ADVERTISEMENT

Classical

Chanticleer, “By Request” (Chanticleer Records). Chanticleer fuses the worlds of music and science. Often, the sound this group of men produces is like nothing I have ever heard. An ancient Catholic chant by Palestrina is like a dream, so measured are their voices. “Not an End of Loving” was written by their director, Steven Sametz, to spotlight the group’s strengths, chief of which is that perfect, seamless sound. Sametz had fun with his assignment. The first song, “Where I Become You,” begins in a kind of conversational scramble and the music emerges gradually, and organically – as if it came out of nothing. An “Ave Verum Corpus” by William Byrd is transcendent and gentle. There is an account in the notes about Byrd’s courage as a Catholic in the Elizabethan era – you never read this in liner notes, never. On the minus side, Chanticleer is blissfully oblivious when it crosses the line into pretentiousness. The group sang a Mason Bates composition called “Observer in the Magellanic Cloud” – the title alone raises a red flag – in Buffalo last year and it was tough going. It was interesting to watch, perhaps, with the singers walking around the stage, punctuating their singing with their footsteps – but listening, that is something else. This album, like that concert, just screams “serious.” It’s a marvel all the same. Three Stars. (Mary Kunz Goldman)

...

Salonen, “Out of Nowhere – Violin Concerto No. 1 and Nyx” performed by violinist Leila Josefowicz and the Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra conducted by Esa-Pekka Salonen (Deutsche Grammophon). It is customary, to put it mildly, for truly indispensable international conductors to be a good deal less than that as composers. It isn’t every working conductor-composer hyphenate after all who can be Mahler. Most have to settle for some sort of variation on, say, Skrowaczewski or Damrosch. The great Finnish conductor of the Los Angeles Philharmonic, Esa-Pekka Salonen, seems from these two pieces to be something of an exception. His 2009 violin concerto is both sternly powerful and rhythmically infectious, from its opening agitato violin measures onward. Salonen claims the piece is as much a portrait of the violinist here, Leila Josefowicz, as anything else. Nevertheless, it’s hard not to imagine how it might sound from a violinist known for larger, richer tone. The disc’s final night piece, “Nyx,” from 2010 also makes liberal use of choirs in the orchestra’s lower sonorities used with such impact in the violin concerto. No one would claim Salonen to be on the same composing level as Finnish countrymen Rautavaara or Sallinen, not to mention Sibelius, but foolish generosity isn’t necessary to put these two works on the same level as, say, Magnus Lindberg. His composing is almost on the exalted level of his conducting. Three stars (Jeff Simon)

...

Imogen Holst, Choral Works performed by the Choir of Cambridge’s Clare College and the Dmitri Ensemble conducted by Graham Ross (Harmonia Mundi). If ever there were a choral composer who deserved to make whatever claim she could on history, it’s Imogen Holst, whose entire life, it seems, was spent in the shadow of the unquestioned lions of British music. She was Gustave Holst’s daughter, her 1927 “Mass in A-Minor” here was written for a class taught by Vaughan Williams and she spent 12 years of her life as Benjamin Britten’s amanuensis. It is Holst’s orchestration of Britten’s organ part to his “Rejoice in the Lamb” that is also heard here. It would be wonderful to be able to assert that in her own works, Holst is a discovery as extraordinary as, say, the choral music of Lili Boulanger, the magnificent and little known sister of fabled 20th century musical pedagogue Nadia. It’s not. It’s worthy liturgical music whose existence on disc is as much a matter of karmic decency as it is a matter of musical discovery. Nor is the performance by the Cambridge singers much beyond appropriate. Rewards on earth for such music are, no doubt, less than those in heaven. Two and 1/2 stars. (Jeff Simon)

Pop

Gustavo Casenave, “Tango Casenave” (Watchcraft Music). Pianist Gustavo Casenave leads a great tango combo here in a sultry 17 numbers. Their sound – bass, violin, bandoneon – and repertoire could remind local listeners of offbeat groups we have heard around here, Them Jazzbeards, for instance. “Simone.” a ballad featuring violin and bandoneon, has a Gypsy groove. Other selections sound almost classical. Casenave seems classically trained. He has a sweet delicacy in his playing. He added atmosphere in the tinkly chromatic descending piano lines that kick off Astor Piazzolla’s “Adios Nonino.” This is music you could imagine on a Woody Allen movie soundtrack. Three stars. (M.K.G.)

Pop/New Age

Tangerine Dream, “Under Cover” (Purple Pyramid). What do you mean, you forgot all about Tangerine Dream? How could you, when Edgar Froese’s proto-eletronica/new age/”krautrock” ensemble was so integral to the soundtracks of such movies as Michael Mann’s “Thief” and William Friedkin’s “Sorcerer.” (where Friedkin remade Clouzot’s nitroglycerin-carrying masterpiece “The Wages of Fear”). Well you may have forgotten about Froese and Tangerine Dream, but they’re not forgetting about us. And here, almost literally on a bet, is a lunatic disc that qualifies as one of the sillier guilty pleasures of the year – a disc of, no kidding, Tangerine Dream covers of folk, pop and rock classics, from Michael Stipe’s “Everybody Hurts,” to Bowie’s “Space Oddity” and “Heroes” to the Eagles’ “Hotel California” and Leonard Cohen’s “Suzanne” (whose name is pronounced by singer Thorsten Quaeschning “Susan” as in Susan Sarandon, not “Su-ZANNE”). It all ends – but of course – with Cohen’s “Hallelujah” and Pink Floyd’s “Wish You Were Here.” It’s like a musical version of a “Saturday Night Live” routine that isn’t meant to be funny – even though if often is, when it’s not shamefully enjoyable. If only supermarkets would play it while we shop. Three stars. (J.S.)

Jazz

Nik Bartsch’s Ronin, “Live” (ECM, two discs). It’s hard not to love a Swiss pianist who calls the music of one of his regular groups “zen funk.” Think of post-Riley, Reich and Nyman classical minimalism well-mixed with jazz improvisation, all lying on top of a couple percussionists who can, when moved, migrate from creative sonic embroidery to formidable polyrhythmic rave-ups with locomotive drive. Or, as Bartsch, 41, rather artfully calls it “zen funk.” It goes without saying that the world at large would likely have little recorded truck with such music without ECM. What Bartsch and his group did here with live music performed all over the world by his sextet Ronin is select nine pieces from more than 50 concerts recorded in the last three years from locations as disparate as Tokyo, Amsterdam and Gatedhead. Some of it is as impressive as it is inimitable. Three and 1/2 stars (J.S.)

Hip Hop

Mellowhype, “Numbers” (Odd Future Records, RED). Up to and including this third album, hip-hop duo Mellowhype – comprised of erstwhile Odd Future members Hodgy Beats and Left Brain – has shown little reason for existing. Hodgy Beats has a languishing flow that makes him a unique sidekick in Odd Future, but he’s hardly the group’s most dynamic rapper. Left Brain has a knack for unadorned beats, but they sound best with a mess of voices burning them up. As a duo, these guys easily click, but Mellowhype still hasn’t developed a personality that’s distinct from the rest of Odd Future. Perhaps with this in mind, “Numbers” keeps guests to a minimum: Frank Ocean, Mike G and the newly exiled Earl Sweatshirt are the only Odd Future friends who pop up. But “Numbers” never gets particularly introspective or particularly incendiary. It’s the last thing you expect from anyone in Odd Future: Too moderate. Two stars. (Jason Silverstein)