Katia & Marielle Labeque – Minimalist Dream House (2013) [Qobuz 24-96]

Katia & Marielle Labèque – Minimalist Dream House (2013)
FLAC (tracks) 24 bit/96 kHz | Time – 205:15 minutes | 3,95 GB
Official Digital Download – Source: Qobuz.com | Digital booklet
Genre: Classical

From American pioneers La Monte Young, Terry Riley, and Philip Glass all the way to Brian Eno, Sonic Youth, and Aphex Twin, the world’s reigning piano duo, along with guest artists, will present a bird’s eye survey of Minimalism from a keyboard perspective in three 40-minute sets. Come and go as you will. Just don’t miss it.

To be musically avant-garde in the 1950s meant to be difficult. Not by the end of the 1960s. That decade saw a group of American beatniks overthrow the musical givens of postwar Europe. In a series of disobediently straightforward compositions La Monte Young, Terry Jennings, Terry Riley, Steve Reich and Philip Glass declared that music could be clear, honest, pretty and experimental. Turning their backs on the conventional centres of musical power, the earliest minimalist works got their first public audience in La Monte Young’s 1960-61 Chamber Street Series in Yoko Ono’s New York loft. Through the 1960s in art galleries and alternative spaces, the minimalists slowly demystified, democratised and Americanised European modernism. They rejected the angst (what Philip Glass would call “crazy creepy music”). They rejected the invisible games. They rejected the theatricality. “I don’t know any secrets of structure that you can’t hear,” wrote Steve Reich in his 1968 minimalist manifesto, Music as a Gradual Process. Minimalism claimed that there was enough interest in the sounding process itself and enough new territory to be explored in rhythmic patterning to sustain a work. If one removed the Baroque complications – the harmonic story-telling and thematic cleverness – that were obscuring the natural beauties of rhythm and sound, what would be revealed and discovered could provide classical music with a new lease of life. They were right. Minimalism was the last great musical revolution of the 20th century. And it became the most influential and successful ism of them all.

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Kasabian – 48.13 (2014) [Qobuz 24-44,1]

Kasabian – 48:13 (2014)
FLAC (tracks) 24 bit/44,1 kHz | Time – 48:13 minutes | 593 MB
Official Digital Download – Source: Qobuzzzz | Front cover
Genre: Alternative Rock

Kasabian took the British press by storm in the early 2000s by mixing traces of the Stone Roses, Happy Mondays, and Primal Scream with Oasis-sized confidence and DJ Shadow-influenced electronics. This is fifth studio album by the English rock band. Featuring the lead single ‘Eez-eh’ the album, named after its total running time, debuted at #1 in the UK Albums Chart.

While Kasabian kick against the pricks, their audience dances. The band raises a fist, the fans shake a tail feather, but even if they’re a Happy Mondays without a current cultural need for a Happy Mondays, the grooving and groovy 48:13 is a great reason to pretend. Named after its total runtime, the album is a lean, mean machine of singalong revolution songs and baggy jeans dance music from folks old enough to be wearing fitted by now, but the hunger to survive and flourish is as palpable as it was on their debut. Maybe it’s the loss of fifth member and rhythm guitarist Jay Mehler, but whatever the reason, Kasabian continue to challenge themselves and toss off the big beat sound of 2011′s Velociraptor! with returning producer Sergio Pizzorno keeping things tight and upfront. As such, the uptempo strut of “Doomsday” makes a short journey out the speakers, grabs the listener’s hand, and heads for the rock-rave dancefloor, while the bass-dropping “Eez-eh” is well aware of EDM’s big bottom, even if the sequencer and the spirit all point backwards toward acid house. In 2014, that’s rebel music for mums, but if the song’s “Everyday Is brutal, now we’re all being watched by Google” isn’t a middle-class revolt, it’s at least middle-class awareness and the out-of-time, out-of-place, full-of-spirit Kasabian play to their strengths, as always.

