Gaetano Donizetti – L’Elisir d’Amore – Luciano Pavarotti, Joan Sutherland, English Chamber Orchestra, Richard Bonynge (1970/2013) [HRA 24-96]

Gaetano Donizetti – L’Elisir d’Amore – Luciano Pavarotti, Joan Sutherland, English Chamber Orchestra, Richard Bonynge (1970/2013)
FLAC (tracks) 24 bit/96 kHz | Time – 02:20:21 minutes |  2,59 GB | Genre: Classical, Opera
Studio Master, Official Digital Download  | Source: highresaudio.com | Artwork: Front cover , Booklet | © Decca
Recorded: Kingsway Hall, London, January and June 1970

“Bonynge leads a team … which not only conveys jollity but which sings and plays as though full opera house applause is to be expected a the end of each number … The ECO playing … has a refinement and stylishness which makes all the difference … Pavarotti has a Gigli -like quality in characterisation and this suits him ideally for the role of the simple, devoted Nemorino … you should readily be won over by the sheer exuberance, vocal as well as dramatic, that Sutherland brings to the role. It is a joy to the ear to have well- loved music treated to extra vocal splendours at both ends of the soprano register.” –Gramophone

“Sutherland makes Adina a more substantial figure than usual, full-throatedly serious at times, at others jolly…What helps to make this recording so special, apart from the superb ensemble work – often very exciting – is the inclusion of the addition written for Malibran [‘Nel dolce incanto’].” –The Penguin Guide

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Gaetano Donizetti – La Fille du Regiment – Luciano Pavarotti, Joan Sutherland, Orch of the Royal Opera House, Richard Bonynge (1967/2013) [HRA 24-96]

Gaetano Donizetti – La Fille du Regiment – Luciano Pavarotti, Joan Sutherland, Orch of the Royal Opera House, Richard Bonynge (1967/2013)
FLAC (tracks) 24 bit/96 kHz | Time – 01:46:28 minutes |  2,00 GB | Genre: Classical, Opera
Studio Master, Official Digital Download  | Source: highresaudio.com | Artwork: Front cover , Booklet | © Decca
Recorded: Kingsway Hall, London, 17-27 July 1967

Even Dame Joan Sutherland has rarely if ever made an opera recording so totally enjoyable and involving as this. With the same cast (including chorus and orchestra) as at Convent Garden, it was recorded in 1966 immediately after a series of live performances in the Royal Opera House, and both the comedy and the pathos come over with an intensity born of communication with live audiences. That impression is now the more vivid on this superb transfer, for with spoken dialogue used in this original French version of the opera the absence of background noise is a special benefit, and the production vividly captures the developments in the story.

„She is stunning as the tomboyish Marie, combining a cheeky sense of fun with real pathos. Her voice is bright and clear and she throws off the role’s fiendish coloratura with insouciant ease. The whole cast — clearly enjoying themselves — is excellent. A delight to listen to.“ –Classic FM

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Gaetano Donizetti – La Favorita – Luciano Pavarotti, Ileana Cotrubas, Orch del Teatro Comunale di Bologna, Richard Bonynge (1974/2013) [HRA 24-96]

Gaetano Donizetti – La Favorita – Luciano Pavarotti, Ileana Cotrubas, Orch del Teatro Comunale di Bologna, Richard Bonynge (1974/2013)
FLAC (tracks) 24 bit/96 kHz | Time – 02:47:59 minutes |  2,82 GB | Genre: Classical, Opera
Studio Master, Official Digital Download  | Source: highresaudio.com | Artwork: Front cover , Booklet | © Decca
Recorded: Teatro Comunale, Bologna, August 1974

La favorite (‘The Favorite’, sometimes referred to by its Italian title: ‘La favorita’) is a grand opera in four acts by Gaetano Donizetti to a French-language libretto by Alphonse Royer and Gustave Vaëz, based on the play Le comte de Comminges by Baculard d’Arnaud. It premiered on 2 December 1840 at the Théâtre de l’Académie Royale de Musique in Paris, France.

