The dystopian Seattle of The Last of Us 2 is a vision of the Pacific-Northwest unlike anything witnessed in the pages of Lonely Planet. The cordyceps fungus has lain waste to a city flooded by busted waterways and overgrown with foliage, which only serves to camouflage its diseased population. Rusted campervans share blocked highways with abandoned tanks and the detritus of a guerrilla conflict that is dysfunctional, desperate and coming to get you.
But amid the chaos of this beautiful apocalypse there are scraps from the past and connections with a vanished life that help to build the humane core running through Naughty Dog's universally lauded new blockbuster. Here, for example, you will find the Valiant Music Shop. Scavenge beyond the corroded synths and warped vinyl to discover an acoustic guitar, where Ellie can practice her newfound craft and, even, strum the chords of A-ha's Take On Me.
Indeed, for all the accompanying headlines around character bloodlust, crunch culture and LGBTQ+ themes, music plays a decisive role. It's there in the unblinking devotion of Joel's Future Days Pearl Jam cover, Ellie's reworking of New Order's True Faith – with its bullseye refrain of "My morning sun is the drug that brings me near. To the childhood I lost, replaced by fear" – and also, of course, in the soundtrack of Gustavo Santaolalla.
Like The Last of Us, the overarching tone of this immersive experience is set by the Argentinian composer, who feels as integral as any component in realizing the bleak heart and wilderness soul of these debased environments. Santaolalla, who won Oscars for his Brokeback Mountain and Babel soundtracks, sees clear parallels in his methods across cinema and gaming.
(Image credit: Naughty Dog/Sony)
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The cellist, made famous for performing at the Duke and Duchess of Sussex's wedding, has returned to a socially distanced stage. Sheku Kanneh-Mason has been spending lockdown live streaming concerts with his six siblings from their home in Nottingham. Now he's stepping onto a larger stage once more for the Philharmonia Orchestra summer session series.\
Mason recently released an original composition entitled, "Melody." Written for solo cello, on Decca Classics, and having just celebrated his 21st birthday, Sheku is happy to mark the occasion with his own work, Sheku says: "I wrote this tune a while back, inspired by folk music I love listening to. I never intended to release it but felt now would be a good time to share it. I hope it might encourage people to try something new and express their creativity during this difficult time."
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Piano legend Ludovico Einaudi has released a brand-new album of 12 tracks, which is now available on all major streaming platforms. The Italian recorded this new release at home on his own upright piano during the Covid-19 lockdown in Italy. Einaudi designed the artwork himself. During the lockdown, he was regularly hosting live online performances for his thousands of fans, and it was the experience of these self-broadcasts that inspired him to create this album.
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Singer and comedienne, Liza Pulman has teamed up with the legendary million-selling German artist, Max Raabe to duet on his song, Willst Du Bei Mir Bleiben (Will You Stay Beside Me).
The song, taken from his 2018 award-winning album Der Perfekte Moment, has been re-interpreted into an intimate and achingly beautiful duet; with two unique voices that marry together in perfect harmony. With shades of the smoky Parisienne feel of a Jacques Loussier arrangement.
The track also features both the internationally acclaimed classical pianist Simon Lepper and the highly sought-after jazz drummer, Ian Thomas and was produced at Real World Studios by the veteran producer Chris Porter. It is a song that will stay with you from the very first moment you hear it.
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Cinematic legend John Williams made his historic debut with the Vienna Philharmonic earlier this year, conducting the orchestra in his most iconic scores in the world-famous Golden Hall of Vienna's Musikverein. Joining him on stage was virtuoso Anne-Sophie Mutter, who played some of the violin arrangements he had written specially for her, including the magical ‘Hedwig's Theme'.
We also heard a spectacular rendition by the Vienna Phil of ‘Flight to Neverland' from Hook (watch here) and the formidable ‘Imperial March' (watch here ). Williams described leading one of the world's finest orchestras as "one of the greatest honours of my life", adding: "I treasure this moment." The magnificent show will be streamed online, thanks to DG Stage.
