This recital by British pianist Stephen Hough is precisely what the title suggests: a collection of "Night Music" for piano. The program features some very familiar pieces including the most famous night piece of all (even if it wasn't originally intended as such), Beethoven's Piano Sonata in C sharp minor, Op. 27/2 ("Moonlight"). Robert Schumann's Carnaval, Op. 9, refers to a night activity, a masked ball, rather than being an evocation of the night itself, and Hough's reading of these portraits are distinctly on the reflective side. In fact, taken individually, Hough's performances may be too restrained for some listeners, but the cumulative effect has the kind of spell he intends.
The Boston Early Music Festival has recorded George Frideric Handel’s very first opera, Almira, Queen of Castile, with a superlatively sumptuous ensemble. For its previous recordings of Baroque operas this successful ensemble has won prizes such as the Grammy, the German Record Critics Annual Prize, and the Echo Klassik. The Hungarian soprano Emõke Baráth sings the role of Almira with a choice ensemble of singers, all of whom have performed in the world’s most renowned concert halls and opera houses. Handel’s Almira is based on a freely invented plot featuring fine entertainment in the form of love and marriage schemes among the nobility, infidelity and mistaken identities, and a happy ending brought about by a court servant’s negotiations. This work was presented at the Hamburg Opera House in 1705 about twenty times and with great success.
The title is quintessentially Stephen Malkmus – a conflation of two slang terms, one dating back to the hazed-out '60s, the other a vulgar remnant of modernity – and, as it happens, Wig Out at Jagbags also sounds quintessentially Malkmusian. It's elastic guitar rock constructed partially out of cannabis guitar jams and partially out of punk rock squalls, both sides distinguished by wry melodicism and dexterous wordplay, not to mention Malkmus' lingering tendency to hide his accessible inclinations under sheets of six-strings. On 2011's Mirror Traffic, producer Beck prevented the Jicks from taking detours, but here the band is producing on its own, assisted by Remko Schouten, so they're free to follow wherever their whims may take them.
Stephen Hough has the ample virtuoso credentials to excel in these demanding exemplars of Romantic piano music. Only rarely do we miss the rhetorical flourishes or the big, burnished tone and philosophical depth of an Arrau, but this is a first-rate reading of wonderful piano music. Hough's performance of "Vallé d'Obermann," the longest by far of the Swiss book of the Années, is played like the large-scale tone poem it is, and he fully conveys the work's meditation on nature's mysteries. His tempo freedoms in "Au bord d'une source" help make this astounding "water music" a miracle of color and mood. Throughout, Hough's fleet fingers dazzle in the difficult passages and his tonal subtleties reflect the poetry in these nine pieces.
'Right By You' was Stephen Stills' reward for the yeoman effort he put forth on the 1982 Crosby, Stills and Nash reunion disc. Prior to his second reunion with Crosby and Nash, Stephen had produced two commercial duds in 1978, 'Illegal Stills' and 'Thoroughfare Gap'. Although both albums featured some tantalizing tracks, the disco groundswell engulfing popular music was making Stephen's patented folk-rock-blues sound passe…