Has there ever been a year during which new albums were as vital to our survival as they were in 2020? CBC Music picks Canada best classical albums of the year, from solo piano to opera and everything in between
With concert halls shuttered due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the arrival of new music - along with quarantine videos and live streams - was the closest we got this year to the thrill of live performance. And while records will never replace the concert experience, we're grateful to Canada's classical musicians for the profusion of new music they continue to release for our enjoyment.
Of the scores of new classical albums that came out in 2020, here are the 20 that stood out to us. If you've got money to spend this holiday season, click on the album titles for information on how to purchase and download them. Canada's classical musicians need your support more than ever.
Matt Haimovitz, Mari Kodama, Mon ami, mon amour (Pentatone)
While cellist Matt Haimovitz has been enjoying acclaim for his recent Grammy nomination for best classical compendium for Luna Pearl Woolf: Fire and Flood, we're here to rave about his all-French recital album with pianist Mari Kodama that came out in early November. Debussy's sonata, which can often seem like a bunch of disjointed episodes, is in their hands a coherent whole. Miniatures by Lili and Nadia Boulanger as well as the obligatory transcription of Gabriel Fauré's "Après un rêve" show off Haimovitz's creamy tone. He and Kodama seem to revel in the ever-shifting moods of Poulenc's sonata, enjoying the humour and lively repartee, but also taking time to luxuriate in the lyricism.
SEE THE FULL CBC ARTICLE
Recognized as the first artist to win a Grammy Award for music written for a video game, composer Christopher Tin released his new album 'To Shiver the Sky' last summer. It marks Tin's major label debut after signing to Decca Gold.
To Shiver the Sky, is "an oratorio about the history of flight, and mankind's quest to conquer the heavens," explains Tin. The ambitious 11-track album will also mirror that story with the parallel evolution of Western classical music. Tin ultimately settled on eleven historical figures which are "our greatest astronomers, inventors, visionaries and pilots," he details. Each of whom serve as the basis for a composition, adding up to a kaleidoscopic epic that crosses centuries, continents, and perspectives.
The history of aviation is full of outlandish tales and colorful figures. PRX: The World's April Peavy discusses the project with the Califormia based composer. LISTEN TO THE SEGMENT
Budapest Concert is the second complete show to be issued from Keith Jarrett's 2016 European tour, recorded two weeks earlier than the widely-acclaimed concert released as Munich 2016. The new double album documents the pianist's solo performance at the Béla Bartók National Concert Hall in Budapest. Jarrett, whose family roots reach back to Hungary, viewed the concert as akin to a homecoming – also with regard to his lifelong affection for Bartók, as he explained to the audience - and the context inspired much creative improvisation.
Keith Jarrett - Budapest Concert makes Echoes November 2020 Top 25. SEE THE CHART
'some kind of peace' is the stunning new album from the ground-breaking composer and producer Ólafur Arnalds, available now on Mercury KX. The record features a brand new track 'The Bottom Line' ft. Josin, alongside a beautiful video featuring the work of Japanese flower artist Azuma Makoto out today, and 'Loom', Arnalds' collaboration with Bonobo. Also out now is 'finding some kind of peace', a very special behind the scenes film about the new album.
Ólafur has been confirmed as the closing act for Iceland Airwaves' virtual festival, ‘Live from Reykjavík', on November 13th, where he will perform mostly new material played live for the very first time. Ólafur's music will also play a major role in the forthcoming Netflix documentary on Shawn Mendes, 'In Wonder', which is set to be released on November 23rd. Ólafur has also recently surpassed a staggering 1 billion streams, an incredible milestone for the Icelandic multi-instrumentalist.
Olafur Arnalds - some kind of peace makes Echoes November 2020 Top 25. SEE THE CHART
The breeze at dawn has secrets to tell. Don't go back to sleep. You must ask for what you really want. Don't go back to sleep. People are going back and forth across the doorsill where the two worlds touch. The door is round and open. Don't go back to sleep.