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Handel & Porpora – Julie Boulianne (2014) [Analekta 24-88.2]

Handel & Porpora – Julie Boulianne (2014) [Official Digital Download - 24bit/88.2kHz]
FLAC (tracks) 24 bit/88.2 kHz | 1 CD | Digital Booklet | 946 MB
Genre: Classical | Official Digital Download – Source: Analekta

Mezzo-soprano Julie Boulianne along with Clavecin en concert and its artistic director Luc Beauséjour present an exceptionally colourful chapter in the history of music on their new recording for the Analekta label. The 9 arias that make up this album are taken from operas that were presented between 1735 and 1738, at a time when two of London’s opera houses were waging a heated battle.

London, 1734: the political atmosphere between Robert Walpole’s (Whig Party) supporters and opponents was explosive. There was a special kind of war on the horizon. The battle field: the Opera. A certain composer who had moved from Germany a few years earlier was seeing his popularity rise to new heights. His name: Georg Friedrich Handel. But this rise was not to be without hurdles. Nicolo Porpora, the rising star of Europe’s musical atmosphere, and whose magnificent reputation spoke for itself, was called upon. Both sides confronted one another and upped the ante: on one side, the Royal Academy of Music, with Handel, favourite of the royal power; on the other side, the Opera of Nobility, established by a group of nobles who wanted to counter Handel’s dominance. At the end of this long struggle, which will have incurred substantial financial losses on both sides, Handel and Porpora will nonetheless have left a few masterworks for generations to come.

From Handel, here are some arias from Serse, one of the most played operas to this day, with its most famous aria “Ombra mai fu”. Are also on the program, an aria from the opera Alcina, a true masterpiece, and another from Ariodante, one of the famed composer’s most inventive works. From Porpora, two of the album’s pieces feature the natural flow of the opera Polifemo; an opera composed for the “star” of that era, castrato Carlo Broschi, known as Farinelli.

Composer: Nicolo Porpora, George Frideric Handel
Performer: Julie Boulianne
Conductor: Luc Beauséjour
Orchestra/Ensemble: Clavecin en Concert

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Judas Priest – Redeemer of Souls {Deluxe Edition} (2014) [HDTracks 24-44,1]

Judas Priest – Redeemer of Souls (2014) [Deluxe Edition]
FLAC (tracks) 24 bit/44,1 kHz | Time – 83:46 minutes | 1,03 GB
Official Digital Download – Source: HDTracks.com | Front cover
Genre: Hard Rock, Metal

To be released in the US on July 15th, 2014 via Epic Records (as a standard version and a deluxe edition with five bonus tracks), ‘Redeemer of Souls’ is Judas Priest’s latest collection of epic metal – “raising the bar is consistent for us and ‘Redeemer’ hits the ground running” – it matches up perfectly to earlier Priest classics as evidenced by the album’s leadoff single ‘March of the Damned’ – the band mean business once again.

“Welcome to my world of steel” sneers Rob Halford on the punchy, surprisingly spartan “Dragonaut,” the opening salvo of the venerable New Wave of British Heavy Metal legends’ 17th studio long-player, and their first outing without founding guitarist K.K. Downing, who left the group in 2011. The antithesis to 2008′s overblown Nostradamus, Redeemer of Souls feels quaint in comparison, eschewing the largely fantasy-driven conceptual style of the ambitious, yet undeniably cumbersome, two-disc set in favor of a more refined, classic rock approach that edges closer to the group’s late-’70s offerings like Sin After Sin and Stained Class. New guitarist Richie Faulkner, with his golden mane and tight, controlled riffing, suggests a wax Downing just sprung to life and simply walked out of Madam Tussaud’s museum and into the band’s rehearsal space, and his tasteful, yet undeniably meaty playing alongside Glenn Tipton goes a long way in helping to restore some of the classic Judas Priest luster, especially on standout cuts like the aforementioned “Dragonaut,” the nervy and propulsive “Metalizer,” and the rousing title track. Still, this is a band that’s well into its fifth decade of being “Hell Bent for Leather”; they’ve explored, both successfully and occasionally at great cost, nearly every shadowy nook and suspicious looking crevice of the genre, and the album’s stalwart yet shopworn 13 tracks reflect that journey. That said, Redeemer of Souls is also the loosest (attitude-wise), leanest (arrangement-wise), and most confident-sounding collection of new material the band has released in ages, and while it will forever tread beneath high-water marks like British Steel and Sad Wings of Destiny, it most certainly deserves to be ranked alongside albums from that era.

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Jonas Kaufmann, Donald Runnicles , Berlin Deutsche Oper Orchestra – Wagner (2013) [HRA 24-96]

Jonas Kaufmann, Donald Runnicles , Berlin Deutsche Oper Orchestra – Wagner (2013)
FLAC (tracks) 24 bit/96 kHz | Digital Booklet | 1.35 GB
Genre: Classical | Official Digital Download – Source: Highresaudio

Kaufmann’s fifth solo album on Decca is specially recorded for the Wagner anniversary year by the world’s leading Wagner tenor. Kaufmann and Wagner is a classic combination: “For any Wagnerians who’ve been slumbering, Fafner-like, in their caves during the last few years, here’s your wake-up call: Jonas Kaufmann is the tenor we’ve been waiting for” (Washington Post).

A selection of the great Heldentenor scenes and arias coupled with the complete (and rarely recorded by the tenor voice) Wesendonck Lieder. Also includes scenes from Die Walküre, Siegfried , Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg, Tannhäuser and Lohengrin (extended Grail Scene – Gralserzählung – with its original second verse).

Joined by one of the most formidable combinations in the opera world today – the chorus and orchestra of the Deutsche Oper, Berlin, under director Donald Runnicles – this recording is also a sonic spectacular, made in Decca’s time-honoured tradition.

Composer: Richard Wagner
Performer: Jonas Kaufmann
Conductor: Donald Runnicles
Orchestra/Ensemble: Berlin Deutsche Oper Orchestra

Reviews: This should clinch it: Jonas Kaufmann is the pre-eminent Wagner tenor of this generation. (Slated to sing Manrico soon, and judging from his Werther, he may just be the pre-eminent tenor, period.) For those who haven’t heard him, the voice is dark and manly, with easy ascents above the staff at all dynamic ranges (including some crooning that can become more like a mannerism than a service to the music), a top that rings loud and clear, phrasing that confirms great musicianship, a smooth legato, and flawless diction. When he sings softly for a period you are stunned by the power he can muster, and vice-versa. And the sound itself is beautiful—fully rounded, lustrous.

Rienzi’s prayer is inward, pious, and sung with seamless bel canto line; conversely, Tannhäuser’s Rome Narrative is tortured, enraged, and jagged, missing just a smidge of the insane coloring that, say, Wolfgang Windgassen gives to the Pope’s cruel edict. His Grail Narration from Lohengrin, sung complete with second verse, begins softly, seemingly in mid-air, and builds to a passionate climax. Siegmund’s first-act monologue, “Ein Schwert verhiess mir der Vater”, is delivered with ardor, dark, secure tone, and staggering breath control on the huge outcries of “Wälse”, probably not matched by any tenor since Melchior and Vickers. And his Siegfried is full of wonder in the Forest Murmurs, sung sweetly and with what can pass for true naiveté. “Am stillen Herd” from Die Meistersinger makes us want to hear the Prize Song.

The surprise entries here are the Wesendonck Lieder, invariably sung by mezzo-soprano or soprano. Kaufmann and the marvelous Donald Runnicles, who leads sympathetically and very much in keeping with his tenor’s strengths and feelings throughout the recital, do not linger morbidly or unnecessarily over each song; nor are they rushed. Runnicles allows the freshness of Kaufmann’s soft singing to take center stage (listen to “Traume”—it’s gorgeously dreamy) and he makes certain that the transparency in Wagner’s orchestration is at the fore. The understanding that they both—and Kaufmann in particular—bring to these songs never seems out of place; the fact that it is a man’s voice never jars. The sound on this recording and the playing of the Orchester der Deutschen Oper Berlin are peerless. As the joke goes, I wish I could jack up the scorecard and give this CD an “11-11”.

