The liner notes for Barry Guy's extended composition/improvisation Folio (a printer's term for a piece of paper folded in half to create four pages) refer extensively to Nikolai Evreinov's 1912 play The Theatre of the Soul, in which three aspects of the soul are introduced by a pretentious professor who claims the Self as Trinity: Rational, Emotional, and Eternal (or subconscious). Performed a scant five years before the Russian Revolution and simultaneously as Freud's big exposition of the Id, the Ego, and the Superego, the play is one of those moments where history seems to be suggesting bits and pieces of itself. What that all has to with Guy's piece is ponderous at best and known only to Guy. Even Brian Lynch's liner essay is speculative and academic.
The National may sound like a garage band turned down, but there's as much primal energy lurking behind Alligator as in any mop-topped group of city kids with bloodstained Danelectros in a dusty warehouse. While Matt Berninger's lyrics and conversational delivery rely heavily on the kind of literate self-absorption that fuels so much of the indie rock scene today, he never comes off as preachy or unaware that the world would manage just fine without him; rather, he uses metaphor and humor as bullet points for a profound sense of displacement and anger. Out-of-the-blue statements like "f*ck me and make me a drink," from the brooding but lovely "Karen," are effective because the listener is brought into the story slowly, almost amiably, before being led to the plank.
Gear Fab's excavation of the recorded history of Greenwich Village folkie Chris Wilson continued apace with this follow-up to The Grey Wizard Am I (itself reissued three years earlier by the archival label). You needn't be a total sci-fi/fantasy dork to enjoy that 1972-vintage album, though it certainly doesn't hurt. Those with less esoteric – okay, less geeky – tastes, on the other hand, probably felt the Tolkien-themed lyricism was more than a little bit twee and precious. Even more well-adjusted, down-to-earth listeners, however, might find themselves charmed by parts of The Tin Angel. Firstly, the music itself is more diverse and, consequently, has a far broader appeal…
This two-disc set is a superb collection of choral works by 20th and 21st century Scandinavian composers, reaching back to Sibelius and other notables born in the 1800s–Toivo Kuula (1883-1918), Wilhelm Stenhammar (1871-1927), David Wikander (1884-1955), and Hugo Alfvén (1872-1960)–and continuing with composers either still living–Einojuhani Rautavaara (b. 1928), Kurt Nystedt (b. 1915), and Jan Sandström (b. 1954)–or recently deceased–Jørgen Jersild (1913-2004) and Lars Johan Werle (1926-2001). This chronologically wide-ranging program makes for a fascinating variety of material and of choral writing, from the most tonal and hymnlike creations of Sibelius and Kuula to the knottier works of Nystedt, Sandström, and Werle. Along the way we hear a solidly, authoritatively rendered version of Sibelius' SATB setting of his challenging Rakastava, followed by Kuula's rich-textured, harmonically luscious, quintessentially Finnish choruses, most notable being the beautiful Auringon noustessa (Sunrise) and Nuku (Sleep).
This generous double disc survey of Saint-Saens' chamber music offers the listener over two hours of unalloyed pleasure and contains a judicious selection of works for various ensembles that range across his career - indeed the three sonatas for bassoon, clarinet and oboe respectively are very late pieces and were part of an intended series of such works for each member of the standard woodwind family, a project only curtailed by the composer's death in 1921.
This is quite simply one of the most important and consistently superbly executed recording projects of all time. Bartók's piano music isn't exactly overrepresented on disc, being as it is without doubt one of the most important piano oeuvres ever composed, and in the hand of Zoltán Kocsis, doubtlessly one of the greatest pianists alive today, one should expect some superb discs where the works at long last receive the treatment they deserve. In fact, the actual result surpasses any possible expectations.