Originally, Donizetti had been composing an opera by the name of Le Duc d’Albe as his second work for the Opera in Paris. However, the director, Léon Pillet, objected to an opera without a prominent role for his mistress, mezzo-soprano Rosine Stoltz. Donizetti therefore abandoned Le Duc d’Albe and borrowed heavily from L’ange de Nisida, an unrealized project from 1839, to create La favorite. It was revived in Padua under the title of Leonora di Guzman in 1842, and at La Scala as Elda in 1843. Though Donizetti himself was not involved in these productions, the opera is now more commonly given in Italian rather than French.

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Donald Fagen – Cheap Xmas: Donald Fagen Complete (2012) [Qobuz 24-96]

Donald Fagen – Cheap Xmas: Donald Fagen Complete (2012)
FLAC (tracks) 24 bit/96 kHz | Time – 03:54:50 minutes |  4,02 GB | Genre: Jazz Rock
Studio Master, Official Digital Download  | Source: Qobuz | Artwork: Front cover | © Reprise Records
Recorded: 1981-2012

Cheap Xmas: Donald Fagen Complete is a career-spanning compilation highlighting the undeniable musicianship of the GRAMMY® Award-winning voice behind Steely Dan. This five-album set features his critically acclaimed works: The Nightfly, Kamakiriad, Morph The Cat, Sunken Condos and a bonus album of rarities. This is the definitive Fagen collection.

Donald Fagen was one of the two masterminds behind Steely Dan, the seminal jazz-pop band of the ’70s. Fagen’s solo work has been a continuation of the band’s work of the early ’80s — carefully constructed and arranged, intricately detailed pop songs that are more substantial than their stylish surface may indicate. His 1982 solo debut, The Nightfly, was the best album he had made in years; it covered the same ground as the last two Steely Dan albums, yet surpassed them in terms of ambition and achievement.
After the success of The Nightfly, Fagen suffered a case of writer’s block; for the rest of the decade he contributed music to the occasional film and briefly wrote a column for Premiere magazine in the mid-’80s. In the early ’90s, he toured with the New York Rock and Soul Revue as he finished the material for his second album. With his former Steely Dan partner Walter Becker producing, 1993’s Kamakiriad sounded like Aja recorded with ’90s technology. It had some success on the adult contemporary charts, but it was overshadowed by the duo’s decision to re-form Steely Dan and tour for the first time in nearly 20 years; the tour was a massive success. One more album — 2003’s Everything Must Go — came out of the reunion before Fagen decided to begin work on his third solo album.
With death as its main theme, Morph the Cat appeared in March 2006. Soon after the album’s release, Fagen embarked on his first solo tour. It was the beginning of an extended period of live performances for Fagen. Steely Dan toured several of their classic albums in 2009, by which time Fagen had become a regular at Levon Helm’s Midnight Rambles in Woodstock, New York. In 2010, Fagen formed the touring blue-eyed soul revue the Dukes of September with Michael McDonald and Boz Scaggs. The group had a second tour in 2012, and after its conclusion, Fagen released the lively Sunken Condos, his first album since Morph the Cat. –Biography by Stephen Thomas Erlewine, AllMusic

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Diana Krall – Wallflower (2015) (Deluxe Edition) [HDTracks 24-48]

Diana Krall – Wallflower (2015) (Deluxe Edition)
FLAC (tracks) 24 bit/48 kHz | Time – 59:16  minutes |  663 MB | Genre: Jazz
Studio Master, Official Digital Download  | Source: HDTracks | Artwork: Front cover | © The Verve Music Group

Five-time GRAMMY® and eight-time JUNO® Award-winning jazz pianist and world-renowned singer Diana Krall releases her twelfth studio album Wallflower. Produced by 16-time GRAMMY® Award-winning producer David Foster, Wallflower finds Krall breaking new ground with her interpretations of some of the greatest pop songs of all time. The album features popular classics from the late ‘60s to present day which have inspired Krall since her early years, as well as an unreleased composition from Paul McCartney (If I Take You Home Tonight).

