Harold Budd's discs tend to end up in the new age section of the record store, because his music is generally pleasant, quiet, and soothing. But where most new age composers go for the obvious (and sometimes saccharine) melody, Budd veers off into ambiguity; he also lacks the mystical bent that often goes along with the new age style. Instead, his compositional voice is more like that of a detached observer – one who creates beauty without getting too involved with it. By the Dawn's Early Light finds Budd writing for various combinations of viola, guitar, harp, and keyboards. All of the music is lovely, but not all of the compositions sound complete. In several cases, they sound like raw ideas rushed into the studio before their time. Guitarist Bill Nelson provides much of the interest throughout the album, and the sighing, slithery viola of Mabel Wong lends an occasional turn-of-the-century salon feel to the proceedings. The only really embarrassing moments occur when Budd – whose voice sounds like an unfortunate cross between Garrison Keillor and Kermit the Frog – reads his own poetry. Skip those tracks and you'll be fine.
Of the two oratorios Haydn wrote in his old age The Creation is the more dramatic and immediate while The Seasons is more idyllic. It’s also a good deal longer, which to some extent explains why The Creation is regularly performed while its country cousin is a comparatively rare visitor to the concert hall. There is no denying that the later work contains a lot of good music and has a more folksy character; Austrian folk music is never far away. It is also has a more leisurely pace with long stretches of admittedly beautiful but slow and restrained music. There are moments of drama also, for example the end of part II, Summer (CD1 tracks 16 – 18), where in the recitative the soloists build up the tension. This describes how the air changes, the sky turns black, “the muted roar from the valley that announces the furious tempest”. We hear the timpani murmuring in the distance and suddenly lightning flashes, the thunder rolls and the people (the chorus) are dismayed and frightened. Harnoncourt makes the most of this, rhythmically alert and backed up by the excellent Arnold Schönberg-Choir. Suddenly the thunderstorm is over, the sun looks out again and the soloists and the choir rejoice.
‘Moses and Aaron' finds Jean-Marie Straub and Danièle Huillet, through their exemplary craft, transforming a familiar Biblical tale into a borderline-surreal cinematic opera of seemingly endless possibility. In expressive, melodic tones, the fraternal pair debate God’s true message and intent for His creations, a conflict that leads their followers — in extravagantly choreographed song and dance — towards chaos and sin. Set almost entirely within a Roman amphitheater whose history lends every precise line-reading and gesture, every startling camera move and cut, a totalizing force, Straub-Huillet’s adaptation of Schoenberg’s unfinished opera opens us to the stimulating worldview of a filmmaking duo whose masterful efforts are finally coming to light. A new 2K restoration.
There's little doubt that to have heard Sutherland in 1961 must have been really something. It was the year she found New York, and New York found her. This recording, along with the live recording of her early 1961 New York debut in Beatrice di Tenda are legendary moments. Both are concert performances, conducted by Nicola Rescigno.
This Sonnambula was in Carnegie Hall in December and just after her Met debut. The voice is astonishing. The 'Ah, non guinge' is sung with almost wild abandon, absolutely thrilling, and was described the next day by Harold Schonberg as "flawlessly performed pyrotechnics".
The phrase 'Lovely Thunder' suggests a beautiful sound with an undertone of menace. One need go no farther than "Gypsy Violin," the last song and centerpiece of the album Lovely Thunder, to hear how Harold Budd takes the phrase and forges a musical equivalent. Underneath the plaintive melody of the synthesized violin and an occasional foghorn-reminiscent bass note lies a bed of synth chords that are present throughout, sometimes adding notes, sometimes dropping them, sometimes moving a chord up or down a key and into dissonance with the rest. The overall result is an undulating base that never quite lets the listener settle onto firm ground, giving the song a distinct edge. Drones do figure prominently as a musical base for many of the album's other songs, yet the music is generally more akin to the reverberated keyboard treatments Budd utilized to stunning effect on his two collaborations with Brian Eno. Those looking to explore beyond The Plateux of Mirror and The Pearl would do well to give this album a listen, as they will most likely be both challenged and satisfied.
These are rare archive recordings. In 1962 Michelangeli agreed to record a series of televised studio performances for RAI Turin, though not without laying down strict stipulations: the camera set-ups were to be minimal, and there were to be no facial close-ups. Those limitations explain the austere visual style of the recordings presented here, but the light they shed on Michelangeli's artistry is in no way diminished - indeed, the restraint of the camera-work enables us to concentrate without distraction on the musical performances. Even between individual movements of the same work there is no edit, and it is clear that these are single-take interpretations.
The legendary Italian pianist Arturo Benedetti Michelangeli (1920 - 1995), playing at the height of his powers, performs some of Debussy's most sensuous and arresting music for piano, in the famously rare 1962 RAI television recording, newly restored and re-mastered for this release. Michelangeli's fine control and perfect clarity - always present in his playing - have positioned him among the most outstanding recording artists of any generation. "His fingers can no more hit a wrong note or smudge a passage than a bullet can be veered off course once it has been fired…" (Music critic Harold Schonberg)