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February 21 , 2014

Reviews of the week

BBC Music Magazine on Momo Kodama’s debut recording for ECM La Vallée des Cloches

Japanese pianist Momo Kodama’s first disc for ECM is a beautifully conceived programme. In all three works the notes represent much more than mere abstract sounds, yet each also marks a remarkable exploration of piano sonority. In both respects, this marks a shared French heritage, albeit from a Japanese perspective in the case of Takemitsu (for that matter, Messiaen loved all things Japanese). By far the greatest pianistic challenge comes in ‘La fauvette des jardins’ (1970), Messiaen’s half-hour portrayal of birds and the countryside around his summer home in Peticher. Kodama has already recorded fine versions of Messiaen’s two epic cycles ‘Vingt regards’ and ‘Catalogue d’oiseaux’, and the experience clearly shows in the early pages, notably with the veiled chords that evoke the quail’s call, while the changing hue of the lake is beautifully conveyed.
Kodama als finds much poetry and space in Takemitsu’s sublime ‘Rain Tree sketch’, with her careful use of the pedal coming to the fore. Although the latest of the works to be composed, it makes an effective bridge here between the evocations of Ravel’s ‘Miroirs’ and Messian’s nature portrait.
Christopher Dingle, BBC Music Magazine

András Schiff's recording of the Diabelli Variationen by Ludwig van Beethoven is extensively reviewed in British magazine Piano Journal.

The new ECM double album is groundbreaking in two way: firstly Schiff here extends his visionary interpretations of Beethoven already attested to in the recent ECM sonata cycle to this late masterpiece, offering the listener the treat of enjoying his profound expressive insights and structural command, especially of contrapuntal textures. Secondly, Schiff’s quest to liberate our ears and widen our awareness of and response to a wider pianistic palette than usually offered in conventional recordings made on certain modern concert grand pianos is here taken a stage further. In the Beethoven cycle Schiff played on both a Bösendorfer and a Steinway, yet here he is even more radical in presenting two complete performances of the Diabelli on two pianos from the past. [...] this is riveting listening – like a good thriller one does not want to interrupt the thought flow, through to the last three variations. For the achievement here is Schiff’s steady yet always involving exploration of the thematic development towards the profound and monumental final variations, that brings Diabelli’s ‘cobbler’s patch’ to its sublime realisation.
Malcom Miller, Piano Journal

Gidon Kremer and the Kremerata Baltica’s recording of compositions by Mieczyslaw Weinberg impresses the reviewer from The Times.

Gidon Kremer’s excellent Kremerata Baltica and fine soloists explore Weinberg’s chamber music and powerful Symphony No. 10 – arrestingly varied stuff, ranging from late Romanticism to stringent neo-Classicism and passages of real anguish.
Richard Morrison, The Times

Helena Tulve’s Arboles Iloran por Iluvia is reviewed in English daily The Independent

Ancient and modern influences entwine with an austere elegance in the music of Estonian composer Helena Tulve. ‘Reya hadas a’ala’ employs Yemenite Jewish text and melody, two countertenors occupying a strospheric space where they blend into the high, keening sibilance of Ensemble Hortus Musicus’ period strings. [...] Tulve continues to explore the higher registers throughout the album, with the regional nyckelharpa featured on the title track, and the violins of ‘L’Equinoxe de l’àme’ delivering a thousand tiny slashing cuts.
Andy Gill, The Independent

A British reviewer feels seduced by Zsófia Boros’ En otra parte

A very seductive album well worth exploring. Hungarian Zsófia Boros is a natural interpreter with a gentle, slightly metallic tone – not technicolour, more a richly contrasted, crisp black and white print, like ECM’s cover-image style. The atmosphere is all closeness and intimacy: unobtrusive rustles and creaks make you feel you’re sitting right there next to her [...] you’re rewarded with intensely thoughtful and attractive playing of light but tasty miniatures.
Rob Ainsley, BBC Music Magazine

