Author Topic: "New" Music Log  (Read 124025 times)

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Offline Todd

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Re: "New" Music Log
« Reply #500 on: January 09, 2021, 05:47:23 AM »


Isaac Albéniz is well represented in my collection, what with that little ditty named Iberia, as well as some other rather notable works, like, say, España.  His piano sonatas, on the other hand, are much rarer, though as it turns out, the great Esteban Sánchez, arguably the finest overall Albéniz interpreter on record, recorded the Fifth.  So when the chance arose to hear all three completed sonatas on one disc for a few bucks (I still prefer to buy copies of my music, whether physical or download), I figured I might as well do so.

The disc opens with the Third Sonata.  The first two movements are fairly straight-forward and pleasant nods to classical era sonatas, with Chopin seeming to be an influence, and they make for pleasant listening.  The work comes alive in the Allegro assai closing movement, which sounds like nothing less than a missing Lied Ohne Worte, and a rather robust one, at that.  Now, is this the score or the pianist?  I pose that question because the first Suite ancienne sounds like more missing Mendelssohn.  That's no bad thing, though it is neither a necessarily great thing. 

The Fourth Sonata sort of soups up the Chopin-Mendelssohn sound with some more overt Spanish-sounding music, by which I mean music that looks forward to what Albéniz wrote later.  The rhythmic vitality is there, and the harmonies really endear and seduce.  Get to the second movement Scherzo, and one hears the makings of a mini-symphonic work, a feeling that lasts through the end, with the lilting dance rhythms and forward drive.  Nice.  The second Suite ancienne harks back to classical miniatures more, though the slightly darker hue and feel seems to evoke Chopin more.  That's OK.

Now to the Fifth.  A fairly languid, Albénizian Allegro non troppo opens things up, before moving to a snappy Minuetto, and then the gorgeous Rêverie, which is the heart of the work.  At times tender, at times displaying a Debussyian sound and feel, it hints at later works even more strongly.  The work wraps up with a lively Allegro that seems influenced by the acciaccatura from Beethoven's Op 79, though here the device is used repeatedly.  The pianist here does nice enough work, but when an A/B can be done, it can be instructive, and here the result is that one appreciates just what Sánchez can do.  His rubato is fluid, his touch so minutely variable and precise, his rhythmic sense so unerring, that one sort of just wallows in the playing and the music, whereas with the present pianist, one can dig the note hitting, but one misses what is missing.  Quite a bit.  One also ponders what Sánchez playing Debussy may have sounded like. 

Sebastian Stanley, apparently of Spanish birth, plays nicely enough, though one not infrequently wonders what a more interventionist pianist might bring to the table in these works.
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Offline Todd

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Re: "New" Music Log
« Reply #501 on: January 16, 2021, 06:46:06 AM »



Gonna listen to the daughter, might as well listen to the father.  Jia Daqun first ended up in my collection with an encore performed by his daughter on one of her Schubert discs, so he was on my radar, and now was the time to sample something else. 

The disc opens with the Rondo for Clarinet and Piano.  Decidedly modern, and alternating fast and slow music, the piece sounds very French.  It's light, rhythmically snappy in the fast movement, and quite colorful, with clarinetist He Yemo displaying some fine chops.  Ran Jia plays piano here, and her hard hitting Schubert style translates nicely to this work as she plays with verve, and no little left hand solidity in places.  Here's a fairly light modern work. Next comes Intonation for a fourteen member chamber ensemble.  More colorful yet, with more texture, and lots of Gloria Coates-like glissando, just done to my taste a bit more, the piece blends some lighter passages with hard modernist outbursts.  The music sort of unfolds continuously, and one hears abstracted Chinese (one assumes) elements blended into the mix quite nicely.  The cymbal crashes aside, the instrumentation works extremely well.  Nice.

