Here, listed in the order in which we played them, are the tracks featured on Catch of the Day on March 30, April 7, and June 2. Underscored italics in a header and commentary in bold indicate--surprise!--a recommended release.
In the last few months, we lost several slots to preemptions and travel. But for now, we're hopeful that our schedule going forward will be steadier, with shows at noon Hawaiian time the first and last Sundays of each month. Click here for the station's home page and links for live streaming. Mahalo for listening!
Bach: The French Suite Kit Vol. 4 (Craig Swanson)
Craig Swanson, piano
· Courante (version 1)
· Courante (version 2)
· Courante (version 3)
Why should performers get to make all the decisions? The pianist Craig Swanson's recording of J.S. Bach's beguiling French Suite No. 4 in E-flat major includes alternate versions of each movement, which listeners are invited to mix and match for a more personalized experience. It's a curious experiment. But of his three takes on the "Courante" only the swiftest expresses the character of speed and quickness actually spelled out in the title. Rather than running(from the French courir), the slowest traipses along at a walking pace, suggesting Chopin's raindrops, perhaps? The intermediate version, neither here nor there, evokes a music box. The crisp touch changes little from track to track, leaving tempo as the only significant variable. But in two cases, the tempo makes no sense. Maybe I'm jumping to conclusions from too small a sample, but the takeaway seems crystal-clear. Interpretive choices belong to the performer. Delegating them to the audience is a mistake.
Ascent (Cedille, 2018)
Matthew Lipman, viola; Henry Kramer, piano
· Clarice Assad (born 1978), Metamorfose
ii. Dança das Barboletas
· Dmitri Shostakovich, Impromptu for Viola and Piano, op. 33
World premiere recordings of a commissioned piece and a rediscovered one. Metamorfose, in memory of Matthew Lipman's mother, likens the transition from life to death to the emergence of a butterfly into the sunlight from the unseen upheaval within the dark cocoon. Steeped in moody romance, the Shostakovich would make a perfect recital encore. The performances are assured, personal, and poetic.
Donnacha Dennehy, The Last Hotel (Cantaloupe Music, 2019)
· Man is nothing without dreams (part 1)
· Man is nothing without dreams (part 2)
· The hotel porter's dance
Post Philip Glass, ergo propter Philip Glass. Much shouting, much percussion, much going nowhere in excerpts from an opera concerned, we are told, with a woman very determined to commit suicide.
Gernot Wolfgang, Vienna and the West (Albany, 2019)
· Country Road
· From Vienna With Love
Charming chamber pieces blending Latin and Middle Eastern influences with the energies of jazz.
Sæunn Thorsteinsdóttir, Vernacular (Sono Luminus, 2019)
· Þuriður Jónsdóttir, 48 Images of the Moon
Some music reaches out to a listener, some does not. The composer's technical invention through this long meditation is not in doubt, nor is the commitment of the cellist, for whom it was written. An impressive achievement, but not a moving one.
Old Fashioned (Bridge, 2018)
Brian Mulligan, baritone; Craig Rutenberg, piano
· On the Road to Mandalay
· The Lost Chord
· A Perfect Day
They don't write songs like this anymore, and if they did, who would sing them? Hats off to Brian Mulligan for reviving this repertory with heart and soul and a voice of burnished authority. The legends whose voices I associate with this music (from childhood spelunking the basement apartment of my grandparents' summer house, where they kept a Smithsonian-worthy wind-up Victrola) were Robert Radford (British), John McCormack (Irish), and Paul Robeson (America), whose way with the words and music touched the heartstrings and made you cry. Brian Mulligan has been paying attention if not to those models to others who possessed the same kind of power. Today he has it, too.
Haydn – Piano Sonatas, Vol I (First Hand Records, 2018)
Roman Rabinovich, piano
· Sonata No. 32 in G minor, Hob. XVI:44
Roman Rabinovich sets sail across the complete Haydn's piano sonatas, an ocean of limitless melody and invention. Our pensive selection displays the artist's nicely sprung but gentle touch, and a fine awareness of harmonic nuance.
Cecilia Bartoli – Antonio Vivaldi (Decca, 2018)
Ensemble Matheus, Jean-Christophe Spinelli
· Sovente il sole
Bravura was Cecilia Bartoli's calling card from the start of her career, as the fireworks of her first Vivaldi album amply demonstrated. Today, she is exploring the composer's more intimate strain. As before, the sense of poetic intimacy is unsurpassed.