Extended Circle, the new recording by the Tord Gustavsen Quartet, enchants a German radio journalist

Fesselnd energiegeladen ist da das Spiel dieses Quartetts, kompakt und vorwärtspreschend, voller kleiner Explosionen im Part von Schlagzeuger Jarle Vespestad und mit untergründigem Rumoren in den Tönen des Basses von Mats Eilertsen. In einer völlig freien Improvisation schließlich, das gibt es hier auch, kann dieses Quartett dann noch einmal anders klingen. Neue und durchweg stimmige Facetten eines Sounds von Virtuosen der musikalischen Sinnlichkeit - mit Stücken, die immer noch einen unwiderstehlichen, sanften Sog entwickeln.
Roland Spiegel, BR-Klassik

Jazzwise magazine on Il Pergolese, the new project of Maria Pia de Vito, François Couturier, Anja Lechner and Michele Rabbia

Paying tribute to the short-lived 18th century Italian composer Giovanni Batista Pergolesi (1710-1736), this ECM debut from Italian vocalist, composer and arranger Maria Pia de Vito scores highly for its daring and its judicious reshaping of the source material. Joining the singer are three terrific musicians, all of whom have previously recorded on ECM [...] Of the three group improvisations, ‘In compagnia d’amore I’, with its juxtapositions of acoustic and electronic sounds, is especially striking.
Peter Quinn, Jazzwise

Arild Andersen`s new trio recording Mira with Tommy Smith and Paolo Vinaccia receives acclaim in Germany

Tommy Smith ist der große Tonkünstler dieser Aufnahmen. Wie er mit Tönen seines Tenorsaxophons kantig sonor auftrumpft, durch sanft oder auch etwas härter eingreifende Überblasfarben Mehrdeutigkeit erzeugt oder wie er in den höheren Lagen zwischen einer fast unheimlichen Jenseitigkeit und einem unschuldigen Schönklang vermittelt, als müsse er Erstklässlern ein Volkslied beibringen – das ist hinreißend.
Ulrich Olshausen, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung

Sie haben Zeit. Und Ideen. Und Geduld. Der Kontrabassist Arild Andersen steuerte zur Trio-Session mit Saxophonist Tommy Smith und Schlagzeuger Paolo Vinaccia acht eigene Kompositionen bei; hinzu kommen der Burt-Bacharach-Klassiker ‚Alfie’ und zwei Werke der Bandmitglieder – allesamt Balladen oder Stücke in mittleren Tempi. Dabei nimmt sich jeder der drei zurück, wirft den Kollegen Ideen zu, wartet deren Antworten ab und antwortet schließlich umso ausdrucksstärker. Smiths obertonreicher, stellenweise an Jan Garbarek erinnernder Ton, dazu schwebende Melodien und auf’s Wesentliche konzentrierte Schläge: So schafft das Trio einen bezaubernden Gegenpol zur alltäglichen Hektik.
Werner Stiefele, Audio

American magazine Stereophile makes Keith Jarrett’s Concerts Bregenz München, (which since last fall are for the first time available in their entirety on CD), its ‘Recording Of The Month’

Keith Jarrett’s gift for brilliant invention is apparently inexhaustible throughout both of these concerts, recorded five days apart in spring 1981. The combinations of lyricism, literally foot-stomping gospel, chordings and voicings alternatively sumptously lush and astringently lean, and unexpected musical destinations reached in surprising ways, are here at least as rich as as anything else he’s done. [...] It’s a rare thing when, from the first few notes of a recording, one feels one has come home. It happened 50 years ago, the first time I heard the music of Bruckner; and 10 years later, when I heard Part 2 of Keith Jarrett’s ‘Bremen’ concert; and 10 years after that, when I first heard ‘Concerts: Bregenz München’. It still does, with every hit of this set, every time.
Richard Lehnert, Stereophile