The Year in Mahler 2016


What a year. There are more concerts to come, but my experience hearing Simon Rattle lead the Philadelphia Orchestra in Mahler 6 Monday night at Carnegie put a cap on a run of unforgettable performances. Read my review of last night at the New York Classical Review here, and catch up on these reviews from earlier in the year of New York Philharmonic performances: Mahler 6 with Semyon Bychkov, Mahler 9 with Bernard Haitink, Das Lied von der Erde (and Sibelius 7) with Alan Gilbert.

Sharing reviews is always tinged with the frustration of not being able to share the experience, nor of recalling anything but the memory of an overall impact. But there’s a welcome exception: the Philharmonic has released a digital recording from the Bychkov/Mahler 6 run, and it is as great as my memories, one of the finest performances of the symphony you’ll hear. You can stream it/buy it from iTunes, or do the same at Amazon, where the audio is better. Note that the cover image has Gilbert’s name, but it’s Bychkov conducting.



PLAYLIST, Week 5, 2014

  • Max Johnson Trio, The Invisible Trio: excellent small group contemporary jazz, led by bassist Johnson and featuring Kurt Knuffke at his finest.
  • Bernard Haitink Symphonies Edition: necessary for fans of the conductor and/or lovers of Mahler and Bruckner. But hidden in plain sight is a marvelous feature—this box is the major romantic symphonic repertoire, complete: Beethoven, Schumann, Brahms, Bruckner, Mahler, Tchaikovsky. If you want all that music, this is single-stop shopping.
  • Colin Edward & Lorenzo Feliciati, Twinscapes: an upcoming release on the exciting Rare Noise label, and a near great recording. Hard hitting grooves and exceptionally sharp bass playing are undercut by a couple soft-as-marshmallow tracks. Cut out the ballads, and this kicks ass up and down the sidewalk.

May Playlist

Recommended recordings, new and old:

Jacob Garchik, The Heavens: The Atheist Gospel Trombone Album – hate to be a tease, but you’re going to have to wait until July 31 to get your hands on this wonderful recording, but do get your hands on it. This is a solo disc from Garchik where he overdubs on trombone, sousaphone, baritone and alto horn and slide trumpet, playing all original pieces. In the brief notes he writes of his deep love for gospel music, and the set of nine tracks — making a loosely connected suite — has a sound deep in the sanctified music of Africa-American churches. But as the subtitle might indicate, there’s less liturgy here and a lot more Lester Bowie. This sounds to me like a personal and very strong response to Bowie’s Brass Fantasy, respectful but not imitative. Like Bowie, the music goes back to the pre-jazz brass band tradition and brings out the sweet, sweating stew of funk and soul and blues from that. The sound is rich and mellow, and Garchik’s ability to articulate on each horn adds a rhythmic kick that obviates the drums of a string bass. It’s fun, truly soulful, quite beautiful, really touches the heart and the feet. The essence of tasty and satisfying music and one of the best discs of 2012.

Look for the release at his site, iTunes, Bandcamp and CD Baby, and in the meantime download his free album, At Play. And mark your calendars for the July 25 CD release show at Shapeshifter Lab. Garchik will be joined by Josh Roseman, Curtis Hasselbring, Matt Musselman, Alan Ferber and Curtis Fowlkes, plus brass and drums rhythm, and it’s gonna be ‘bone heaven.

Public Image Ltd, This is Pil – Fresh, renewed and same as they ever where. The promo video only gives the slightest hint of how great this record is.
Ravel, Daphnis et Chloé, Bernard Haitink, London Philharmonic Orchestra, John Alldis Choir – Haitink is a musician for whom I needed to develop the proper maturity to appreciate. That’s no knock on him, but on me. Sane, sober, with intellectual and musical control over large scale structure and pace, he’s at his best in music that is inherently full of orchestral color. Where his Beethoven might be solid but not earth-shattering, his Shostakovitch, Mahler, Bruckner, Stravinsky and Debussy are usually excellent, the conductor seeming to step aside and allow the music to unfold, when of course he is actually guiding that direction and clarifying the textures. This concert recording from 1979 is an example of him at his finest, and one of the finest archives of Ravel’s masterwork (it has almost entirely supplanted my previous favorites from Boulez and Dutoit). The circumstances make it ideal, perhaps, with the excitement and passion of the live setting enhancing the clear and pleasingly upfront engineering. True to his strengths, there is a great feeling of pace here, everything flows, neither dragging or rushing. Haitink doesn’t indulge anything but the composer’s wishes, which means that a structure that under other conductor’s batons can seem illogical and arbitrary hear sounds airtight. This is ballet music, and this is the first pure recording of the piece I’ve heard that gives it the rhythmic clarity and spring that one can imagine dancers moving to. Intense moments are powerful without be brittle, and the exhalation of the “Lever du jour” is both magical and earthy. A first choice for this piece.

Here’s some older footage of Wolfgang Sawallisch and Philly to whet your appetite:

Haydn: Complete Symphonies — Because it’s been feeling like summer lately, and summertime is Haydn time. Essential works in Western classical music, never a dull moment across 100+(!!!!) symphonies. The two sets from Antal Dorati and Adam Fischer are each absolutely masterful, get them both if you can, flip a coin or go by price if you can’t.
Byron Janis, Chopin Collection – brilliant and mesmerizing playing from this great pianist. He ravishes you with discipline and entices you with what he withholds.