Diana Krall paid tribute to her father on Glad Rag Doll, the 2012 album sourced from his collection of 78-rpm records, and, in a sense, its 2015 successor Wallflower is a companion record of sorts, finding the singer revisiting songs from her childhood. Like many kids of the 20th century, she grew up listening to the radio, which meant she was weaned on the soft rock superhits of the ’70s — songs that earned sniffy condescension at the time but nevertheless have turned into modern standards due to their continual presence in pop culture (and arguably were treated that way at the time, seeing cover after cover by middlebrow pop singers). Krall does not limit herself to the songbook of Gilbert O’Sullivan, Jim Croce, the Carpenters, Elton John, and the Eagles, choosing to expand her definition of soft rock to include a previously unrecorded Paul McCartney song called “If I Take You Home Tonight” (a leftover from his standards album Kisses on the Bottom), Bob Dylan’s “Wallflower,” Chantal Kreviazuk’s “Feels Like Home,” and Neil Finn’s “Don’t Dream It’s Over,” a song from 1986 that has been covered frequently in the three decades since. “Don’t Dream It’s Over” slides into this collection easily, as it’s as malleable and timeless as “California Dreamin’,” “Superstar,” “Sorry Seems to Be the Hardest Word,” or “Operator (That’s Not the Way It Feels),” songs that are identified with specific artists but are often covered successfully. Krall’s renditions rank among those successes because she’s understated, never fussing with the melodies but allowing her arrangements to slink by in a deliberate blend of sparseness and sophistication. It’s an aesthetic that helps transform the Eagles’ “I Can’t Tell You Why” and 10cc’s “I’m Not in Love,” singles that are as successful as much for their production as their song, into elegant torch songs, yet it doesn’t do much for Kreviazuk’s pedestrian “Feels Like Home,” nor does it lend itself to the loping country of “Wallflower,” which may provide the name for this album but feels like an uninvited guest among these majestically melodic middle-of-the-road standards. These stumbles are slight and, tellingly, they put into context Krall’s achievement with Wallflower: by singing these songs as sweet and straight as the dusty old standards on Glad Rag Doll or the bossa nova on 2009’s Quiet Nights, she demonstrates how enduring these once-dismissed soft rock tunes really are. –Stephen Thomas Erlewine

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Claude Debussy – La Mer, Jeux – London Symphony Orchestra, Valery Gergiev (2011) [B&W 24-48]

Claude Debussy – La Mer, Jeux – London Symphony Orchestra, Valery Gergiev (2011)
FLAC (tracks) 24 bit/48 kHz | Time – 00:56:07 minutes |  518 MB | Genre: Classical
Studio Master, Official Digital Download  | Source: Bowers & Wilkins | Artwork: Front cover , Booklet | © LSO Live
Recorded: May 2010 at Barbican, London, United Kingdom

One of the twentieth century’s most innovative and influential composers, Debussy was a musical impressionist (a term he disliked). Prélude à l’après-midi d’un faune draws inspiration from a poem by Stéphane Mallarmé, whilst La mer, a set of symphonic sketches, vividly depicts the relationship between the waves and wind of the open sea. Jeux, one of Debussy’s final orchestral works, was written for Diaghilev and the Ballets Russes.

