Although highly productive and respected in his lifetime as a composer of Lieder, Robert Franz (1815–92) has since become a peripheral figure in music history. One reason may be that he avoids dramatic contrasts and instead aims at an emotional ambiguity: ‘My representation of joy is always tinged with melancholy, whilst that of suffering is always accompanied by an exquisite sensation of losing oneself’, he once wrote to Liszt. As a consequence his music appeals to those who are able ‘to admire the nuances of a charcoal drawing without longing for the colours of a painting’, to quote from Georges Starobinski’s liner notes to this recording. As they began to explore the songs of Franz, Starobinski and the baritone Christian Immler were moved by their findings to devise a programme which includes 23 of the composer’s often quite brief songs. Using the poet Heinrich Heine as their guiding star, they present these – all Heine settings but from different opus groups – in the form of two ‘imagined’ song cycles.
Fusing the talents of Robert Fripp, Trey Gunn, and the California Guitar Trio, you'd be wrong to assume that The Bridge Between is a boring album of guitar aerobics for guitar enthusiasts. This is a wonderful piece of work. Its most dubious attribute is to sometimes descend into Sky (the Anglo-Australian outfit formed by John Williams, Francis Monkman etc) territory in its medieval harpsichord delivery ("Passacaglia," "Contrapunctus"). However "Kanon Power" and standouts "Bicycling to Afghanistan" and "Blockhead" are fretboard knitted excellence. Unfortunately, the latter two are separated by a five-minute downbeat – "Blue" – and the set is spoiled by a near-13-minute endgame "Threnody for Souls in Torment," which would be better placed elsewhere. None the less, you can always hit the stop button after "Passacaglia" or better, stick "Afghan" and "Blockhead" on repeat!
The peerless Takacs Quartet recently nominated for a Gramophone award for their second disc of Brahms's string quartets, continue their exploration of the Romantic chamber music tradition with this disc of Schumann. The Piano Quintet is by far Schumann's most popular chamber work and one of the most beloved works in the genre. Schumann was the first romantic composer to pair the piano with the string quartet. Schumann studied the string quartets of Beethoven, Mozart and Haydn and his quartet Op. 41 No. 3 demonstrates these influences. However, it contains many highly original strokes, particularly the casting of the scherzo as a set of variations. The Takacs Quartet are joined by Marc-Andre Hamelin in an invigorating partnership that has already been widely acclaimed on the concert platform.
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Rarely is a second version of a concept album successful. But when the collection is as inspired as Robert Goulet on Broadway, a second volume is a natural. On Broadway, Vol. 2 contains 11 songs. including some true Broadway classics like "Mame." "Cabaret," "Impossible Dream," and "Summertime." For those who would want Goulet singing the most well-known songs possible, Vol. 2 is an improvement over Vol. 1.
Fripp continues his Soundscape series with this typically evocative piece. As with his other work of this period, the theme touches on devotional and spiritual matters, with Fripp painting challenging and solitary impressions with "Frippertronic" brushstrokes. The new age set will most likely balk at his more dissonant passages, but King Crimson fans and those with a taste for the unusual will delight in his ascetic excess.
Violinist Arabella Steinbacher and pianist Robert Kulek continue their great collaboration with a new PENTATONE release, the recording of Cesar Franck’s Sonata for Piano and Violin in A, which joins Richard Strauss’ Sonata for Violin and Piano in E-flat, Op. 18. While Franck’s violin sonata is epic in character, Strauss’ work is full of jovial energy, hope and anticipation. This fusion of elements brilliantly demonstrates the synergy between Steinbacher and Kulek, something we have witnessed during their recital performances over the past few years.
After rehearsals in New York with John Wetton and Michael Walden in 1977 had finished, Robert Fripp continued to work on and refine material for what would become Exposure with Tony Levin and Jerry Marotta. Having worked with the pair previously with Peter Gabriel in both the studio and on stage the previous year, there’s an easy fluency between the players here. That could of course also be the result of the material here being more formed and developed than the previous Exposure rehearsals. While some of these pieces are familiar we get to hear them in either their raw state such as the new-to-these-ears Slow Stomp, or, as in the case of You Burn Me Up, moving towards a finished form that’s instantly recognisable.