This is Volume 1 in a new chamber series which explores the music of composers who were forced to flee Europe during the 1930s. The survey begins with works by the German-born Jewish composer Paul Ben-Haim (né Frankenburger) who immigrated to Palestine in October 1933. Ben-Haim was an accomplished pianist, conductor, choral coach, and composer who made a significant cultural contribution to his adoptive country. The list of musicians who commissioned, performed, and recorded his music includes Yehudi Menuhin, Itzhak Perlman, Menahem Pressler, and Leonard Bernstein. Among the Israeli composers he taught are Eliahu Inbal, Avraham Sternklar, Noam Sheriff, and Shulamit Ran.
This is a soul-stirring release performed by Pat Metheny and a plethora of friends, all great jazz musicians in their own right. Works II is a compilation of his finest work, spread out from the years 1976 to 1984. This guitarist/composer/bandleader became one of the leading names in the jazz genre during the '70s and '80s. This collection of beautifully written numbers reflects his character of good taste and the unique flavor of his graceful, even-flowing solos. Opening with "Unquity Road," Metheny is joined by the legendary Jaco Pastorius on bass and Bob Moses on drums. The soothing sweeping tones of his guitar blends in charmingly with Moses pulsating percussion and the rousing basslines of Pastorius.
The earliest piece on this disc is the delightful Pastorale, written in 1907, when Stravinsky was 25; the latest is the enigmatic Epitaphium, written 52 years later. In between come a clutch of pieces from that fascinating period of Stravinsky’s life when he was moving from Russianism to neo-classicism via jazz. The remaining two, the Octet of 1923 and the Septet of 1953, are both firmly in Stravinsky’s witty, poised neo-classical style, though the Septet is moving towards new, tougher territory. Stravinsky himself made classic recordings of these pieces in the Sixties, now reissued on CD on the Sony label. These are always electric, if sometimes a little untidy, and so closely recorded you feel the players are sitting in your lap. By that lofty benchmark this new recording measures up superbly. Tempos are just as brisk and alert as Stravinsky’s, the accents just as incisive. These qualities are combined with a beautiful soft-grained tone – a nice change from Stravinsky’s lemon-sharp sound.