New from Thibaudet, the Kanneh-Masons, The Knights, and more
Sometimes albums arrive in our inbox in a trickle, and sometimes in a deluge. Recently it has felt like an embarrassment of riches. Here are five recent releases I've been enthusiastically sharing with friends and colleagues, and I hope you enjoy them too!
This album is a stunner, one that will appeal to music lovers across genres. It's a deeply personal collection of miniatures curated by the artist himself, as the liner notes describe them, "a concert of desserts." And speaking of liner notes, these are truly special; it's a conversation between Thibaudet and soprano Renee Fleming, his close collaborator for over two decades. This album is essentially a collection of encores; a celebration of Thibaudet's artistry and flair. It's gorgeous and absolutely perfect for listening all the way through.
As the title suggests, this is a fun one! The name of the ensemble is a reference to the practice of sending items through the mail "care of" someone, and they see performing chamber music the same way -- as musicians taking what someone has written into their care and transferring that interpretation to their audience, so that you're listening to the composer's work in care of the musicians. And in their hands, this music is a celebration. Ibert's Divertissement is a fluffy French delight, as is Emile Bernard's. Bartók's takes you on a journey, and Michael Ippolito's Divertimento, written specifically for this ensemble, is distinctly modern and fun.
The Kanneh-Masons get a lot of hype for being siblings, and for being exceptionally talented. Let's focus on the latter here. It's rare to hear playing so emotionally mature from such young artists. There is power and depth in their musicianship, and a flawless blending that comes from living and practicing together for so long. Between powerful sonatas for cello and piano (Elgar and Rachmaninoff) are shorter tracks, songs arranged for cello and piano by the same composers, giving us little perfect moments of nostalgic heartbreak, and I'm so here for it. I will listen to anything these two record, and love it. (And for more about the Kanneh-Masons, check out this article from NPR.)
Sparse, modern, multidimensional. It's a vibe. It's very hip. It's like if Deutsche Grammophon created a LateNightTales specifically for December. I want to listen to this album with the lights out and a fire in the fireplace, on a cold dark night. Some tracks are ethereal, others meditative. Each track features different artists, pulled from various music worlds (Brian Eno, Hania Rani & Dobrawa Czocher, and Víkingur Ólafsson? yes, please), and re-imagines traditional and folk music from their homelands. This album is one to listen to all the way through.
Another holiday album, this time with a totally different mood; Before Christmas is SO much fun. The Knights invited some of their friends and collaborators to join them on this album of traditional tunes arranged (mostly) by members of the orchestra, in a spirited, festive party of sound. Highlights for me are pipa virtuoso Wu Man in a really cool arrangement of "Do You Hear What I Hear," and vocalist Magos Herrera bringing us the jaunty Spanish traditional carol "Hacia Belén Va una Burra Rín-Rín."