Continuing her streak of outstanding releases, guitarist extraordinaire Mary Halvorson once again shows her determination to build upon her unique style as a composer and bandleader. She's taken her septet from 2013's superb Illusionary Sea and added an eighth member, pedal steel guitarist Susan Alcorn, and the resulting music is typical Halvorson: harmonically complex, emotionally compelling, and full of interesting moments worth savoring.
ECM New Series is better known for its documentation of contemporary works, but the music of the past sometimes receives coverage when artists bring a new perspective to it. The Diabelli Variations, Op. 120; the Sonata No. 32 in C minor, Op. 111; and the Six Bagatelles, Op. 126, are among the most original and intellectually stimulating works Ludwig van Beethoven composed for the piano, and the sophisticated interpretations of András Schiff are especially worthwhile for their insights into authentic performance practice and reception. Here, Schiff gives the listener options between a relatively modern sounding version of the Diabelli Variations and a period interpretation, without favoring one or the other. On the first CD he plays the Sonata and the Diabelli Variations on a Bechstein piano from 1921, though with minimal pedaling and a restrained execution that allows every inner voice and subtle dynamic to be appreciated. While this piano is not as hard or bright sounding as a modern Steinway, it is familiar to modern ears and most listeners will readily accept it. On the second CD, Schiff plays the Diabelli Variations, along with the Six Bagatelles, on a smaller sounding Franz Brodmann fortepiano, an original instrument from around 1820, Beethoven's time period.
Recently called "one of the more imaginative guitarists in jazz" by Signal to Noise, Michael Musillami has earned a reputation as a leader with a quickly growing and diverse discography, recording in the last few years with every ensemble size from duo right up to his new all-star octet. Spirits is his most ambitious project to date, featuring seven exclusive reinventions of pieces by the late multi-instrumentalist and composer Thomas Chapin. The group features many notable players, including former Chapin sidemen Musillami, pianist Peter Madsen, and drummer Michael Sarin.
Living legend of the piano Murray Perahia records two benchmark sonatas by Beethoven for the first time in his career. Long renowned for his performances of this composer, Perahia’s brand new recording pairs together two of the most radically ground-breaking of Beethoven’s 32 piano sonatas, in a release that is sure to be a crown jewel of the Beethoven discography.