Here's how to watch John Williams and violinist Anne-Sophie Mutter's full concert of film favourites with the Vienna Philharmonic at the world-famous Golden Hall of Vienna's Musikverein tonight at 7pm BST (8pm CEST) here.
Classical radio is preserved in America on a small island in public broadcasting. So stations dedicated to classical have the responsibility, if not the mission, to continually refine and improve their music service. Success is in the details, and some straightforward tweaks might make your sound more appealing. It is not easy stepping back from your enterprise to apply original ideas or reconsider old ones. Enter a fresh set of ears.
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Aryeh Nussbaum Cohen, at 25, has already made a strong impression in the world of Baroque opera and beyond, with his powerful yet supple voice. The American countertenor, who has made several recordings (including contemporary music, such as by Kenneth Fuchs), specializes in 18th-century music when the male singer known as the Castrato reigned supreme. Nowadays a specially-developed voice technique, countertenors are prominent parts of productions such as in Handel's Saul, recorded recently by Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra under Nicholas McGegan. Mr. Cohen shares some great stories about his experiences singing onstage, the history of countertenors, and his almost-Portland debut in "Bazajet" before the pandemic brought that opportunity to a standstill.
All Classical Portland Host John Pitman shares his interview, along with selections featuring this prominent young singer. LISTEN
Sony Music Masterworks today releases Not Our First Goat Rodeo, the long-awaited follow-up album to the GRAMMY Award-winning The Goat Rodeo Sessions, with Yo-Yo Ma, Stuart Duncan, Edgar Meyer, and Chris Thile.
In the fall of 1968, a sixteen-year old high school student named Danny Scher had a dream to invite legendary jazz pianist and composer Thelonious Monk and his all-star quartet to perform a concert at his local high school in Palo Alto, CA.
Blues Hall of Famer Bettye LaVette has decided to release her stirring rendition of "Strange Fruit" ahead of schedule as it says as much about the history of American racism and the state of the country today.
Guitarist John Scofield celebrates the music of his friend and mentor Steve Swallow in an outgoing and spirited recording, made in an afternoon in New York City in March 2019 - "old school" style as Scofield says, acknowledging that more than forty years of preparation led up to it.
On March 1, 2019, American pianist Lara Downes releases her new album, Holes in the Sky, on Portrait, an imprint of the Sony Music Masterworks label.
Holes in the Sky is a genre-fluid collection of music written and performed by today's leading female artists, celebrating the contributions of phenomenal women to the past, present, and future of American music.
The music of Holes in the Sky tells the story of what women and girls can contribute to the world when they are given a chance - their dreams can make holes in the sky. Lara collaborates with an extraordinary multi-generational group of female guest artists on this album, including the iconic singer / songwriter Judy Collins, boundary-breaking violinist Rachel Barton Pine, pianist Simone Dinnerstein, fast-rising cellist Ifetayo Ali-Landing, and the urban youth vocal ensemble Musicality.
The album is presented in direct support of PLAN International Because I Am A Girl, bolstering the rights and empowerment of girls and young women around the globe; Women's Empowerment in Sacramento, ending homelessness one woman - and one family - at a time; the Downtown Women's Center in Los Angeles, a permanent and supportive housing and healthcare provider for women; Girls on the Run in Spokane, teaching life skills through fun, engaging lessons that celebrate the joy of movement; and the Lower East Side Girls Club, breaking the cycle of poverty by training the next generation of ethical, entrepreneurial, and environmental leaders.
Lara Downes' new album For Lenny celebrates the 100th birthday of Leonard Bernstein with a special friends-and-family tribute to the man behind the music. The recording features Bernstein's aptly-named Anniversaries for Piano, new arrangements of his songs, and world premieres of works dedicated to Bernstein by leading American composers including Stephen Sondheim, John Corigliano, and Stephen Schwartz. The album is introduced by an essay from acclaimed writer Adam Gopnik.
Pianist Lara Downes releases a solo album, America Again, worldwide on Sono Luminus on October 28, 2016. The album's title is taken from Langston Hughes' poem, Let America Be America Again, written in 1938. America Again features twenty pieces selected by Downes that explore the elusive but essential American dream, written by composers including Duke Ellington, Lou Harrison, Morton Gould, Amy Beach, George Gershwin, Angélica Negrón, Dan Visconti, Leonard Bernstein, Scott Joplin, Irving Berlin, Florence Price, Aaron Copland, Samuel Coleridge-Taylor, and more.
26 NEW 67 TOTAL
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In celebration of the 100th anniversary of Billie Holiday's birth, Lara Downes releases: A Billie Holiday Songbook on Steinway & Sons Records, A personal tribute to this sensitive, timeless icon of American music.Radiant. Intimate.
Lara Downes grew up listening to Holiday's recordings with her father, born and raised in Harlem. Trained in the conservatories of San Francisco, Paris, Vienna and New York, Downes acknowledges that Holiday's singing has been a lifelong influence. "As a musician, I learned from Billie Holiday to make something completely personal when you make music," she says. "something that is completely your own - maybe something unexpected, something indefinable, perhaps complicated, but beautiful. To take a chance. As the song says: "But beautiful to take a chance, and if you fall, you fall. And I'm thinking I wouldn't mind at all."
20 NEW 49 Total
SYND: PRI/Classical 24 Direct: Music Choice Markets include: New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Boston, San Francisco, Philadelphia, Atlanta, Minneapolis, Cleveland, Houston, Austin, St. Louis, Baltimore, New Orleans, Madison WI, Canada Online: Taintradio, Classical Candor, AXS, Party934
In June of 1955, Glenn Gould made his groundbreaking recording of Bach's Goldberg Variations for Columbia Records, rescuing the Goldbergs from obscurity in one of the most significant classical recordings of a generation. Critically acclaimed pianist Lara Downes will be breaking ground of her own when Tritone Records releases her new CD 13 WAYS of Looking at the Goldberg, a fascinating new take on Bach's masterpiece. In an extraordinary coincidence of fate and timing, Lara's recording of her new Goldberg project took place over the same four days in June as Gould's historic 1955 sessions.
11 New 'ON' this week: 93 Total
Synd: NPR/Sunday Baroque, The Romantic Hours, PRI/Classical 24, Harmonia, Galaxy
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Pianist Lara Downes is known for her fusing of rare pianistic sensitivity and evocative, thought-provoking concepts. Her latest album, Exiles' Café-released on the Steinway & Sons label  -- is the result of a moment of inspiration after hearing a lovely little piece entitled Tango from the Exiles' Café. Downes fantasized about this café and created a narrative around it, which she describes as "both real and metaphorical." This album captures the pain, nostalgia, and freedom that are indelibly tied to this state of being-in exile. Featuring miniature works by composers such as Chopin, Milhaud, Bartok, Weill, and including a premiere work by Mohammed Fairouz, Exiles' Café goes beyond an examination of what is to be in exile, to consider the inspiration exiled composers drew from the musical communities they found in their new homes. Because in this sense, the exiles cafes were actual places – there were indeed such locations throughout history to which composers and musicians gravitated and found each other, and they and their music were influenced accordingly.
17 New 'ON' 183 Total
SYND: PRI/Classical 24, The Romantic Hours Direct: SiriusXM, Music Choice, MOOD, Spafax Markets include: New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, San Francisco, Boston, Philadelphia, Wash DC, Dallas, Houston, Cleveland, Atlanta, St. Louis, Seattle, Minneapolis, Portland, Cincinnati, Baltimore, Pittsburgh, Detroit, Denver, New Orleans, San Antonio, Memphis, Columbus OH, Buffalo, Louisville, Madison WI, Honolulu Online: Taintradio, RadioIO, WGOE