For the first time in the history of Instant Replay, two people chose the same track as their favorite music of the month -- it's that good! Also, heavy metal's classical roots, a Disney/Vivaldi mashup, and more, all ahead.
Andreas Haefliger, Matthias Goerne -- Schubert: Erlkönig D. 328
Each January I present a lecture for the Heavy Metal 101 series at MIT’s Independent Activities Period (this year it’s virtual). The bulk of the class is on the harmonic grammar and modalities of classical and metal music – how they both work, why their different sub-categories sound the ways they do, and how they’re similar. Towards the end, I share recommendations with my beloved metalfolk that will help them dive into the wonderful world of classical music, as its breadth can be a bit daunting. If there’s one thing any metalhead seeks, it’s a dark, dramatic story, not unlike Schubert’s musical setting of a deadly late-night horse ride and one cunningly evil elf.
Zaz -- Paris sera toujours Paris
I've been enjoying Zaz's 2014 release, Paris, as afternoon pick-me-up music. She's that type of French pop singer that you always wanted to have casually wafting out of your dorm room in college, but in this album doesn't take herself too seriously. The instrumentals are clever and high-energy, and you really don't need to know what the lyrics mean to remember that yes, there are places out there in this world that we will one day be able to visit again.
Osmo Vänskä, Minnesota Orchestra -- Sibelius: Symphony No. 2 in D Major
With the flip of the calendar to 2021 and the relentlessness of the news, I’ve gravitated to music that reminds me of the long sweep of time. No one does that better than Sibelius. I have no idea how often I’ve heard his 2nd Symphony, but it’s a lot. So this is kind of a perennial instant replay for me. Weirdly, until this week, I had never heard the most recent recording by one of my favorite orchestras, the Minnesota Orchestra. Now I’m glad I have, as they do an especially beautiful job in the parts of the piece that express the quiet stillness of a wide, long horizon.
Teresa Berganza, Juan Antonio Alveres Parejo -- de Falla: 7 Canciones Populares Españolas: Nana
The Siete canciones populares españolas by Manuel de Falla captivated me from the first time I heard them, as a music student. These Spanish songs have a way of transporting me to another place entirely - so they’re a perfect escape. Most of them are love songs, but this one, “Nana”, is a lullaby from Andalusia: a meltingly beautiful melody with a lovely ornament at the end of each phrase, and the piano supports it with a gentle rocking motion. Spanish mezzo-soprano Teresa Berganza has the perfect voice for it. Listen to all seven!
Philippe Jaroussky, Emöke Barath -- Pergolesi: Stabat Mater
I realized recently that I hadn't spent time with this piece in a while. How on earth could Pergolesi summon this kind of celestial sound, composing furiously as he was dying at the age of 26? Little would he ever know how many future hearts he would break and fill again with hope. When I hear the voices of Philippe Jaroussky and Emöke Barath arriving at the outset, I fall apart. A 300-year-old piece written for us, right now.
Rina Sawayama -- STFU!
Rina Sawayama's music is everything I like in one: catchy pop beats, grimy guitar riffs, and powerhouse vocals make her songs weird-but-cool in a way I really dig. This is a good song to listen to loudly (although it is marked 'explicit,' so don't listen to it too loudly with kids nearby).
The Piano Guys -- Let It Go
This is the just-released 10th anniversary retrospective album by the Piano Guys, who are a pianist and a cellist, plus their videographer and sound engineer. They've been colleagues and friends forever, and this anniversary compilation is chock full of the fun mashups they've released in the past. They often combine a classical piece with a modern piece, one of my favorites being Vivaldi's "Winter" with Disney's "Let It Go" from the animated movie "Frozen." It's a new year... time to lighten our heavy loads.
Ronn McFarlane, Carolyn Surrick, Jackie Moran -- She Moved Through The Fair - John Barleycorn
This track is from a brand new album from Ronn McFarlane and Carolyn Surrick called "Fermi's Paradox," which my friend and colleague Rani Schloss sent my way with a note that said "You would love this album." She was right... I do!
When I started learning Celtic harp as an impressionable 9-year-old, I fell madly in love with Celtic music. So when Ronn McFarlane and Carolyn Surrick’s latest album came to the studio recently and I saw the track listing, I immediately ripped it open and put it into the CD player. It’s expertly played, the sound is pure and warm, and the arrangements of traditional Celtic tunes with a somewhat modern twist, arranged and played by musicians whose training is steeped in Renaissance traditions… it ticks all my boxes. I’ve listened to “She Moved Through the Fair” so many times already. I don’t often tell people to buy a CD, but this time I will – the liner notes for this album, recorded in quarantine, will make you feel things.
Listen to the full playlist: