Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Seasonal Special: Advent

Once again I find myself in the sweet spot of a target audience, this time as choral music aficionado and Liturgy Nerd.  The commercial season of Christmas has been going on long enough to bring a Scrooge-like gleam to the eye. In liturgical terms, however, we're still in the midst of Advent: a season, ideally, of quiet anticipation. It's one of my favorite times of the liturgical year, so it was with great delight that I discovered a new CD dedicated to music written for it. The Junger Kammerchor Rhein-Neckar, under the direction of Mathias Rickert, has recorded a really rich album, featuring not only music from such luminaries as Byrd, Victoria, and Pärt, but also many creative arrangements and original pieces by contemporary composers. Predictably, I love it.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Late Romanticism in Lieder: Mahler Contemporaries

Recording venue: St. Jacob the Greater, Jihlava
A disc entitled Mahler Contemporaries is as a siren call to me. I am always fascinated by music that doesn't fit easily into categories of the romantic or the modern, experimenting and exploring possibilities. I wondered, I confess, how a CD devoted to such music would acquire its coherence. Mahler Contemporaries, recorded live at a Mahler festival in 2014, doesn't impose much external structure on its offerings, instead allowing the wide range of musical styles to speak for themselves. I found the resulting listening experience stimulating and enjoyable, although I would have appreciated  more thorough liner notes, which were limited to potted biographies of the composers. I also suspect that the recording technology may have flattened the acoustics of the church where the works were performed. Including Strauss and Schoenberg, and ranging far beyond them, the disc offers rarities that should be welcomed by all those who (like me) are always complaining that there isn't enough weird central European romanticism being programmed by the concert and recital venues of the world.


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