Friday, June 24, 2011

Veljo Tormis: Forgotten Peoples - Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir

I mentioned Veljo Tormis in the last post, and this post is long overdue. This is a review of Forgotten Peoples I wrote in 2008:

5.0 out of 5 stars Pure InspirationJanuary 20, 2008
Ed Luhrs (Long Island, NY USA) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Veljo Tormis: Forgotten Peoples (Audio CD) << Click to see the page<<
I wish a review could do this work justice. I think Tormis has written one of the greatest choral works of all time, without question. The pieces are written in languages similar to Estonian and Finnish. The cultures, along with the languages, are becoming erased by time, hence the bleak front cover with the fence falling into overgrown grass.

On the other hand, the music is playful and filled with variety. Strange? Absolutely, but in a truly warm and inviting way. There are complete lyrics and English translations, so you will understand everything that is going on.

This is one of the greatest musical discoveries I have ever made. No exaggeration. Any work that preserves history so distinctly deserves wide recognition. Spread the word.

...Amazon, where I post some reviews using my other name. Some might even call it my real name. Anyway, I stand by my word. This work is something special, so much so that I believe I'd be doing the composer a disservice by posting the whole thing. Same reason I wouldn't post an album like Penguin Eggs by Nic Jones - respect for living legends who could use the recognition and financial support. Unlike Penguin Eggs, this album by Tormis is harder to find, so let me point to an MP3 download of excerpts on Amazon here. This recording only offers selections of the original work, but it's a good start. 

I hope they're able to offer the whole album above as an MP3 download for those interested. The only problem is this is one of those works where you'd benefit from having the lyrics and translation in front of you, so having a physical copy is a bonus here. With words and translation in hand, you'll get a glimpse of some of the forgotten music and folklore traditions from the far northern reaches of earth.


Tuesday, June 21, 2011

John Adams / Lepo Sumera - Shifting Landscapes

Happy summer! Let me share a post that appears on a blog called "Welcome to My Spirit World," hosted by a kindhearted fellow from Asia named Peter. The site showcases a good selection of music, including this album featuring works by John Adams and Lepo Sumera. The tracklist is as follows:
1.      Fearful Symmetries (Adams)
2-4.  Symphony No. 2 (Sumera)
5.     The Chairman Dances (Adams)
I've never heard of the Symphony Orchestra of Norrlands Opera before, but they are in top form on this recording. It's a John Adams sandwich, but let's start with the middle. I really admire Lepo Sumera's Second Symphony and think this is a great version to hear. There is something about the original, off-the-beaten-path sound of Estonian composers that consistently captivates my attention. Listening to this symphony is a wonderful experience, with its harp, bells, arresting motifs, and the building and release of energy. I'd pick this symphony and Forgotten Peoples by Veljo Tormis as two of my favorite compositions by Estonian composers, though there are plenty of great works to discover.

I'm not sure why Fearful Symmetries has the title it does - Adams's 1988 composition has plenty of engaging energy, rhythm, and even a little jazz - an uplifting work, and perfect for summer. It's a good introduction to John Adams. Pretty much anything John Adams writes is a good introduction to John Adams. The Chairman Dances are pretty good too. One of my favorite Adams pieces is the Violin Concerto, but that's another recording for another day.

In the mean time, go visit Peter's blog here to see the post, the download information for this recording, and his other posts.


Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Thurber - The Last Flower

Beautiful story - bittersweet, a little silly, and true on so many levels. I found the right kind of music to accompany James Thurber's "parable in pictures."


Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Shawn Colvin - Live '88

Just a singer and her guitar in an excellent live performance. Shawn Colvin keeps her fans happy with well-produced studio recordings, but here she is in 1988, even before the release of her first album. What a sweet voice and fine guitar work. She's got rhythm, subtle phrasing, and a strong emotional appeal. These are not songs that explore world politics and the price of gas, but introspections. She sings about personal relationships and her place in her world. It's all about the beautiful delivery and her love of the songwriting craft. She covers Paul Simon's "Kathy's Song" in a way that would melt even the most hard hearted.

I think this performance will win you over. It was released in 1995 by Plump Records and is not in current circulation. I bought this in 1996 or 1997 at a small record store in Binghamton, NY (or was it Burlington, VT? ... I can't remember). Click here for access to other recordings by Shawn Colvin.

Download here (no password):