A ‘magic flute’ (courtesy of Gareth Davies) opens Faune and this Debussy collection, the playing from the LSO tender and suggestive, the harp rippling magically, the music made hypnotic in its fluctuations and even a touch surreal, Valery Gergiev avoiding stasis and keeping the music potent. Great! And beautifully recorded, too.
Ideally Jeux should follow (from one elusive masterpiece to another), but La mer (also music of genius but which would have been suitably invigorating to close the disc) comes next, mysterious enough in its opening measures but, at times, curiously failing to engage, as if the LSO was collectively on autopilot despite some precise, well-gauged and colourful playing. Maybe it’s the relative remoteness of the recording that distances some of the playing in a way that doesn’t happen in the Barbican Hall (and which, in quieter passages, any increases in amplifier volume cannot rectify; nevertheless fortissimos can be too overwhelming for this music, the microphones honing in for the ‘big’ moments). Gergiev is more engaged with the score’s dramatic pages; and, although he obtains unfailingly responsive playing, there is a peculiar lack of meaningful incident and involvement. Those ‘big’ moments (the end of the first movement, when midday is reached, for example) develop greater thrall, if too much aural brightness, and at this particular point more of the gong would have been welcome. The nimbleness required for ‘Play of the Waves’ is there in spades, flecks of lights on the water and the interaction of currents vividly conveyed, yet it is not until we are in choppier waters that the performance, once again, develops requisite tension. The finale, ‘Dialogue of the Wind and the Sea’, responds best to the full-on approach, a dominance of cymbal colour aside, and there is much that is excitingly bracing here, even if one can sense it was probably too loud in the hall. Gergiev omits the brass fanfares (here ‘missing’ between 6’49” and 7’01”), which is fair enough given their ad lib status, if regrettable. Others will welcome this textural exclusion; one of those debating points that will never be resolved. For La mer, such as Ansermet (Decca, four recordings), Désormière (Supraphon/Czech Philharmonic), Fournet (also Supraphon/Czech Phil) and Leonard Slatkin (Telarc) continue to take the honours.
Jeux returns us to the enchanted world of ‘Faune’. The detailing here is vivid and lucid (albeit trumpets are rather edgy in fortissimos and too dominating at times). Yet with well-judged tempos and with an expressive freedom, this is quite a moreish performance: the music rustles, fluctuates and animates—the use of antiphonal violins opens things up—and enjoys expectant expression, all captured vibrantly by a recording that returns us to the tangibility with which ‘Faune’ was captured. It’s not always the subtlest account, overly brilliant and too public at times, when really it should be mysterious and confidential throughout its course; yet it is alluring and this performance exerts a strange fascination and has already notched up several listens—with a different listener reaction each time, mostly positive. Given the ballet’s storyline is a game of tennis, one is inclined to think that it is match point between Debussy and Gergiev, but the conductor is serving, possibly with an ace. –Colin Anderson, ClassicalSource.com

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Curtis Harding – Soul Power (2014) [Qobuz 24-88.2]

Curtis Harding – Soul Power (2014)
FLAC (tracks) 24 bit/88.2 kHz | Time – 40:30 minutes |  806 MB | Genre: Soul , R&B
Studio Master, Official Digital Download  | Source: Qobuz | Artwork: Front cover | © Anti, Inc.

Soul isn’t a feeling, a sound or a movement. It’s a connection, a current in the air — the spark of recognition, emotions leaping across live wires. It’s the way a sinewy bassline steers your hips and eyes to the stranger across the club. It’s how a handful of humble words can give millions the inspiration to overcome. It’s the genius of a simple chorus that can explain the hard truths you couldn’t last time you saw her.
Curtis Harding says that soul music, and his music, speak for themselves. It’s self-evident on the Atlanta artist’s debut, Soul Power. The driving sound of his electrified Stratocaster, the foot-stomping backbeat and the lyrics swimming in reverb — with something this flourishing, it’s almost reductive to just dig around the roots.
Harding’s style was born in Michigan and bred on the road, a restless childhood spent singing gospel alongside an evangelizing mother, then cultivated in Atlanta, where he sang backup for CeeLo Green and befriended the Black Lips (he plays with Cole Alexander in Night Sun).
But, as befits a restless traveler, his music calls one place home, but fits in anywhere. The heartbreaking optimism of “Next Time,” a wry breakup tale mapping out a road the protagonists may never meet upon, the bottom-scraping blues of “Castaway,” or the wistful affection of “Keep on Shining” could easily be Harding’s story, or yours. They’re scenes you didn’t perform in, but know all the lines.
There’s a foundation to the stirring soul Harding has created. “Gospel is inspiring,” says Harding. “From hardship and trials, you make something beautiful. It’s the history of black people in America, what happened to us during slavery, it’s the foundation of blues, R&B, soul, country, rock.” But he’s not just preaching to the choir — Harding’s out there on the road, singing alongside everyone else looking for something real.