Three Movements of Autumn follows, and here Jia is all about applying modern techniques to Chinese music.  Traditional Chinese instruments are used exclusively, and while inspired by Chinese opera, one can definitely hear the western academic influences as well.  While the soundworld varies widely from Western music, the rhythmic component sounds vibrant and it ties together very well.  It's not my first exposure to Middle Kingdom music, and it definitely won't be my last.  The disc closes with Three Images from Ink-Wash Painting.  Here, Jia uses western instruments to create a modernist impression of Chinese paintings, in a sort of Eastern Pictures at an Exhibition.  The compact work appeals to me more than any orchestration I've heard of Mussorgsky's work.  Again, Jia's writing sounds colorful, and it creates a soundworld both abstract and evocative of the underlying subject matter.  Whether delicate and smooth, or, in the last piece, inspired by splashed ink, with the potent percussion exploding with near violence, coming in waves, and an edgy thrashing sound, the piece engages and energizes.  More like this, please.

All instrumentalists do fine work, all the more so since these are concert performances.  Ms Zhang conducts the chamber ensembles nicely. 

A disc good enough to make me think I need to here more from the composer.
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Offline Todd

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Re: "New" Music Log
« Reply #502 on: January 23, 2021, 06:57:54 AM »



Over the years, I've listened to gobs of Chopin.  But until now, I'd never listened to a recording of the Op 74 songs.  How embarrassing.  This closeout 2018 reissue of a 1988 recording thus seemed a must buy.  Marrying Chopin's melodic genius to songs in what to my ear is the most beautiful Slavic language, at least when it comes to singing, seemed to all but guarantee enjoyment.  There's a lot to enjoy.  Basically, these almost all very short songs basically sound like delightful poems set to small, light mazurkas, which Chopin knew how to write rather well.  Perhaps the works lack the heft of the great German and French song writers, but man, this disc just flies by, one lyrical delight following another.  Henryka Januszewska sings quite splendidly, and of course she sounds right at home in her native tongue.  Marek Drewnowski accompanies more than ably, and the aged sound, which appears to have had analog action somewhere in the recording or mastering chain, is quite fine.  A peach of a disc.
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Offline Florestan

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Re: "New" Music Log
« Reply #503 on: January 23, 2021, 08:03:23 AM »



Over the years, I've listened to gobs of Chopin.  But until now, I'd never listened to a recording of the Op 74 songs.  How embarrassing.  This closeout 2018 reissue of a 1988 recording thus seemed a must buy.  Marrying Chopin's melodic genius to songs in what to my ear is the most beautiful Slavic language, at least when it comes to singing, seemed to all but guarantee enjoyment.  There's a lot to enjoy.  Basically, these almost all very short songs basically sound like delightful poems set to small, light mazurkas, which Chopin knew how to write rather well.  Perhaps the works lack the heft of the great German and French song writers, but man, this disc just flies by, one lyrical delight following another.  Henryka Januszewska sings quite splendidly, and of course she sounds right at home in her native tongue.  Marek Drewnowski accompanies more than ably, and the aged sound, which appears to have had analog action somewhere in the recording or mastering chain, is quite fine.  A peach of a disc.

I'm very glad you discovered Chopin's best kept secret.

My only quibble is that when it comes to singing Russian is at least as beautiful as Polish --- but given that I can understand the former* much better than the latter I might be biased.

* I can even undersign my name in Russian, I've been studying it in secondary school for 4 years. See below.

"Music expresses that which cannot be said and on which it is impossible to be silent." - Victor Hugo

Offline Todd

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Re: "New" Music Log
« Reply #504 on: January 30, 2021, 05:01:38 AM »





BAZ is growing on me.  Slowly, but surely.  When I could get this Ondine recording for a song, I went for it, and it's mostly new to me, which excites.

