There are many apocryphal stories in the classical-music world, but the one in which Frederick the Great challenged Bach to improvise a six-part fugue on a theme of the king's own invention is true, and The Musical Offering was, after a period of further reflection, the result. As with all the works of Bach's later years, the work is both great art and a "teaching piece," which shows everything that he thought could be done with the king's theme. The Trio Sonata based on the theme is the only major piece of chamber music from Bach's last decades in Leipzig, and that makes the work and essential cornerstone of any Bach collection. This performance, led by Neville Marriner, is both polished and lively, and very well recorded. At a "twofer" price, coupled with The Art of Fugue, it's the preferred version of the work on modern instruments.
Happily, it is not the responsibility of this review to address in detail the train wreck that was the 1979 film adaptation of the stage musical Hair. A complete misfire conceived by a screenwriter, Michael Weller, and a director, Czech expatriate Milos Forman, who did not seem to have the slightest familiarity with hippies, the '60s, America, or even Broadway, the movie was miscast with supposedly bankable young film stars of the day (Treat Williams, John Savage, Beverly d'Angelo), and the essentially plotless libretto of the stage version was replaced by a contrived Hollywood script in a textbook example of how not to do an adaptation. But never mind the movie itself…
Classical music for children has been an underserved genre, even though nothing could be more beneficial to the cause of bringing the music to future generations. Any such release is worthy of note, but one like this, charming and original, is cause for celebration. Pianist Jenny Lin organizes for children some favorite compositions and a few delightful rarities along a timeline "from breakfast to bedtime." There are 26 short pieces, enough to give a feel for the variety and importance of this tradition in the 19th and early 20th centuries. Along the way you get Chopsticks, which you may not have known was an actual composition with an actual composer (female, at that), former chestnuts like Grieg's Grandmother's Minuet, the utterly charming I Danced with a Mosquito by Anatoly Liadov, ragtime and jazz works, and, to end, starlight familiar (Mozart) and more rare (Selim Palmgren), plus the famed cradle songs of Brahms and Chopin. Lin and the engineers from the Steinway label create a magical atmosphere, amplified by excellent children's illustrations in the booklet by Mikela Prevost. An ideal holiday, or anytime, gift item.
This second volume of the Guide to Musical Instruments explores the history of musical instruments in the period from 1800 to 1950. Its purpose is both to discuss improvements and transformations of instruments dating from before 1800 and to investigate all the novelties thought up by instrument makers during this era. All these developments took place in a context in which the process of instrument making moved from artisans’ workshops to commercial firms which became veritable factories, typical of the ‘age of industrialisation’. The majority of the musical examples are recordings of individual instruments that allow us to hear timbres often lost under the weight of the orchestral mass.This second volume of the Guide follows the same principles as the first.
The great avant-jazz drummer Andrew Cyrille – whose associations have ranged from a long collaboration with Cecil Taylor to co-leading the collective Trio 3 with Oliver Lake and Reggie Workman – makes his ECM leader debut with The Declaration of Musical Independence. Featuring a quartet with guitarist Bill Frisell, keyboardist Richard Teitelbaum and bassist Ben Street, the album kicks off with an artfully oblique interpretation of John Coltrane’s “Coltrane Time,” led by Cyrille’s solo drum intro.
The cast list is a dream come true. The diversity of the players and pieces is what makes this album special to me. The album structure could be labelled Prog before there was Prog. Split this into the written piece "Hair in a G-String" (about 46 minutes) & "Songs not in G" (About 36 minutes) and you'd have a prog album and a melodic rock album I guess. We didn't do that. We mixed it up. See it as musical interludes between the main action.