My concert-going so far this year has been dominated by John Cage, the American Mavericks festival and other musics on the new/avant/experimental spectrum. Coming home afterwards, I have been drawn to recordings, relatively recent and new, that just give me pleasure. In heavy rotation:
Brahms: Complete Works for Violin and Piano, Arabella Steinbacher, violin, and Robert Kulek, piano: Cage understood that very few people could stick with his own aesthetic constantly, and so when variation is called for, Brahms is good to reach for, and this particular new release is ideal. The sonatas are great works, lyrically heart-rending and heart-mending and full of dramatic intensity in the way that makes Brahms special, and this disc is exceptionally fine, one that I will reach for above all others (including those from Zukerman and Kremer). Steinbacher has a gorgeous, old-fashioned sound, rich and dark, and the sensitive thinking and feeling she and Kulek show for the composer’s phrasing and ensemble communication sounds so right that I cannot think that there is any other way. Like the finest classical music performances, their sound is present but they seem to entirely give way, so that what we are hearing is not them so much as Brahms himself. Extremely beautiful and satisfying, certainly a must-have for anyone who loves the composer or the style in general, and something that anyone who enjoys the pleasure of listening to music will find deeply fulfilling.
Quiet Please, Darius De Hass and Steven Blier
John Cage: Complete Piano Music, Steffen Schleiermacher
Amid the Noise, So Percussion
Live in Basel, Pete Robbins Transatlantic Quartet