The opening work is not new to me, though.  That's fine.  The Violin Concerto just sort of explodes into being, a cacophonous, aggressive, musically violent racket, merging Berg and Prokofiev and Stravinsky and lethal doses of caffeine.  Musically jagged and really kind of ugly, it nonetheless grabs the listener and does not let go.  The Sonata moves forward relentlessly, with percussion exploding and strings slashing, the soloist navigating a precarious path.  It seems a vigorous, Germanic precursor to Bright Sheng's Nanking! Nanking!.  The Fantasia starts off slower and more aurally pleasing, but quickly assumes a nervous, twitchy mien, though the soloist gets to float some beautiful and sometimes not so beautiful notes right in the middle of the mess.  The Rondo returns to a relentless, constantly forward moving style, with the violinist rushing forward through another musical racket, with different instrumental combinations jumping into and out of the music frame.  Strings sound massed and frenzied yet hushed, the piano belches notes, percussion instruments rattle out discordant rhythms because they must, and the brass attack the listener's ears, all trying to distract, but failing to do so, from the soloist's progress.  (The almost randomness of the music and the use of percussion adds in a Cage-meets-Zappa element that delights.)  And so the soloist must put on a show.  Leila Josefowicz certainly does that.  She dispatches the music with ease and at times a lightness that offers a stark contrast to the music surrounding her, especially in the opening movement.  (She pulls off a similar feat in Scheherzade.2.)  Her tone remains pure and easy on the ear at almost all times, those highly dissonant double stop passages obviously excepted.  The Fantasia sounds, well, fantastic, in an intense, expressionistic, wrenching kind of way, though it would be well nigh impossible to not be seduced by the fiddler's trills.  Josefowicz frolics and romps and tears through the Rondo, and the band follows her.  Her cadenza sears but still sounds fun, and she and the band elevate the work to a qualitative level at least on par with Stravinsky's.  Susanne Lautenbacher, while no slouch, does not play as effortlessly, and sounds more serious, which the piece really doesn't need.  The bigger relative letdown of her take is the backing band, which is amplified by the now aged and constricted sound.  It is still a nice recording, but Josefowicz is in a different league.

Now to some new stuff.  Photoptosis is a massive, continuously unfolding piece in three parts that sounds like a lot of post-war avant-garde music, but with more punch and focus.  Being brief, it doesn't overstay its welcome, and the tonal color and scale and judicious theft of other people's music creates a fabulously entertaining pastiche, something Zimmermann mastered.  I mean, how can one not like the seamless transition from quotations from the Ninth straight to Le Poéme de l'Extase?  It's some of the best pastiche in the business.

I've been meaning to listen to Die Soldaten for years, but I just never have.  My bad.  While I thought of it as a poor man's Wozzeck, right down to a similarly old play on similar themes, the music is a bit more, um, intense.  Which is saying something.  Die Soldaten Symphony offers almost half of the opera's music, and it starts with a pulverizing Prelude which then transitions to bleeding chunks with singers and with nasty 'n' harsh dodecaphonic writing to rival to Lulu.  With the briefest of musical germs exploding and fading away here and there in support of the singers, one hears Webern, and in the grandiose and almost grotesque orchestration, one hears Schoenberg and Strauss duking it out for the listener's attention - attention given freely and greedily.  The unyielding style, even in quieter music, and the pastiche approach add to the appeal.  I will have to give the full opera a proper listen, but it seems unlikely to have quite the impact that Wozzeck does - a tall order - but it's no knock off, either.  This "symphony" makes a fine closer to a corker of a disc.

Mr Lintu extracts world-class playing from his Finnish band and sound is up there with Ondine's best.  As I write every time I hear something new from BAZ, I need me some more BAZ.  May need me all the BAZ.
« Last Edit: February 06, 2021, 06:31:20 AM by Todd »
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Offline Todd

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Re: "New" Music Log
« Reply #505 on: February 06, 2021, 06:31:08 AM »



Up to this point, I've had far more experience with the company that Tamsin Waley-Cohen's father used to run than I have with the violinist's playing, which is to say this is the first recording of hers that I have purchased.  For $9 bucks, I was able to get all of CPE Bach's Violin Sonatas, so, you know, it would have been silly to not buy.  Now, late baroque and very early classical chamber music ought properly to use a period keyboard, but fortunately James Baillieu and Ms Waley-Cohen could not be bothered to observe HIP niceties, so instead the lucky listener gets a modern instrument take.  Which is just fine with me, because - and I know this makes me a philistine - I prefer modern instruments for all Violin Sonatas, including, not at all incidentally, those of CPE's father. 

