Hearing old favourites, now, on my Aurum Acoustics system is a very special experience. The excellence of the sound couples directly with the matter of artistic worth. I’m not saying the New Philharmonia was in my listening room, but, you get the idea. Neither had I realized how well recorded are both performances. The Mahler was recorded in Watford Town Hall in 1969. It’s simply stunning in its detail and transparency. Barbirolli had the music of Mahler as his lifelong companion. The playing of the orchestra is great and the lead hornist (Alan Civil?) reigns supreme. The Heifetz Brahms comes from 1955, the early years of Lewis Layton’s tenure as recording wizard for RCA. Most were made in Chicago but he traveled to Boston to tape the Symphony Orchestra there under Charles Munch. I am fortunate enough to have several of these recordings in the JVC XRCD reissues, though not the Brahms which is a straight mid-priced reissue. I wasn’t expecting much, but my, oh my! Unbelievable in every way. Heifetz. Unbelievable. There are several great recordings of both works these two stand with them.
To some newer discs. I haven’t yet bonded with the new Martha Wainwright CD, i know you’re married but I’ve got feelings too, from Maple Music Recordings (MRCD 6484). All the songs are by her except for Love is a Stranger, which is by Annie Lennox and Dave Stewart. They are personal and provocative and delivered superbly by Wainwright, who has a distinctive voice and the talent to make a compelling impact with her singing. That alone makes the CD worthwhile. She is aided and abetted by a stellar group of musicians, many playing acoustic instruments, who rotate in and out depending on the recording location. The recording itself is excellent, very faithful. I’m beginning to bond.
Since he played with Chico Hamilton in the mid fifties I have been interested in the flutist and multi-reed player Charles Lloyd, in part because I so love his best known composition Forest Flower: Sunrise-Sunset. He was one of the first jazz musicians to play with rock musicians and, as a result, developed a much larger fan base than if he had not. As with so many artists mid career is a struggle. Luckily for Lloyd he attracted the attention of ECM’s Manfred Eicher and in the glowing later years of his career has released a half dozen splendid recordings, and they keep coming. The latest, is Rabo de Nube (ECM 2053 B0010663-02). Everything about these releases bears the ECM stamp, including outstanding sound recording.
The Lloyd of these later years is what I would describe as a world-jazz musician. He is very much oriented to the life of the spirit, and some of the experiences of hippie California of the early 60s have stayed with him to blend with his respect for the culture of the middle east and the sub continent. He plays flute, alto flute, alto and tenor saxophone and tarogato, a wooden soprano saxophone with Arab-Magyar origins. Lloyd loves it. With his inclusive approach to making music I believe he loves everything he does. Rabo de Nube is a recording of a concert given by his quartet at Theater Basel in April, 2007. It is straight ahead and to a high standard. But, before I bought it I would want to have Voice in the Night (ECM 1674 78118-21674-2) which includes an update on Forest Flower and a thrilling Pocket Full of Blues, and the amazing Sangam (ECM 1976 B0006160-02) with Zakir Hussain, tabla, and Eric Harland, percussion. It is very special, almost exhausting in its intensity and with demonstration quality recording.
A word about the sound. The Kraft-Silver team do most of their recordings in St. John Chrysostom Church in Newmarket, Ontario. Once again it proves to be a perfect venue. The guitarist is set back on “a stage” and is surrounded by sound, that is the sound reflected by the church walls, which combines with a fairly long decay. I was afraid at first the there was too much “after sound” but I quickly realized Kraft had judged it just right so that even the quickest passages are clearly heard. The total effect with tones and after-tones is a joy to listen to.
Am I leaving the best to last? You must decide but, I have a box from Chandos (Chandos 10392(6) that is a treasure: the Tchaikovsky Symphonies played by the Oslo Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Mariss Jansons. They were recorded between early 1984 and late 1986 when Jansons was the Oslo music director. I vividly remember hearing some of them on their release and reading the rave reviews. I longed to buy them but there was one sticking point - price. They were issued on single discs at what was essentially a premium price, certainly more than the classical releases from the major labels (when they used to be in the classical music business). I said no, and reasoned they would have to come out as a more favourably priced boxed set. It didn’t happen.
I gave up hope. I even bought the Pletnyev set on DG, a big mistake. Then, a couple of months ago, Arkivemusic.com had a special on Chandos discs and low and behold - the Tchaikovsky Symphonies, all in one box, were there at pretty close to budget price. I was thrilled and have been even more so listening to them. Jansens gets everything right, the orchestra plays magnificently and the sound will drop your jaw. This compilation is copyright 2006 so I imagine it is still very much available.
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