It was pretty clear that Billy Joel had run out of steam by 1993's River of Dreams. He had shown signs of wearing on its predecessor, Storm Front, but his trademark melodic gift disappeared on River of Dreams and his words, even performances, were bone-tired – he even called the last song "The Last Song (No More Words)." So, it was no great surprise that he did not rush to record a follow-up, and when he started murmuring toward the end of the decade that perhaps he wasn't interested in pop music anymore, nobody who paid attention could have been surprised.
The Japan and Porcupine Tree keyboardist Richard Barbieri releases his most sonically expansive work to date, with a brand new album entitled Planets + Persona. It is the third Barbieri solo album, but the first to feature such a wide pallet of instrumentation. Vintage analogue synthesisers combine with acoustic performances and jazz elements. Twisted voices are always present, though not in a language we can recognise. Barbieri skilfully utilises the talents of a pan-European core of musicians to produce an album that marries synthesised sounds with organic instrumentation to conjure up vivid, colourful and allusive soundscapes. It’s a skilful commingling of texture and tone, mood and musicality.
Regarded as one of the great voices of the Metropolitan Opera, Richard Tucker made his debut there as Alfredo Germont in Verdi’s La Traviata, in January, 1945, and became a specialist in the Italian and French lyric roles. He appeared with the Metropolitan Opera in 734 performances. The only other tenors to have had longer professional careers were Plácido Domingo and Luciano Pavarotti. Sony Classical celebrates 100 years of this legendary American tenor with the release of two limited- edition original album releases.
The other major orchestral release here features the Richard Strauss recordings conducted for Sony Classical by Zubin Mehta.
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Corelli's Op. 5 Violin Sonatas have always been admired by chamber music fans; there are a couple of good recordings of them already available. But this new one by Baroque specialist and virtuoso Andrew Manze and harpsichordist Richard Egarr presents the sonatas in such a bright, exciting, and improvisatory light that they seem brand new. During the composer's lifetime, these sonatas were widely played and tremendously influential; there's a good chance that it was assumed that virtuosi took what was written on the page as a starting point for embellishing and sheer showing off.