The set opener finds the pianist playing with clean articulation, sensitive touch, and a nice if not too plucky rhythmic sense.  Ms Waley-Cohen starts off as vibrato-free as any HIP player, but she delivers a delicate purity of tone that sounds both arresting and haunting in the D Major work.  At first, and for a few moments, I feared this could be a somewhat dull affair, even if exquisitely beautiful one, but fortunately with the second work, in D Minor, more peppy writing and playing appears, though the playing remains of the extremely refined variety.  And then comes the C Major, which is all playfulness and sunshine.  Heck yeah!  Again, the clean lines and purity of tone, and very fine piano and pianissimo playing from the violinist catches the ear.  In many ways, including weight and recorded balance, the piano is the center of the action, but the violinist keeps drawing attention to her instrument, not because of flash or showiness, but because of musical merit.  Really, the three discs end up providing one delight after another.  In download form, one gets a continuous set of tracks to listen to, so when the F Major starts the second disc equivalent, one doesn't even notice, but for the splendid keyboard part sounding, perhaps somehow, more delightful than before.  (And seriously, who would want something other than a modern grand here?)  The last disc starts off with a very fine C Minor sonata before moving to an Arioso and Variations and then Fantasia to close.  The former is mostly slow and gentle, with Baillieu displaying finely varied pianissimo-piano style, and the latter work has fairly significant contrasts, almost sounding proto-Beethovenian at times.  Overall, there's not a single dud in the set.

Now that I've given Ms Waley-Cohen a shot - and she was the reason I purchased the set - I think I should probably try something else.  The Hahn and Szymanowski disc looks most appealing.  And when she finishes her LvB Violin Sonata set, I think I shall snap that up.

Mr Baillieu does his thing quite well, and Signum delivers high quality sound as per usual.
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Offline Florestan

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Re: "New" Music Log
« Reply #506 on: February 06, 2021, 11:15:27 AM »
I know this makes me a philistine - I prefer modern instruments for all Violin Sonatas, including, not at all incidentally, those of CPE's father. 

Welcome to the club! Nice review of this set which I've got last year but never listened to. I should rectify this sad state of affair asap.

How about this, which I also got but never listened to? Are you familiar enough with it as to review it?



"Music expresses that which cannot be said and on which it is impossible to be silent." - Victor Hugo

Offline Todd

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Re: "New" Music Log
« Reply #507 on: February 06, 2021, 11:50:00 AM »
Are you familiar enough with it as to review it?


Never heard it.  2021 is still new, though.
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Offline Florestan

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Re: "New" Music Log
« Reply #508 on: February 06, 2021, 11:52:03 AM »

Never heard it. 

I can let you have it in FLAC.
"Music expresses that which cannot be said and on which it is impossible to be silent." - Victor Hugo

Offline Todd

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Re: "New" Music Log
« Reply #509 on: February 13, 2021, 07:31:30 AM »



When I got this disc, I figured it would be my Saint-Saëns year tribute.  It's got his two piano version of the Danse Macabre, along with a transcribed one with input from Liszt, Vladimir Horowitz, and Arthur Ancelle.  And of course it's got the French composer's transcription for two pianos of Liszt's Sonata.  Ancelle's two piano transcription of the Dante Sonata is thrown in the mix, too.  The two takes on the Saint-Saëns piece, his to open, the even more showy virtuoso transcription to end, both sound fine, though, somewhat unusually for me, the three artist transcription works better yet.

The Sonata is the Sonata.  It sounds like the Sonata.  It feels like the Sonata.  Except.  Except it sounds weightier and faster.  By reallocating piano duties, some transitions sound sleeker and swifter, less effortful.  The piece, even more than normal, sounds weaved together as one gigantic whole.  It also sounds scaled up, quasi-orchestral in nature, as if Liszt had written some lost, phantasmagorical orchestral tone poem that even Wagner and Berlioz would have blanched at, and then, to distribute it more widely and earn some scratch, transcribed it down to two pianos to spread its musical gospel.  Only in some of the even sleeker, lighter passages does the impact of Saint-Saëns himself appear, as one thinks Liszt may have done something beefier.  True, the writing goes right up to the point of garishness, and may cross it for some or many, but it works very well, and both Berlinskaya and Ancelle nail their parts.

