Instant Replay: 049
Taylor Swift — Cruel Summer
I know I can't be the only one getting FOMO watching literally every single person I follow on social media attend Taylor Swift's "Eras" Tour. I'll be consoling myself by jamming to this one in my car — windows down, sunroof open.
Ivan Moravec — Frederic Chopin: Nocturne in E flat major, Op 9, No. 2
In this line of work, lots of people ask me where to start their classical music journey. After all, it is a profound world just waiting to be explored. I give them this piano nocturne by Chopin. It is likely the most honest and simple melody I’ve come across, and is where my own journey began.
Boney M. — Daddy Cool
This song from the Jamaican/West German disco group Boney M. is new to me but I recently witnessed its power to get people of all ages onto a dance floor with joy and enthusiasm. The producer behind the band was later responsible for the Milli Vanilli scandal, a piece of trivia that I hope will serve you at some point in the future. Until then, enjoy the bop!
Laufey, The Iceland Symphony Orchestra — I Wish You Love
I could listen to Laufey's voice all day — so rich and smooth — not to mention her cello playing! This is her arrangement of "I Wish You Love," first conceived when she was here in Boston, studying at Berklee. I love the addition of orchestra to it — any time I feel a little stressed, a little tense, I hit play, and immediately feel my shoulders (and blood pressure!) drop.
Iain Farrington, Art Deco Trio — The Bite of the Flumblebee
The harmonious relationship between classical music and jazz has long been known, and the number of cross-over artists alone points to that. So it was an absolute delight to find this new CD, Classical Changes from Somm Recordings, which takes well-known classical pieces and puts a jazzy spin on them. The Art Deco Trio takes on everything from Beethoven's "Fur Elise" (Elise's Blues) to Rimsky-Korsakov's "Flight of the Bumblebee" (Bite of the Flumblebee) with their original riffs for clarinet, saxophone and piano. Really enjoying this made-for-back-deck listening!
Ray Charles — What'd I Say
My second-grader came home from school talking about a "blind singer who plays piano" that they'd listened to in music class the other day. I took a stab at who I thought he might be talking about, and got it right on the second try.
You win some, you lose some.
Anyway, we've been enjoying the energy of "What'd I Say" and other hits from the great Ray Charles while getting the kids get ready for school.
Thomas Hampson — Charles Ives: Feldeinsamkeit
Love him or hate him (and many do), Charles Ives had a profound impact on the classical music world, and especially in the genre of art song. While most of his songs used English poetry, Ives was no stranger to setting French and German poetry as well. His setting of Feldeinsamkeit is particularly charming, with a delightfully lush accompaniment and a distinctly Ivesian chromatic inflection that gives Brahms’s setting some steep competition. This recording with Thomas Hampson and Armen Guzelimian is exceptionally musical and nuanced, with the pair reserving just as much care for its scrumptious text setting as its tumultuous accompaniment and soaring melody.
Harry Belafonte — Goin' Down Jordan
I inherited a love of Harry Belafonte from my grandfather, and "Goin' Down Jordan" has always been my favorite song of his. But while I enjoyed the catchy melody and funny lyrics as a kid, I didn't realize the full message of the song until much later. It's a canny satire of missionaries targeting hungry, vulnerable people, dressed up as a singalong dance number. That mix of keen social commentary and effortlessly enjoyable music is what made Belafonte so special. Whether singing about being ignored by racist taxi drivers in New York, imprisonment in apartheid South Africa, or the back-breaking work of dock workers in Jamaica, he managed to turn sharp observations of social inequality into popular anthems. His charisma, charm, and that spectacular voice made him a celebrity, but his intellect and passion for social justice made him an icon.
Max Richter, Vivaldi — The Four Seasons: Spring 1
A few weeks ago, I attended a Fermata Chamber Soloists performance of "Recomposed by Max Richter: Vivaldi, The Four Seasons" at The First Church of Dorchester. Driving to the concert, I listened to the work's stunning opener, Spring 1. A car pulled up next to me and started thumping deep bass notes coincidently in time and tune with the music. Sitting in traffic, Richter's reworking of Vivaldi's 300-year-old classic and these modern bass beats morphed into an otherwordly musical mashup, and now Spring 1 has a forever spot in my listening rotation.
Beach Fossils — Run To The Moon
Growing up conjures different emotions during our aging journeys. Life is full of joy, loss, adventure, and mistakes — to every thing there is a season.
Beach Fossils tackles this eternal condition on the faded and lilting “Run To The Moon.” The cascading guitars stitch together lyrics of youthful abandon, as singer Dustin Payseur comes to terms with his future as a parent: “[the colossal shift about] having absolute freedom, the fear of losing it, but then tapping into myself in a way that felt more real.”
Whether you are toasting to your favorite memories, or making new ones, this song is the perfect closer on any summer playlist.
Igor Levit — Dmitri Shostakovich: 24 Preludes and Fugues, Fugue No. 7
My colleague Will Peacock shared this with me recently, and I’m so glad he did. It’s 2 minutes of stunningly beautiful piano music by Dimitri Shostakovich, played with grace and tenderness by Igor Levit. This is the kind of music that makes you believe that everything is going to be okay.
The Chicks — Long Time Gone
With the first warm breeze of Spring and the suggestion of Summer, I hunger for country music. It never played in my house growing up and yet my craving is like clockwork every year! The Chicks (formerly The Dixie Chicks) might be my all-time favorite country band. When I get in my car and play “Long Time Gone,” I feel like going off-road and driving away into the sunset. This song Is so joyful and care-free and perfect for the Summer!
Listen to this month's playlist: