Ulf Soderberg is the creative talent behind Sephiroth. The gorgeous gothic architecture his compositions are framed in resemble no one else's. They move the listener in a very specific way to the interior, far inside the composition's marrow, and then leave her or him there. Söderberg's music has the stamp of the dark northlands all over it, but there is a warmth and passion in it as well. He relates stories about the inexorable and destructive power of Time, mankind's futile attempts of resistance, and the sunken cities, fallen towers, and overgrown ruins that this has resulted in. Dark eerie soundscapes and ritualistic drums are combined with his own field recordings from places like Cairo, Iceland, and gloomy Nordic forests. Truly mysterious and truly fantastic.
… Violinist Ulf Wallin and pianist Roland Pöntinen recorded the Sonata No. 1 in 2009 in Stockholm and the remaining sonatas in 2010 in Berlin, and there is a noticeable improvement in sound quality in the later recordings, possibly due to closer microphone placement and more resonant acoustics. Even so, Wallin and Pöntinen are consistent in their penetrating interpretations and they deliver handsome performances that hold the album together and make it a fine artistic achievement.
Franz Liszt composed little chamber music, though the handful of pieces he wrote or arranged for violin and piano represent his enduring interest in that combination, from the Grand Duo concertant (1835/49) to La lugubre gondola (1882-83). This program by violinist Ulf Wallin and pianist Roland Pöntinen offers those pieces and five more selections that demonstrate Liszt's fondness for passionate, long-breathed melodies in the Magyar vein and turbulent accompaniments that allowed for virtuosity. The standout track of this hybrid SACD is the arrangement of the Hungarian Rhapsody No. 12 (ca. 1850), which gives a full treatment to those characteristics, and provides Wallin and Pöntinen their most dazzling displays. While the moods of the surrounding pieces are for the most part lyrical and subdued, the performances are compelling and the sound of the recording is close-up and focused, with the presence and clarity of a recital.
Unfamiliar combinations in music can lead to surprising, captivating results. At the “Jazz at Berlin Philharmonic” concert in October 2014, series curator Siggi Loch presented Swedish guitarist Ulf Wakenius in a new and unexpected role: as second guitarist alongside the undisputed master of flamenco nuevo, Gerardo Núñez. The combination of Wakenius and Núñez has succeeded in sending the Jazzpaña project off into a wholly new direction. The Tagesspiegel described the occasion as a “mighty fiesta.” Sparks definitely flew, Núñez had an appetite for more of the same, and he invited his Swedish colleague straight back to Madrid for the re-match.
Those who've been exposed to Ulf Wakenius' more aggressive side will be pleasantly surprised by Enchanted Moments, a generally rewarding collection of ballads and standards that finds the Swedish fusion/hard bop/post-bop improvisor playing acoustic guitar exclusively. Wakenius' range of influences has included Pat Metheny and John McLaughlin as well as earlier guitarists like Wes Montgomery and Jim Hall – and in this very lyrical and reflective setting, Metheny's influence is especially apparent. Well-respected in Swedish jazz circles but little known in the U.S., Wakenius is, for the most part, well-served by Scandinavian jazzmen Lars Jansson (acoustic piano, synthesizers) Lars Danielsson (acoustic bass, synthesizers)…
When the curtain fell at the Paris Opera premiere of Capriccio, the audiences rose to long and frenetic ovations. They unanimously applauded each singer in a cast of stars, but Renée Fleming was undoubtedly the leading light of this remarkable production. Every one of the performers in this production is outstanding and can be regarded as the best possible singer for the role - Opera fans from all over the world came to Paris to see this production. This Capriccio also served as a role debut for American star soprano Renée Fleming who took on the role of the Gräfin. The critics celebrated her performance as “ideal” in all aspects: musically, dramatically and above all vocally and she was cheered frenetically by the audience at the Palais Garnier of the Opéra National de Paris.
The discography of Strauss’s last opera is not exactly crowded, but the two existing accounts provide formidable competition for any newcomer. First there was Sawallisch, conducting the Philharmonia for EMI in 1957 (unfortunately in mono) and a cast led by Schwarzkopf, Ludwig and Fischer-Dieskau. Then, in 1971, came that other supreme Straussian, Karl Böhm, with Janowitz, Troyanos and (again) Fischer-Dieskau, recorded in Munich for DG. The new Decca set brings together many of today’s leading exponents of Strauss’s roles, dominated, for me, by the unsurpassed Clairon of Brigitte Fassbaender, now alas, never to be heard on stage again following her retirement. Heilmann and Bär make an ardent pair of rival suitors, Hagegård an admirable Count and Halem a sonorous, characterful La Roche. (There is a delightful link with the past history of the opera in the person of Hans Hotter: he sang Olivier in the 1942 premiere, La Roche in the 1957 Sawallisch set, and here, at 84 when recorded in December 1993, a one-line cameo as a servant.) For many, though, the set’s desirability will rest on Te Kanawa’s Countess.