He ignored every rule of traditional composition in order to achieve the effect his music should have; the number of voices changes arbitrarily, parallel octaves and fifths abound, all according to the vigorous, elemental force of his inspiration.
Chamber music has always formed the heart of Maria João Pires’s musicianship. Indeed, she has often commented that she is happier working with others than performing on her own. “Not sharing a stage is very difficult for me,” she once remarked (in an interview for ArtsJournal in 2012) “You are apart from the group, apart from community, apart from everything. You become different and special. And, if you become different and special, you’re alone.”
This collection of short choral pieces by Johannes Brahms is an unusual one in present times, partly because many of the choral parts are quite demanding. For a choral club in the 19th century, however, it wouldn't have been so novel, and there are great beauties on offer here. After the fetching Ave Maria, Op. 12, the rest of the program is dense, metaphysical, and, with the partial exception of the Alto Rhapsody, Op. 53, concerned with death. There are two funeral songs, and two more about fate, and this is not the warm, humanistic Brahms of the German Requiem, Op. 45. The performances are profound and dignified, and the overall effect uncanny. The Warsaw Philharmonic Choir under choirmaster Henryk Wojnarowski has a gorgeous rich tone that is undiminished by the long lines of the music, and the Alto Rhapsody achieves real grandeur in the hands of contralto Ewa Wolak. But the real credit goes to the Warsaw Philharmonic and conductor Antoni Wit, who keep a consistent level of tension and momentum in difficult, dark material like the somber Nänie, Op. 82 (Funeral Song), a rarely performed late Brahms masterwork.
Maria Muldaur has been taken by Bob Dylan's music from the very start. They were on the coffeehouse circuit in New York in the early '60s, and she's had occasion to sing his praises from the stage and in Martin Scorsese's film No Direction Home. And while other artists from Joan Baez to Judy Collins have cut entire albums of Dylan's tunes, none of them feels quite like this one. Muldaur, a fine blues and jazz singer, has taken the songs form Dylan's romantic canon and has fashioned them in her own image without losing their original bite, wonder, and humor. Accompanied by her road band and a slew of guests that include Amos Garrett, Danny Caron, and Suzy Thompson, she has created a dreamy, languid, memorable song cycle.