Rumi was a 13th-century Persian poet, theologian, and Sufi mystic. Rumi's influence transcends national borders and ethnic divisions. People of many countries have greatly appreciated his spiritual legacy for the past seven centuries. Rumi has been described as the "most popular poet" and the "best selling poet" in the United States.
Rumi believed passionately in the use of music, poetry and dance as a path for reaching God. Rumi encouraged listening to music and twirling, or doing the sacred dance. The dance represents a mystical journey in which the seeker symbolically turnstowards the truth, grows through love, and finds the truth. The seeker then returns from this journey, with greater maturity, to love and to be of service to the whole of creation without regard to beliefs, races, classes and nations. It was from these ideas that the practice of whirling Dervishes developed.
Rumi's poems have been widely translated into many of the world's languages and today Rumi's poems can be heard in churches, synagogues, Zen monasteries, as well as in the downtown New York art/performance/music scene. Recordings of Rumi poems have made it to the USA's Billboard's Top 20 list. A selection of his love poems have been performed by artists such as Madonna, Goldie Hawn, Philip Glass and Demi Moore.
Shunia - Breeze At Dawn makes Echoes November 2020 Top 25. SEE THE CHART
Pianist Hélène Grimaud has created a "dialogue" of sorts between Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and the Ukrainian-born contemporary composer Valentin Silvestrov in her latest album "The Messenger."
The recording presents three works by Mozart, all in chronological order and in minor keys. Grimaud sees his use of the minor as suggestive of "confrontations with fate or destiny". Written in memory of his late wife, Larissa Bondarenko, Silvestrov's The Messenger – 1996 "establishes a connection between the world that once existed and the present day." It offers "both a response to and an echo of Mozart's music – this idea of acknowledging and paying tribute to what has gone before is central to his art as a composer."
I hope you enjoy the discussion with Hélène and Classical Music Host@VPM Music - Mike Goldberg about this project and her approach to the works that are included. LISTEN
On this edition of All Songs Considered, we pick our favorite music released in November 2020, featuring Kali Uchis' heart-struck devotionals, Tierra Whack's playful pop, metal duo Jucifer's tribute to Arabic music and Salaam Remi's star-studded soundtrack of the Black experience, as well as; Ólafur Arnalds: "Spiral" from Some Kind of Peace.
Some Kind of Peace is a perfect description of what lies within; it's the most impactful record I've heard this year. At its center is Ólafur Arnalds' calming piano and electronics, which often sets the tone for the many collaborations heard within. (By the way, you can listen to my conversation with Ólafur Arnalds in the All Songs Considered podcast feed.) This is music that works as background or foreground, rich in textures making it the perfect headphone album. - Bob Boilen
SEE THE FULL NPR PAGE
Invited to experiment with Deutsche Grammophon's Shellac Project – a collection of digitized material restored from early 20th-century 78s in a collaborative initiative with Google Arts & Culture – German musician, visual artist and producer Christian Löffler has created his own experimental electronica tribute to Beethoven.
Sony Music today announces the November 20 release of THE CROWN: SEASON 4 (SOUNDTRACK FROM THE NETFLIX ORIGINAL SERIES) with music by BAFTA and Ivor Novello Award-winning composer MARTIN PHIPPS (Black Mirror, Peaky Blinders).
Dynamic pianist CHLOE FLOWER has given the Christmas classic "CAROL OF THE BELLS" an eloquent twist on her latest single, which was co-written and co-produced alongside GRAMMY® Award-winning icon Kenny "Babyface" Edmonds.
Daniil Trifonov's latest album for Deutsche Grammophon, recorded with Valery Gergiev and the Mariinsky Orchestra, recalls a time when Russia's composers, poets, artists, dramatists and star performers were among the most original anywhere in the world.
Conceived jointly by violinist Movses Pogossian and violist Kim Kashkashian on the occasion of Tigran Mansurian's 80th birthday, the Con anima project brings together a dedicated cast of players to perform the chamber music of Armenia's great contemporary composer.
Recorded in Buenos Aires last year, Albores [Dawn] is among Dino Saluzzi's most intimate albums, featuring the great Argentine bandoneonist alone with the instrument that has been his constant companion since childhood.