The show stealer on the disc is Ancelle's transcription of the Dante Sonata.  I like my Dante Sonata to sound super-heated, intense, swelling, dynamic, and this has all that and more.  The more is mostly in scale and weight, as both pianists bear down on the work, but that doesn't end up being all.  When the two pianists both dispatch upper register playing simultaneously in a stretch before the coda, the effect is both hyper-colorful, as way too many notes are being hit at once, and spatially unique.  Sounds emanate from a big cloud of piano.  The coda itself sounds extraordinary in scope and scale, though here, one can appreciate the massive dynamic range and variation that some solo pianists can bring, like Julian Gorus. 

So there are some takeaways.  First, Arthur Ancelle, a most excellent pianist, may very well be an even more excellent transcriptionist.  He should put some more together and see what happens.  Second, Ancelle and Berlinskaya make a very fine piano duo.  Third, I didn't know it, but I probably wouldn't mind another take on the two piano Sonata.  Perhaps one day Schuch and Ensari could record it, or perhaps Bax and Chung, but in the meantime, the Kolodochkas and Paratores have recorded competing versions.  But the Silver Garburg Piano Duo have recorded it and they are on Berlin Classics, which is notable because the label execs believe in producing perfect sounding piano recordings.  And who knows, I may very well end up with more Saint-Saëns this year, though in transcription form.  (Ah, hell, maybe that Chamayou/Capucon/Moreau disc, mainly/solely because of Chamayou.)  Hopefully, other pianists take up Ancelle's transcription of the Dante Sonata.  That would be sweet.
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Offline Todd

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Re: "New" Music Log
« Reply #510 on: February 20, 2021, 05:43:02 AM »



The Ancelle-Berlinskaya duo's Liszt 'n' Saint-Saëns ditty was so nifty that this collection of French works entitled Belle Époque should certainly be worth hearing, I thought.  OK, both were bargain basement priced, so it seemed a simple decision to buy both.  Since only the Debussy was known to me, it also offered a fine chance to hear potentially choice new things.

Cécile Chaminade's Valse carnavalesque starts off the disc, and the brief work glitters and swirls and contains nice hints of a waltz-like lilt in a few places, and as performed and recorded has a bit of lower register weight underpinning the lighter fare.  It's fair to write it offers a delightful Chabrieresque opening - and that is most certainly a good thing.  Charles Koechlin's Suite for two pianos follows, and it sounds gentle and tuneful and lovely, very centered on limpid melody.  Quite impressively, these traits dominate the opening Andantino, only to become more pronounced yet in the Andantino con moto.  It's ridiculous.  The piece does swell in scale and energy in the closing movement, though it never sheds its focus on beauty.  Louis Aubert's Suite Brève receives it world premiere recording here, and it comes off as souped-up salon music, dance inspired trifles turned into something aurally weightier yet unyieldingly charming.  It also sounds like a Chabrier-Ravel hybrid, which turns out to be something the world needs.

Reynaldo Hahn's Le ruban dénoué follows, and it forms the core of the disc.  While ostensibly twelve waltzes, the opening Décrets indolents du hasard sounds so ridiculously beautiful and enchantingly languid, that any notion of a waltz is more or less imaginary.  Something similar happens in the third piece, Souvenir...avenir..., where one hears Johann Strauss as more of something dreamt about.  There are some nice contrasts in tempo and style between the first four pieces, but then the end of the fourth just blends seamless right into Le demi-sommeil embaumé.  A couple tracks later Danse du doute et de l'espérance and then La cage ouverte offer something springier, more energetic, and more waltzy, but the melodic beauty moves rather past something like those written by futzy old Austrians.  Ancelle and Berlinskaya draw out Le seul amour to over six miuntes, which takes its innate beauty and hypnotic quality to a most satisfying level.  This is a corker of a piece.  Now that I've heard the work, I must hear another take, and I have my eye on the one from Huseyin Sermet and Kun Woo Paik.

 

 

The disc rounds out with a much better known work, at least for me, in the form of Debussy's En blanc et noir.  This offered as good an opportunity as any to perform some comparative listening.  The duo starts off with an Avec emportement imbued with a rather vibrant feel, which contrasts nicely with the slow, somber, almost heavy Lent.  The duo create some nice basically super-legato sound in the Scherzando, creating a lovely, shimmering musical surface. 

