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September 2012
Enjoy the Music.com Review Magazine
Best Audiohpile Music Of 2012 Blue Note Award
Best Of 2012 Blue Note Music Awards
As Chosen By Music Editor Wayne Donnelly And Music Review Staff
Click here to e-mail the staff

 

Classical Music 

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Ludwig Von Beethoven
Symphony No. 5 in C minor, Op. 67; Piano Concerto Mo. 4 in G major, Op. 58
Emanuel Ax (piano), Micheal Tilson Thomas conducting the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra
Review By Max Westler

Given the number of slick, superficial performances of his music, it's easy to think the age of great Beethoven playing has long since passed. But here are heroic, bristling interpretations of two of his most popular and demanding works In the symphony, MTT achieves a miraculous combination of intellectual rigor and raw power. The concerto is no less persuasive. Emanuel Ax, a brilliant but sometimes reserved soloist, throws all caution to the wind., and the result is a G major Concerto like no other. And all this in sound that Furtwangler and Schnabel could only have dreamed of.

 

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Maurice Ravel
Complete Music for Piano
Steven Osborne (piano)
Review By Max Westler

I've yet to hear a performance by Steven Osborne that's been anything less than compelling, and this traversal of Ravel's evocative, challenging piano works goes right to the head of the class.  Alternately poetic and bold, Osborne captures the full emotional (and dynamic) range of this music in sound that is demonstration quality. You'll swear that his Steinway is right there in your listening space.

 

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Jean-Joeseph Lekeu
Sonata in G major for Violin and Piano
Maurice Ravel
Sonatas for Violin and Piano Nos. 1 and 2, Tzigane
Alina Ibragimova (violin), Cedric Tiberghien (piano)
Review By Max Westler

This disc is a pleasure from beginning to end. Ibragimova and Tiberghien approach these Romantic scores with a youthful abandon that will sweep you off your feet. If this disc does nothing more than introduce you to Lekeu's neglected masterpiece, it will have served a noble purpose. But in addition to the Lekeu, you also get superlative performances of Ravel's complete works for violin and piano. Ibragimova's Tzigane will knock your socks off. The sound is thrillingly realistic.

 

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Franz Lizst
Concertos No. 1 in E flat major, No. 2 in A major
Edvard Grieg
Concerto in A minor
Steven Hough (piano), Andrew Litton conducting the Bergen Symphony Orchestra
Review By Max Westler

Think you know how these familiar works should sound? Guess again. Hough's intense, imaginative, heart-on-sleeve interpretations of these familiar works will make you hear them again as if for the first time. The Liszt concertos are free of bombast and rhetoric; the Grieg sings and soars without melodrama or sentimentality. I'd like to think that these are performances the composers themselves would have approved of. The Hyperion sound is typically superb.

 

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Horowitz Plays Liszt
Review By Joe Milicia

Various piano works of Franz Liszt were favorites of Vladimir Horowitz, and all his performances released on RCA, Columbia and (posthumously) Sony over the years (mostly 1942-1989), all fascinating and often astounding, have now been gathered into a 4-CD set. The sound quality varies, needless to say, but everything is quite acceptable considering the vintage, and sometimes quite fine, period. Horowitz never played anything exactly the same way twice, as one can appreciate by comparing the two performances of the Sonata included here, or the five (all enthralling) of the Valseoubliée No. 1. Among the many highlights are the1966 live Carnegie Hall rendition of the Valléed' Obermann, several Hungarian Rhapsodies, and much more, both rarities and warhorses.

 

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The Soviet Experience, Volume 1:
String Quartets by Dmitri Shostakovich and His Contemporaries
Dmitri Shostakovich: String Quartets Nos. 5-8, Ops. 92, 101, 108, 110
Nikolai Miaskovsky: String Quartet No. 13, Op. 86
Pacifica Quartet
Review By Joe Milicia

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The Soviet Experience, Volume 2: String Quartets by Dmitri Shostakovich and His Contemporaries
Shostakovich: String Quartets Nos. 1-4
Prokofiev: String Quartet No. 2
Pacifica Quartet
Review By Joe Milicia

We're at the halfway point in The Pacifica Quartet's project with Cedille to record the 15 string quartets of Dmitri Shostakovich, along with a "filler" for each bargain-priced 2-CD set of a major quartet by a different Soviet composer (Miaskovsky in Volume 1, Prokofiev in Volume 2). The Pacifica have a warmer — less astringent and sardonic — sound and sensibility than some other quartets have brought to these endlessly fascinating, deeply personal, works,  and thus provide a different perspective upon them without stinting on the intense drama, the playfulness, the rhythmic excitement. The first two issues, featuring the first eight quartets, certainly don't replace the landmark Borodin Quartet sets, but with Cedille's superb sound and the Pacifica's emotional commitment, they may be on their way toward landmark status themselves.

 

 

Rock

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Misstress Barbara
I'm No Human
MapleMusic Recordings MRCD 6503
Review By Claude Lemaire

While Misstress Barbara has since released a new album titled Many Shades of Grey, it is her first album - I'm No Human - that serves as a benchmark for fusing danceable teckhouse with darker emotive songcraft along with exemplary sound production values. It stands out all the more that her latest release suffers from all-too typical high compression and lackluster production values.

Superb work from engineer Lazar and assistant Joe Laporta on mastering this CD (ironically the same pairing as on the latest one) while not neglecting Bonfiglio's fine production as well as all parties involved, i.e. great team work.

In retrospect, my original conclusion - "although the album sounds modern and fresh in songcraft, I cannot but admire the many sound-textured details that hark back to the golden age of mid to late 1970s multi-track recording when - disco, electro and prog — producers were more concerned with sound layering than plain loudness level" — seems ever more fitting given the current development.

 

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Pixies
Surfer Rosa
Mobile Fidelity Sound Lab MFSL 1-296
Format: Vinyl (180 gram LP at 33 1/3 rpm)
Review By Claude Lemaire

If you limit yourself to only one Pixie album, this is the one to get. And MoFi's 180 gram deluxe edition is the definitive version to own. Released in 1988, the band were at their peak; artfully combining musical creativity while alternatively unleashing the rawness of a 'garage band'.

With renowned (non)producer Steve Albini at the helm, you just know it is going to be interesting. And there lies the fine art of capturing the essence of a live band while cleverly 'molding the clay' to a reproducible near-facsimile of the real thing. Such is the case with Albini'sSerfer Rosa and with - MoFi engineer - Shawn R. Brillon's brilliant remastering; everything is spot on.

Summing up, this first Pixie reissue by Mobile Fidelity makes a convincing argument that when using the Original Master Tape, recorded by an original 'master' engineer the likes of Steve Albini, that MoFi's half-speed mastering/cutting method even at 33 1/3 rpm gives a run for the money to competing 45 rpm releases cut in realtime. You owe it to yourself to possess at least one 'rock' recording that many (unfortunately) tend to qualify as lo-fi when in reality this is more hi-fi than 99% of what's out there or ever was.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

     
 

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