On Soli, Tamsin Waley-Cohen's 2015 release on Signum Classics, the violinist explores modernist repertoire composed between 1944 and 2005. Because these solo violin pieces by Béla Bartók, George Benjamin, Krzysztof Penderecki, Elliott Carter, and György Kurtág are challenging for both the player and the listener, one should approach this CD with some awareness that they reflect different phases of the avant-garde movement that dominated music in the last half of the 20th century. In quieter selections where the moods are primarily brooding or lyrical, Waley-Cohen produces a vibrant tone and smooth phrasing that make her playing easy to appreciate, even when the music isn't recognizably tonal. However, in louder, dissonant passages, notably in sections of the Bartók Sonata, Benjamin's Canon for Sally, Carter's Remembering Aaron, and Kurtág's Anziksz Kellerannanak, the close microphone placement makes her bowing sound overly resinous and scratchy, which can be hard to enjoy. Even so, few violinists dare approach this bracing material, and Waley-Cohen is to be commended for devoting a whole album to such cutting-edge pieces solely on her terms, without making compromises.
Leonard Cohen's return to touring in 2008 kicked off a remarkably productive and satisfying third act in his career, and his continued enthusiasm for live performances has been both surprising and rewarding, as Cohen has reminded his fans that he's one of the most compelling artists you can see on a stage, even in his eighth decade. But Cohen has also released three live albums since his comeback – 2009's Live in London, 2010's Songs from the Road, and 2014's Live in Dublin – and even his most loyal patrons must be wondering how badly they need a fourth. Product overkill might keep some of Cohen's fans away from 2015's Can't Forget: A Souvenir of the Grand Tour, which features live performances and soundcheck recordings from 2012 and 2013 road dates, but from a strict standpoint of quality, Cohen's batting average is still admirably high, and this album once again leaves no doubt as to his continued strength as a vocalist.