstellationen miteinander auf dem Buckel. So gehört Drew Gress zu Coplands Trio, und John Abercrombie war schon auf Coplands erster eigener Platte vor fünfundzwanzig Jahren dabei. Das kommt dieser Aufnahme zugute. Das Interplay ist traumhaft, und die vier werfen sich in magischer Weise die Bälle zu.
Rolf Thomas, Jazzthetik

Swiss weekly Die Weltwoche enjoys the communal spirit of Ralph Towner, Wolfgang Muthspiel and Slava Grigoryan on Travel Guide

Es ist zuweilen schon auch ganz schön, wenn eine Musik den Mut zur Schönheit aufbringt. Sie braucht deshalb nicht spannungslos zu sein, im Gegenteil: den Zuhörer einladen und die Spannung hochhalten ist die Quadratur des Zirkels. Dem Gitarrentrio Ralph Towner (klassische und zwölfsaitige Gitarre), Wolfgang Muthspiel (elektrische Gitarre) und Slava Grigoryan (klassische und Baritongitarre) gelingt genau dies. In zehn Stücken (fünf stammen von Towner, fünf von Muthspiel) breiten sie wechselnd beleuchtete, winddurchwehte Klanglandschaften aus, in denen wir uns frei zu bewegen meinen, und am Ende merken wir allemal, dass wir einer logischen Erzählung vom Anfang an ihr Ende gefolgt sind. Das Gegenteil von kompetitiv ist dieses Trio noch in anderem Sinn: Im Gegensatz zu vielen anderen Gitarrentrios hauen sich hier nicht drei Konkurrenten ihre Schnellfingerkünste um die Ohren, alle drei sind Raum-Künstler, die miteinander und nicht gegeneinander spielen, große Melodiker alle drei, alle um einen Sound bemüht (auch Muthspiels elektrisches Instrument ist fabelhaft in den Gesamtklang integriert).
Peter Rüedi, Die Weltwoche

British web magazine UK Vibe on Marc Sinan’s CD/DVD set Hasretim - Journey to Anatolia

A deliberate attempt to to take the listener on a musical voyage of discovery and aid to them a concert of the performance from July 2011 has been included in DVD format with stunning images of the local scenery. Overseeing matters musically is Marc Sinan whose own ancestral roots lie with his grandparents who resided on the Black Sea coast, near to the Armenian border. What truly comes across in the film is the extent to which eastern roots instrumentation has been expertly woven into a cohesive whole with the textures of a symphonic orchestra of western classical and east meets west in a a heady fusion. [...] On occasion the instrumental accompaniment becomes minimalist as on Painting Four with the traditional wailing voice of Sener Götz. Conductor Jonathan Stockhammer does a fine job of ensuring the orchestra embellishes the existing roots rhythms rather than ovepowering them.
Tim Stenhouse, UK Vibe