Alexander L'Estrange, medieval French name and all, is a contemporary English composer of mostly vocal and choral music, much of it accessible and appealing. A song cycle on the historical development of the bicycle is part of his catalog. On Eagles' Wings is a group of sacred pieces seemingly suited to English collegiate choirs' unquenchable thirst for new repertoire, but L'Estrange benefits here from performances by Tenebrae and director Nigel Short, as crack a choral ensemble as there is anywhere.
Superb re-issue of a superb album. Excellent re-mastering of what many consider to be one of the classic albums of the period that escaped mainstream distribution on the big labels. For those of you who have never came across Mazlyn Jones’s music then this is where to start. For those of you who do know his music the bonus tracks are real gems. Beautifully crafted songs and lyric straight from the heart. Its good to find artists who when re-releasing work can manage to put some thought and effort into it. Wholly recommended.
If anyone has earned the right to mess around with Vivaldi’s Four Seasons it is Nigel Kennedy, the violin world’s Marmite violinist. Remember how fresh he made this music sound on his recording of a quarter-century ago? This latest version offers a ferment of all he’s played since – concertos, jazz, Jimi Hendrix. It’s affectionate and irreverent in equal measure, and Kennedy and his Orchestra of Life never sound less than riveting. Pretty much all Vivaldi’s notes are there; around, above and in between them come interjections, overlays and linking passages involving guest musicians from jazz and rock: Orphy Robinson, Damon Reece, Z-Star and others. Spring is welcomed in by a distant-sounding intro on an electric-guitar. Summer’s storms bring forth bursts of crazily sampled static. Autumn tears off at a cracking pace, but with a jazz trumpet sauntering lazily over the top. It all sounds like a colossal jam session from the inside of a Botticelli painting.
Medieval Baebes and other far greater shocks to the bourgeoisie have come along. Wild adventures placed under the rubric of performances of Vivaldi's Four Seasons are commonplace. Yet Nigel Kennedy continues to roost atop the classical sales charts in Europe, and even to command a decent following in the U.S. despite a low American tolerance for British eccentricity. How does he do it? He has kept reinventing himself successfully. Perhaps he's the classical world's version of Madonna: he's possessed of both unerring commercial instincts and with enough of a sense of style to be able to dress them up as forms of rebellion. Inner Thoughts is a collection of slow movements – inner movements of famous concertos from Bach and Vivaldi to Brahms, Bruch, and Elgar. Actually, the only composer falling into the middle of that large chronological gap is Mendelssohn; Kennedy apparently needs a sort of otherworldly serenity for this project, which Baroque and post-Romantic slow movements may have, but Mozart does not. At any rate, this is no radical idea; it's a softball straight up the middle.