Mr and Mrs Casadesus offer an even more potent Avec emportement, with the duo slightly desynchronized for effect, before moving on to a more serious Lent that contains even broader dynamic contrasts, and it ends with a lighter, cleaner sounding Scherzando.  They've got the music down cold.  Mr Richter and Mr Britten go for a comparatively leisurely opening Avec emportement which sounds spontaneous but not as well coordinated as the studio efforts.  The slower than average Lent stretches the musical line to the point of breaking, the dynamic contrasts are not so hot, and the whole thing kind of just moves along slowly but not impactfully.  The Scherzando comes off probably best of all, though one of the pianists seems less steady than the other.  I don't think this will be a top four choice going forward.  Mr and Mrs Kovacevich imbue ample energy in their opening Avec emportement, but they also, aided by fine major label recorded sound, offer much gentler and more nuanced playing than one may typically expect from this pairing.  The Lent, taken at a slow overall tempo to almost exaggerate contrasts, has very nice momentary effects, and the Scherzando comes off swift yet light.  The whole piece ends up sounding less coherent and more about really nifty moments, though.  Mr and Mrs Schuch, benefitting from basically SOTA sound, take the opening movement at a well-judged clip, and they deliver something more flexible, more fluid in terms of tempo changes and less effortful in terms of dynamics.  Of particular interest are the widely divergent dynamics between pianists.  And I will surmise that it is Mr Schuch who delivers the more finely nuanced upper register rubato.  (I could be wrong.)  The Lent stretches the line wonderfully, and displays the benefits of two pianists playing with finely honed dynamics, and the duo make sure to deliver an austere, hymn-like playing.  The Scherzando, benefitting from some extremely fine digital dexterity, flits along, clearly demonstrating the influence of some of the composer's earlier works, and sound light yet weighty at once.  Nice.  So in this work, the Casadesuses and Schuchs deliver equally compelling, if stylistically different takes.  The Ancelle-Berlinskaya duo make for a fine addition to my small but still growing collection of the work.

Only sonics detract from the Ancelle-Berlinskaya recording.  Distant, efficient, and metallic, it could have benefitted from some better Steinways or Bechsteins in a proper, high end studio paired with mixing desk tomfoolery, which would have accentuated beauty even more.
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Offline Todd

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Re: "New" Music Log
« Reply #511 on: February 27, 2021, 05:32:46 AM »



I found my way to Allen Shawn's music via pianist Julia Bartha, who recorded a nice Debussy and Encke disc.  The pianist clearly enjoys taking on contemporary works, and in the case of Shawn, the Fourth Piano Sonata is dedicated to her.  The disc of the American composer's music starts off with Five Preludes from 1994.  Brief, somewhat stark, and infused with pre-war modernism (hints of Prokofiev, as the composer himself notes), and though not one of his explicitly jazz-inspired compositions, the slower Preludes have a free, jazz-like rhythm to them.  The Jazz Preludes (three of four are included) continue on with the slow jazz feel, infused with Berg and Schoenberg, in music that seems quite well suited for a high end bar around last call.  Recollections maintains the free feel of the jazz pieces, but moves back to more abstract writing, and it keeps the nice, slow feel until the piece entitled Playful, which sounds, well, like the title denotes.  The Fourth Sonata is structured fast-slow-fast, and offers a more abstract, less jazz-infused sound overall.  The slow movement is the heart of the work, which, while very flexible as designated, sounds quite expressive, with repeated, dissonant chords hitting home, while the quicker outer movements have more energy and impact and a structured chaos sound.  Valentine is, as one would surmise, a gentle, lovely piece, while Growl sounds predictably aggressive, gnarly, and spiky.  The disc closes with Three Reveries, written while the composer's father was ill.  They are all slow, quite contemplative, with a lot going on in p-pp range.  While it seems unlikely to happen, Volodos could take this work and play it like a masterpiece for the ages. 

Mr Shawn's brother is - inconceivable - Wallace Shawn, with whom he collaborated on a chamber opera, The Music Teacher, which has been recorded.  Maybe, maybe.

Playing and sound is up to modern snuff.
The universe is change; life is opinion. - Marcus Aurelius, Meditations

Everything dies - Alien Bounty Hunter, The X-Files

Everyone dies - William Barr, United States Attorney General