Troy Sonata – Fazil Say Plays Say (Warner Classics, 2019)
· Helen, Love
· The Trojan Horse
As a storyteller in music, the composer Fazil Say couldn't ask for a more vivid, colorful interpreter than Fazil Say. Captivating stuff.
Perpetuum (Orange Mountain Music, 2019)
· Robert Dillon, Ordering-Instincts
From the new self-titled double album by a crackerjack percussion ensemble, vibrant, upbeat cascades of sound, delicately dusted with bells like starshine.
Cliff Eidelman, Symphony for Orchestra and Two Pianos and Night In the Gallery (Enotes Music, 2018)
· Two Piano Cadenza, Prelude – Movement III
A fresco in sound, brilliantly orchestrated and teeming with narrative suggestion.
Ombra Mai Fu, Francesco Cavalli Opera Arias (Erato, 2019)
Philippe Jaroussky, Artaserse
· Ombra mai fu, from Xerse
· Erme, e solinghe cime ... Lucidissima face, from La Calisto
· Luci belle from Eritrea
A star of the dawn of opera in Venice, Cavalli is remembered today mostly for La Calisto, scandalous Greek mythology served up in tunes of purling grace. The style suits the timbre and temperament of the countertenor Philippe Jaroussky, an esteemed early-music specialist whose charms have hitherto left me cold. This recital would seem to be the game-changer.
Donna Voce (Sorel Classics, 2019)
Anna Shelest, piano
· Clara Schumann: Scherzo, Op. 16
· Lili Boulanger: Prelude in D flat major
· Cecile Chaminade: Les sylvains (The Fauns), op. 60
A lioness of the keyboard, a mercurial Impressionist, a subtle melodist—three singular personalities from an all-female lineup of neglected composers, each given her distinctive due by a pianist of chameleonlike sensitivities.
Twilight (Supertrain Records, 2019)
Music: Zbigniew Preisner – Piano Domink Wania
· Winter in Morgins
· Summer in Gennadi
Appealing mood pieces with some surprising gear shifts (do I hear a habanera?), performed with a poetic touch. Some may say wallpaper music.
Treasures of Devotion: European Spiritual Song ca. 1500 (Music & Arts, 2019)
· Fortuna Desperata/Sancte Petre/Ora pro nobis
· Fortuna Desperata/O morte, dispietata
Soporific, but I guess the label gives fair warning. You were expecting maybe Carmina Burana?
Khatia Buniatishvili: Schubert (Sony Classical, 2019)
· Impromptu No. 3 in G-flat major, Andante (from 4 ImpromptusD 899)
Schubert, especially late Schubert, has a way of attracting artists of depth, subtlety, and substance, like the rising star heard here.
Placeless (Valley Entertainment, 2019)
Kronos Quartet, Mahsa & Marjan Vahdat
· The Might of Love
Poetry of the Sufi masters Rumi and Hafiz as interpreted by the Varhat sisters, who blend Arab tradition with contemporary styles of varied provenance. Back home in Teheran, they got into hot water by performing in public--an activity forbidden to female performers. Cast adrift in the West, they get to make music as they please. I'm lukewarm about this collaboration with the inveterate musical globetrotters of Kronos, which strikes me as tangy but not too tangy, more likely not tangy enough.
Twentieth-Century Oboe Sonatas (Cedille, 2019)
Alex Klein, oboe – Philip Bush, piano
· Henri Dutilleux, Sonata for Oboe and Piano
I. Aria: Grave
II. Scherzo: Vif
III. Final: Assez allant
A masterpiece in miniature, performed to prismatic perfection.
American Rapture (Azica, 2019)
Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra, Ward Stare, conductor
· Barber: Symphony No. 1, op. 9
A work of high drama and formal ingenuity, fusing into a single movement developments customarily distributed among four. The maestro and his "regional" orchestra rise to the challenges with Big Five flair.
Mass Transmission: Choral Works by Mason Bates (Delos, 2019)
· "Sirinu nuqa rikunia," from Sirens
Sung a cappella, the multipart Sirens conjures up the archetype of the dangerous songstresses as encountered in the Greek of Homer as well as the myth and fable of other cultures and languages. Sung in Quechua, a living language of the Andes, this fascinating excerpt chugs along with unsettling lop-sided energy. Hats off to the composer, and kudos to the chorus.