El compositor austríac Gernot Wolfgang combina les seves arrels musicals austríaques amb la influència, naturalment, més aviat jazzística, fruit de les seves estades a Califòrnia.
Vienna and the West es van gravar del 15 al 18 de maig de 2018 a la sala de l'Alfred Newman Recital Hall, a Los Angeles, amb alguns dels millors músics clàssics. Entre ells hi ha membres de la Filharmònica de Los Angeles, l'Orquestra de cambra de Los Angeles, i de la l'Orquestra de l'Òpera de Los Angeles.
El disc aplega sis obres per a diferents formacions instrumentals, duo, trios, quartet amb piano i un septet: Road Signs, Passage to Vienna, Route 33, Windows, Impressions, i From Vienna With Love. Escrites entre el 2002 i el 2017, Wolfgang fa un recorregut emotiu per Viena i amb variats recursos instrumentals va dibuixant un mapa on hi figura l'assimilació sonora dels dotze tons amb melodies entretallades, i unes harmonies jazzístiques. Molt ben sostingudes per l'enèrgic fagot de Judith Farmer, o els acords dissonants al piano de Gloria Cheng en l'obra Route 33.
Les textures sofisticades, els cantabiles de les melodies que evoquen imatges cinematogràfiques i els ritmes jazzístics creen un ambient que bé podria evocar la malenconia d'un personatge solitari prenent un cafè a la taula d'un saló vienès. La musica de Wolfgang arrela en el romanticisme centreeuropeu: el lirisme intens vers la natura, la dolçor sentimental expressades amb un esteticisme moderat.
Clou el disc l'obra que completa el viatge d'un nòmada romàntic: From Vienna With Love, una obra que reuneix els múltiples llenguatges de Gernot Wolfgang.
English Translation - The consolidation of a language and a style of his own chamber music, has been awarded to Gernot Wolfgang, in works such as Short Stories or Vienna and the West , the consideration of contemporary classics. Albany Records publishes Gernot Wolfgang's new album
The Austrian composer Gernot Wolfgang combines his Austrian musical roots with the influence, of course, rather jazz, as a result of his stays in California.
Vienna and the West were recorded from May 15 to 18, 2018 in the room of the Alfred Newman Recital Hall in Los Angeles, with some of the best classical musicians. Among them are members of the Los Angeles Philharmonic, the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra, and the Los Angeles Opera Orchestra.
The album brings together six pieces for different instrumental formations, duos, trios, piano quartets and a septet: Road Signs, Passage to Vienna , Route 33, Windows , Impressions , and From Vienna With Love.Written between 2002 and 2017, Wolfgang makes an emotional journey through Vienna and with varied instrumental resources, he draws a map that includes the sound assimilation of the twelve tones with intricate melodies, and jazzistic harmonies. Very well maintained by the energetic bassoon of Judith Farmer, or the dissonant agreements to the piano of Gloria Cheng in the Route 33 work .
Sophisticated textures, salibliThe melodies that evoke cinematic images and jazz rhythms create an atmosphere that could well evoke the melancholy of a solitary character by drinking coffee at the table in a Viennese lounge. Wolfgang's music is rooted in Central European romanticism: intense lyricism towards nature, sentimental sweetness expressed with moderate aestheticism.
Clone the disc the work that completes the trip of a romantic nomad: From Vienna With Love, a work that gathers the multiple languages of Gernot Wolfgang.
Albany Records just released composer Gernot Wolfgang's chamber music CD VIENNA AND THE WEST. The album is a follow-up to his CD PASSING THROUGH, which received rave reviews and went on to be nominated for a 2016 GRAMMY Award in the category Best Classical Compendium.
VIENNA AND THE WEST was recorded from May 15-18, 2018 in Los Angeles by some of the city's finest classical musicians, among them members of the Los Angeles Philharmonic, Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra, Los Angeles Opera Orchestra, first-call studio musicians and several GRAMMY nominees (including one winner). GRAMMY nominated Rich Breen was the engineer for these sessions.