At a time when indie-leaning music fans have discovered retro-soul and make records that capture all the sounds and practically none of the feeling of vintage R&B, Curtis Harding is a breath of fresh air: an artist with a real gift for classic soul music stylings but little obvious interest in nostalgia. Harding’s solo debut, Soul Power, shows the man is one of the best new R&B singers extant, but even though the sound of these tunes certainly harkens back to vintage soul (mostly of the southern variety), Harding doesn’t suggest he’s slavishly trying to replicate the past. Instead, this music fuses the sounds of the ’60s and early ’70s while injecting them with an edgy energy that’s solidly contemporary. Harding’s phrasing is warm, flexible, and expressive without sinking into the frantic melisma that passes for R&B vocalizing in the 21st century, and on these songs, he sings with the band, not over them; his interplay with the musicians is smart and full of fire, and whether the music suggests the Rolling Stones (“Surf”) or the Spinners (“Keep on Shining”), he sounds well-focused and respectful of his accompanists, who perform with a lean, determined authority on these sessions. Soul may be Harding’s strong suit, but he’s not afraid to rock out on “The Drive” and “I Don’t Wanna Go Home” (guitars do dominate these arrangements), and the engineering and production gives these tracks a natural, spacious sound that flatters Harding and the band equally. Having worked with OutKast and Cee Lo Green, Curtis Harding knows something about soul music in the present as well as the past tense, and Soul Power is music that honors the rich traditions of classic R&B while keeping its head and heart in the here and now; some folks say you can’t have it both ways, but Curtis Harding is here to show that’s a lie. –Mark Deming

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Clark Terry – Clark After Dark: The Ballad Artistry Of Clark Terry (1978/2015) [ProStudioMasters 24-88.2]

Clark Terry – Clark After Dark: The Ballad Artistry Of Clark Terry (1978/2015)
FLAC (tracks) 24 bit/88.2 kHz | Time – 52:02 minutes |  937 MB | Genre: Jazz
Studio Master, Official Digital Download  | Source: ProStudioMasters | Artwork: Front cover | © MPS Records
Recorded at the Olympic Sound Studios, London, Sept. 9,10,11,12 1977.

Clark After Dark was recorded in London in September, 1977 and, as the title suggests, features Terry playing flugelhorn over orchestral arrangements of mostly familiar ballads. The program includes ‘Misty,’ ‘Nature Boy,’ ‘Georgia On My Mind,’ ‘November Song,’ ‘Clark After Dark,’ ‘Willow Weep For Me,’ ‘Yesterdays,’ ‘Emily,’ ‘Angel Eyes’ and ‘Girl Talk.’ Besides Terry, the only other musician identified individually is conductor Nat Peck, who’s also credited with playing piano, despite being best known as a trombonist.

