Richrad Lester has been at the center of early keyboard music for fifty years with a professional career that began in 1966. His teacher, George Malcolm generously promoted his debut recital at the Wigmore Hall, and from that followed concerts including the Royal Festival Hall Purcell Room, master classes and recitals at Dartington International Summer School, Bruges Festival and the Bath International Festival. As a Fellow of the London College of Music, he has given many organ recitals in King’s College, Cambridge, St. Paul’s Cathedral, Westminster Cathedral, Ely Cathedral, Coventry, and in 2013 he was invited to perform in St. Mark’s, Venice, and Bergamo Cathedral. His vast discography for Nimbus Records is acclaimed worldwide.
No composer looms over modern jazz quite like Johann Sebastian Bach, whose harmonic rigour seems to have provided the basis for bebop and all that followed. Listen to the endlessly mutating semiquavers tumbling from Charlie Parker’s saxophone and it could be the top line of a Bach fantasia; the jolting cycle of chords in John Coltrane’s Giant Steps could come straight from a Bach fugue and Bach’s contrapuntal techniques crop up in countless jazz pianists, from Bill Evans to Nina Simone. Bach certainly casts a long shadow over US pianist Brad Mehldau: even when he’s gently mutilating pieces by Radiohead, Nick Drake or the Beatles, he sounds like Glenn Gould ripping into the Goldberg Variations. Which is why it comes as no surprise to see Mehldau recording an entire album inspired by Bach. However, this is not a jazz album. Instead of riffing on Bach themes, as the likes of Jacques Loussier or the Modern Jazz Quartet have done in the past, After Bach sees Mehldau using Bach’s methodology. Mehldau plays five of Bach’s canonic 48 Preludes and Fugues, each followed by his own modern 21st-century response.
The Amadeus were the most successful and highly-regarded Quartet of the 20th century. Benefitting from the jet aeroplane and from the record industry s ability to reach out to world, they dominated chamber music making for nearly 40 years.
Frieder Bernius and his Stuttgart forces weigh in with one of the finer Mozart Requiems in a very crowded field–and to ensure this performance’s relative exclusivity, it’s one of only a handful of recordings that use the edition by Franz Beyer, an intelligent and persuasive 1971 effort to correct “obvious textural errors” and some decidedly un-Mozartian features in the orchestration attributable to Franz Süssmayr, Mozart’s pupil/assistant who completed the work after the master’s death. This live concert performance from 1999 offers well-set tempos (including a vigorous Kyrie fugue), infectious rhythmic energy from both chorus and orchestra, robust, precise, musically compelling choral singing, a first rate quartet of soloists–and, especially considering its concert-performance setting, impressively detailed and vibrant sonics. The CD also features informative notes by Beyer himself.
For her first collaboration with the period ensemble Il Giardino Armonico, violinist Isabelle Faust performs the five Violin Concertos of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, along with three shorter concertante works. This is an extraordinary set, for the historically informed performances, the polished sound of the group, the almost palpable presence of the players, which Harmonia Mundi has captured with superior engineering, and for the unrepressed joy in the music. Faust is the center of attention, naturally, and her refined and expressive playing immediately pulls the listener in. These are far from the most demanding concertos in the repertoire, so Faust is less concerned with technical execution than with conveying the pure feeling of the music, which is delightfully buoyant and uplifting. Under the direction of Giovanni Antonini, the group provides warm and sparkling accompaniment that gives Faust all the support she needs, but there's no doubt that she sets the emotional tone for these exquisite recordings. Highly recommended, especially for devotees of Classical style at its finest.