For while it would be idle to pretend that this 70-year-old virtuoso, struck down at the height of his career with psoriatic arthritis, still commands the velocity and reflex of his earlier years, his later Chopin and Liszt are a tribute to a devotion and commitment gloriously enriched by experience. The First Impromptu is piquantly voiced and phrased while the C sharp minor Etude, Op. 25 No. 7, could hardly be more hauntingly confided, more ‘blue’ or inturned. How you miss the repeat in the C sharp minor Mazurka, Op. 50 No. 3 (not Op. 15, as the jewel-case claims), given such cloudy introspection and if there are moments when you recall how Rubinstein – forever Chopin’s most aristocratic spokesman – can convey a world of feeling in a scarcely perceptible gesture, Janis’s brooding intensity represents a wholly personal, only occasionally overbearing, alternative; an entirely different point of view. Time and again he tells us that there are higher goods than surface polish or slickness and in the valedictory F minor Mazurka, Op. 68 No. 4 he conveys a dark night of the soul indeed, an emotion almost too desolating for public utterance… Janis is no less remarkable in Liszt, whether in the brief but intriguing Sans mesure (a first performance and recording), in a Sonetto 104 del Petrarca as tear-laden as any on record and in a final Liebestod of an exhausting ardour and focus.
This 15-track set puts together some amazing performances by Billy Eckstine's band from the early '40s when he was leading one of the more intense, smoking bands on the scene. Some of his players during these years included Fats Navarro, Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie, Miles Davis, Dexter Gordon, and Kenny Dorham, just to name a few. The Eckstine band was sophisticated, jumping, and they swung like mad no matter the tune. Here, of course, the emphasis is on Eckstine's vocals, his smooth as silk baritone that could sing a ballad like Duke Ellington's "Sophisticated Lady," or a deep swinging blues by Doc Pomus ("She Got the Blues for Sale"). There's scat, solid jazz balladry, and jumping, tough-hitting blues here. Highly recommended.
Hélène Grimaud's particular fascination with the music of German composers - from Beethoven, the father of musical Romanticism, through Schumann and Brahms to the late Romanticism of Strauss - is reflected in this 2-CD set, which also embraces music by Rachmaninov, Ravel and Gershwin. A pianist who combines intellectual and philosophical rigour with a readiness to take risks as she strives for expressive freedom, Grimaud is motivated by a profound personal belief in the power of music: "Music changed my life - it gave me a sense of purpose and direction. It saved me."