Clark Terry’s 1977 studio date with an orchestra conducted by Peter Herbolzheimer might very well fall into the easy listening category were it not for his brilliant improvisations on fluegelhorn, which he plays throughout the session. Most of the material consists of classic songs that Terry was undoubtedly very familiar with by the time of this 1977 recording, including “Misty,” “Willow Weep for Me,” “Angel Eyes,” and “Yesterdays,” with the arrangements all having pretty much a low-key, late-night feeling, hence the album title. Producer Mike Hennessey co-wrote “November Song” with Willi Fruth, a ballad with swirling strings; and Herbolzheimer contributed “Clark After Dark,” a tasty blues that is a good deal looser than most of the rest of the album, which also features great solos by pianist Gordon Beck and trombonist Dave Horler, as well as some great muted horn from Terry. The loping “Girl Talk” showcases tenor saxophonist Tony Coe and guitarist Martin Kershaw briefly. While this isn’t one of Clark Terry’s most essential LPs, his flawless playing make it a worthwhile investment — if you can only find it. –Ken Dryden

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Clare Hammond – Etude (2015) [eClassical 24-96]

Clare Hammond – Etude (2015)
FLAC (tracks) 24 bit/96 kHz | Time – 01:07:22 minutes |  0,99 GB | Genre: Classical
Studio Master, Official Digital Download  | Source: eclassical.com | Artwork: Front cover , Booklet | © BIS Records AB
Recorded: September 2013 at Potton Hall, Suffolk, England

As Clare Hammond writes in the liner notes to her thought-provoking selection of piano études, the genre, at its best, ‘combines the visceral excitement of technical display with expressive, coloristic and compositional ingenuity’. Opening with three studies from Sergei Lyapunov’s 12 Études d’exécution transcendante, composed around the turn of the last century, the programme demonstrates the tremendous developments that have taken place in writing for the piano over the past 120 years. Lyapunov modelled his ample études directly on Liszt’s set with the same title, and they epitomise the drama and passion of late Romanticism, fused with a distinctly Russian colour. In comparison, Szymanowski’s set of 12 Studies, written in 1916, are miniatures whose mercurial timbres and fleet textures suggest an affinity with Debussy’s études, composed one year earlier. ‘Twelve small piano pieces forming one whole, interesting technically, difficult’ is how Szymanowski described the set to his publisher. Born in the same year that Szymanowski died, Nikolai Kapustin initially set out to become a classical pianist, but at the age of 16 began to study jazz. In his early twenties he decided to focus on composition, and the Five Études in Different Intervals are characteristic of his output in that they fuse formal classical structures with jazz idioms. Of the four composers represented on this disc, Unsuk Chin is the only one who never trained as a pianist. Her six Études, the most recent set on this disc, are natural successors to those by Ligeti with whom Chin studied and reflect her fascination with virtuosity and the playful side of music-making.

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Frederic Chopin – Piano Concerto No.2 – Nelson Freire (2014) [PrestoClassical 24-96]

Frederic Chopin – Piano Concerto No.2 – Nelson Freire (2014)
FLAC (tracks) 24 bit/96 kHz | Time – 1:05:36 minutes |  1,12 GB | Genre: Classical
Studio Master, Official Digital Download  | Source: prestoclassical.co.uk | Artwork: Front cover , Booklet | © Decca
Recorded: Philharmonie, Cologne, 3–5 March 2013 (Concerto); Friedrich-Ebert-Halle, Hamburg/Harburg, 19 & 20 December 2013 (Solo works)

In the third of three new landmark albums on the Decca label, Nelson Freire marks his 70th birthday year with a stunning recording of Chopin’s lyrical and brilliant Piano Concerto No. 2
The recording was made in Cologne with the Gürzenich-Orchester Köln and Lionel Bringuier, one of the most talked-about of the younger generation of conductors and features some favourite Chopin solo works – the Ballade No. 4 in F minor, Op. 52, the Berceuse in D flat major, Op. 57, the Polonaise in A flat major, Op. 53, Three Mazurkas, Op. 50, plus the Impromptu in G flat major Op. 51
This is Freire’s fourth Chopin recording for Decca, which includes his celebrated set of the complete Nocturnes, of which the Guardian wrote: “[Freire] respects the poise and elegance of the melodic lines, floating them exquisitely while teasing out the harmonies beneath with fastidious care; this is Chopin playing of high quality, from one of the finest pianists alive today.”

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