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John Storgårds, Lapland Chamber Orchestra – Vagn Holmboe: Chamber Symphonies (2012) [Dacapo 24-192]

John Storgårds, Lapland Chamber Orchestra – Vagn Holmboe: Chamber Symphonies (2012)
FLAC (tracks) 24 bit/192 kHz | Time – 69:03 minutes | 2,55 GB
Official Digital Download – Source: Dacapo Records DK | Digital Booklet
Genre: Classical

Vagn Holmboe’s three chamber symphonies span the period when the Danish com poser immersed himself in symphonic works; they are a fine demonstration of his preoccupation with the processes of nature and the idea of musical metamorphosis. Lapland Chamber Orchestra and its conductor John Storgårds focus on Vagn Holmboe’s clear musical expression in three major works that have never previously been recorded.

Written throughout the period that Danish composer Vagn Holmboe (1909-1996) was also writing symphonies for full orchestra, these are expressively and technically the equal of their larger siblings. In fact, they are marvelously concentrated snapshots of his developing compositional style using continuous metamorphosis of thematic material. Based on models found in nature-”from egg to larva to cocoon to insect” was his common example – he built his works through constant evolution of themes: the end point a logical extension of the start, if often of markedly different character. The fascination is in observing the process, like watching a plant grow, bloom, and then wither in a time-lapse video. It is a subtle and powerful tool for the expression of Holmboe’s intensely felt, but often exquisitely restrained, musical ideas. Primarily modal in tonality and conservative in language, if not in form, these are works that could be from no other century but the last, and yet they exhibit none of the formalism, extremes in harmonic language, or cool objectivism that turn some away from contemporary music.

Each of the three symphonies is also a personal testament to his spiritual state at the time. Chamber Symphony No. 1 reflects his debt to Carl Nielsen, both personal and musical, notably in the elegiac Adagio and the timpanipunctuated finale. One hears as well the influence of his studies of Balkan music, and his lifelong admiration for Bartók. The symphony was written in 1951, not long after he began teaching at the Royal Danish Conservatory. It is the most classical of the three in structure, though in its cyclic development of the opening motif it already shows the beginnings of Holmboe’s organic development method.

The melancholy of the Chamber Symphony No. 2, “Elegy” (1968) makes clear, for this usually reticent composer, that there had been a crisis in life and spirit. The public rejection of his aesthetics by former students – Per Norgård and Ib Nørholm in particular-and his subsequent resignation from the conservatory and retirement to his home in remote Zealand are reflected in the agonized writing. The intervening years had been spent perfecting metamorphic development, and here he revels in its expressive complexity while seemingly questioning it in the work’s many uncharacteristic modernisms. Holmboe finds no resolution in the Second.

The Chamber Symphony No. 3, “Frieze” was written between 1969 and 1970. The intense emotion is once again internalized. The traditional language now integrates some of the innovations he previously struggled against. Metamorphosis is used, but not as a unifying force, and the work signals a new peace. It was created in collaboration with friend and sculptor Arne L. Hansen; Holmboe’s six movements reflect the six panels in Hansen’s frieze, and each panel bears the name of one of the intensely concentrated symphonic movements. The composer would continue to write for more than 20 years, and produce masterpieces, but only a few works so thoroughly distill the essence of his mature voice as this haunting piece.

Unbelievably, these are first recordings of these important works. Filling this gap in Holmboe’s discography is an important milestone in the ongoing noble effort of Dacapo and BIS to make Holmboe’s work known outside of home turf. The composer is considered by many of his compatriots as the rightful successor to Carl Nielsen. I maintain, as do many others that know his music, that he is one of the great musical voices of the 20th century. I suppose he really needs someone to champion his work on the world stage: a Bernstein to his Mahler. For now, he has impressive advocates in Finnish conductor John Storgårds and the Lapland Chamber Orchestra; they deserve special thanks for bringing these three remarkable chamber symphonies to the catalog in performances of such insight and technical perfection.

