Most of this disc is taken up with Liszt's Christmas Tree, an unusually modest suite based on Christmas carols. It also offers charming pieces by Reger, Tchaikovsky, Rebikov, and Lyapunov based on Christmas themes, and a couple of Bach transcriptions. Eteri Andjaparidze, whose first CD was a sensational Prokofiev collection, plays this music truly superb musicianship and the kind of pianistic color that has become a rarity. Her Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring is the most beautiful I've heard since Dinu Lipatti's. And wait until you hear her delightful playing of Leroy Anderson's Sleigh Ride! It's deliciously witty and charming.
The recordings released in this series are devoted to the music of Bach, never a specialty among Russians, and they have the feeling of something extreme, developed in isolation. Feinberg plays Bach, perhaps, as Liszt might have heard Bach and played him – with maximum use of the pedals, a full range of dynamics, and an approach that in every way transforms Bach into an arch-Romantic. This disc, in the label's Feinberg series, is perhaps the most extreme of all, for here the artist tackles not only piano works but those for organ – the listener is treated not only to Feinberg's interpretations but also to his transcriptions. Sample the booming bass lines of the group of chorale preludes in the middle of the program. Of course, the line between transcription and interpretation in this case is not terribly clear. Taken as a whole, the Chromatic fantasia and fugue, BWV 903, leaves the impression that the music has been pushed nearly as far as in Busoni's Bach transcriptions; it's not Bach, really, but it's quite a thrill.
World premiere. The name of Noel Bauldeweyn is not often found among the extraordinary phenomena of an exceptionally rich generation of composers around 1500; this recording may well be the first entirely devoted to his works. And yet Bauldeweyn’s music is characterised by a very individual sound as well as an assured handling of the formal requirements of cyclic settings of the Mass ordinary. The wide geographic distribution of surviving works in choir books belonging to the Papal and Bavarian chapels as well as in the splendid manuscripts originating from Petrus Alamire’s atelier testifies to the reputation he enjoyed among his contemporaries.
This reissue offers music lovers a golden opportunity to hear one of the truly great sets of Brandenburg Concertos. Listeners familiar with the fast, super-bright sound of certain famous British and German authentic instrument groups such as The English Concert or Musica Antiqua Kцln, will find much to savor in these warmly dark-toned versions. Gamba player turned conductor Jordi Savall treats each work with positively epicurean relish.
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.
Pointer's last release found him resurfacing on a label (Shanachie) known for almost everything but fusion. This record sounds much like the ones he made in the late '70s and 1980s, except that he also does some competent vocals. These are pleasant, heavily produced and arranged tracks with minimal improvisation and limited energy and intensity. They are jazz only in the broadest sense and are not aimed at hardcore listeners or purists. If easy listening instrumental fare is up your alley, then Pointer's light solos and heavily arranged music work.