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John Lennon – Imagine (1971/2014) [Blu-Ray Audio Rip 24bit/96kHz]

John Lennon – Imagine (1971/2014)
FLAC (image+cue ) 24 bit/96 kHz | Time – 39:45 minutes | 857 MB
Blu-Ray Audio Rip | © Apple Records, Universal Music ‎


01 Imagine
02 Crippled Inside
03 Jealous Guy
04 It’s So Hard
05 I Don’t Wanna Be A Soldier Mama I Don’t Want To Die
06 Gimme Some Truth
07 Oh My Love
08 How Do You Sleep?
09 How?
10 Oh Yoko!

John Lennon — vocals, acoustic and electric guitars, piano; whistling on “Jealous Guy”; harmonica on “Oh Yoko”
George Harrison — electric and slide guitar on “I Don’t Wanna Be a Soldier,” “Gimme Some Truth,” “Oh My Love,” and “How Do You Sleep?”; dobro on “Crippled Inside”
Nicky Hopkins — piano; electric piano on “How Do You Sleep?”
Klaus Voormann — bass, upright bass
Alan White — drums on “Imagine,” “Gimme Some Truth,” “Oh My Love,” “How Do You Sleep?,” “How?,” and “Oh Yoko!”; Tibetan cymbals on “Oh My Love”; vibraphone on “Jealous Guy”
Jim Keltner — drums on “Crippled Inside,” “Jealous Guy,” and “I Don’t Wanna Be a Soldier”
Jim Gordon — drums on “It’s So Hard”
King Curtis — saxophone on “It’s So Hard” and “I Don’t Wanna Be a Soldier”
John Barham — harmonium on “Jealous Guy”; vibraphone on “How?”
John Tout, Ted Turner, Rod Linton — acoustic guitars on “Crippled Inside”
Joey Molland, Tom Evans — acoustic guitars on “I Don’t Wanna Be a Soldier”
Rod Linton, Andy Davis — acoustic guitars on “Gimme Some Truth” and “Oh Yoko!”
The Flux Fiddlers — orchestral strings
Phil Spector — backing vocals on “Oh Yoko!”
Michael Pinder — tambourine on “I Don’t Wanna Be a Soldier”
Steve Brendell — upright bass on “Crippled Inside”; maracas on “I Don’t Wanna Be a Soldier”

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Riccardo Chailly, Gewandhausorchester (Leipzig) – Johannes Brahms: The Symphonies (2013) [LINN 24-96]

Gewandhausorchester, Riccardo Chailly – Brahms: The Symphonies (2013)
FLAC (tracks) 24bit/96 kHz | Time – 233:58 minutes | 4,41 GB
Official Digital Download – Source: LinnRecords.com | Covers & Digital Booklet
Genre: Classical

This comprehensive overview of Brahms’s orchestral works includes several rarities, among them world premieres of two piano intermezzi orchestrated by Paul Klengel (brother of the Gewandhaus’s long-standing principal cellist Julius Klengel) and the original first performance version of the Andante of Symphony No. 1 and the even rarer revised opening of the Fourth Symphony.

For most listeners’ purposes, Riccardo Chailly’s set of Johannes Brahms’ four symphonies will seem standard-issue, with respectable and uncontroversial interpretations from an esteemed conductor, and rich and resonant performances by the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra. Even in the choice of filler pieces, the set includes the three orchestral works that are usually packaged with the symphonies: the Tragic Overture, the Haydn Variations, and the Academic Festival Overture. However, this set offers welcome suprises and extra value for the purchase. Two orchestral arrangements of the Interludes, Opp. 116 and 117 for piano, are included, along with instrumental versions of a handful of Liebeslieder Waltzes and three of the orchestrated Hungarian Dances, which may be incentives to listeners who are looking for a little more. Also included are Brahms’ original version of the Andante of the First Symphony and the alternate opening of the Fourth. But no one should invest in a set solely on the basis of these extras, however unusual they may be. Since first recording the cycle with the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, where he offered a rather heavy-handed modern take on the symphonies, Chailly has gone back to an older, more historically informed style of playing Brahms that was familiar to conductors of the early 20th century. The music is lighter and more transparent, so in some ways, his recordings are sometimes reminiscent of classic performances by Bruno Walter, George Szell, and other revered conductors. For traditionalists, this is a fine set to own, especially if a fresh digital recording is needed.

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Joe Farrell – Outback (1971/2013) [eOnkyo 24-192]

Joe Farrell – Outback (1971/2013)
FLAC (tracks) 24 bit/192 kHz | Time – 33:40 minutes | 1,34 GB
Official Digital Download – Source: eOnkyo.com | Front cover
Genre: Jazz

Outback is the second and finest of Joe Farrell’s dates for Creed Taylor’s CTI label. Recorded in a quartet setting in 1970, with Elvin Jones, Chick Corea, and Brazilian percussionist Airto Moreira, Farrell pushes the envelope not only of his own previous jazz conceptualism, but CTI’s envelope, as well. Outback is not a commercially oriented funk or fusion date, but an adventurous, spacy, tightrope-walking exercise between open-ended composition and improvisation. That said, there is plenty of soul in the playing. Four compositions, all arranged by Farrell, make up the album. The mysterious title track by John Scott opens the set. Staged in a series of minor-key signatures, Farrell primarily uses winds — flutes and piccolos — to weave a spellbinding series of ascending melodies over the extended, contrasting chord voicings by Corea. Jones skitters on his cymbals while playing the snare and tom-toms far more softly than his signature style usually attests. Airto rubs and shimmers on hand drums, going through the beat, climbing on top of it, and playing accents in tandem with Farrell in the solo sections. “Sound Down” is a bit more uptempo and features Farrell playing wonderfully on the soprano. Buster Williams lays down a short staccato bassline that keeps Jones’ bass drum pumping. As Farrell moves from theme/variation/melody to improvisation, he brings in Corea, who vamps off the melody before offering a series of ostinati responses. Corea’s “Bleeding Orchid” is a ballad played with augmented modes and continually shifting intervals, mapped beautifully by Williams’ adherence to the changes, with a series of contrasting pizzicato fills. Farrell’s trills and arpeggiatic exercises combine both jazz classicism and Middle Eastern folk music. On Farrell’s “November 68th,” he invokes John Coltrane’s version of “My Favorite Things” as he digs deep into the tenor’s middle register for a song-like voicing, played with a gorgeously bluesy sophistication. The other players rally around him and push his sonic flight to near manic intensity. Outback is a stunner, as inspired as anything — and perhaps more so — that Farrell ever recorded.

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Janina Fialkowska – Chopin Recital 2 (2012) [LINN 24-96]

Janina Fialkowska – Chopin Recital 2 (2012)
FLAC (tracks) 24bit/96 kHz | Time – 76:01 minutes | 1,16 GB
Official Digital Download – Source: LinnRecords.com | Front Cover
Genre: Classical

Very few composers exist whose piano music can fill an entire evening without straining the attention or good will of an audience of non-professional musicians. But all-Chopin recitals have been popular throughout the 20th and now the 21st centuries. For this reason Janina Fialkowska offers, without qualms, her second all-Chopin recital album.

Loved and admired by virtually all of his contemporaries, Chopin cast a magical spell on his generation as well as on all future generations of musicians. His music remains as fresh, as enchanting and as powerful as the day it was first penned. Janina Fialkowska has chosen a very personal program of Chopin’s most delightful piano music including Waltz, Preludes, Ballade and Mazurkas.

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