Perfect Moods ••••
Contemplative, contemporary piano miniatures (Celebrating Piano Music)
Perfect Moods is a multi-cultural collection of acclaimed albums of modern piano repertoire. Armenian pianist Mikael Ayrapetyan exploration of his countryman Haro Stepanian’s exquisite Preludes is arresting; deftly fingered, percussively insistent and with a truly heartfelt projection of the work’s tender closing phrase. It is truly rare to find the flash of expressiveness that illuminates the spiritual and sensual “Melodies of the Upper Worlds” by the prominent Kabbalist Baal HaSulam; as well as Ayrapetyan’s own “A Whole in 12.” Composer-pianist Tanya Ekanayaka performs her “Twelve Piano Prisms” — a diverse mix of melodies from her native Sri Lanka combined with music from other countries and genres. The album devoted to Valentin Silvestrov presents an essential overview of this Ukrainian composer’s post-modern piano music, with its lingering allusions to the past. In this as in so much else, for Phillip Glass the focus is on love, not least in music for the BAFTA-winning score for the movie, “The Hours,” but also in the breathtaking “Modern Love Waltz.” All of the composers included in this set showcase contemporary piano music at its most accessible which gives this set its durability and its hold on the affections.
Out of the Fog •••
Emilie Nicolas, vocals
Daniel Herskedal, tuba/brass
At the opening of “Out Of The Blue” from the album Out of the Fog, one can really feel the sweet joy of singer-songwriter Emilie Nicolas’ thrilling voice, blending with its extra atmospheric dimensions to this splendidly recorded performance. It could not be more welcome when a recording transforms a work, as this one does, setting it on a new plane with fellow Norwegian composer/performer Daniel Herskedal. Of the entire album, “While I Look For You” exemplifies one of Ms. Nicolas’ most richly imaginative, harmonically sophisticated and imperious songs. Above all, Mr. Herskedal consistently brings out the poetry, drawing on emotions far deeper than are suggested by this operetta-like song. From first to last, often with a throb in her voice, her vocal acting convinces you that her renditions are genuine; deep emotions, painful at times, intensified by the ravishing beauty of her voice. Crafted with an enchanting warmth and brilliant finesse, it’s the blend of Mr. Herskedal’s unequivocally trademark sound of multi-layered tuba and brass, empowering harmonies and soaring melodic lines, and the collaboration with Ms. Nicolas that gives this album its uniquely defining quality.
The Great American Songbook •••
Erich Cawalla, vocals and saxophone
Erich Cawalla’s latest album, The Great American Songbook, is exactly what it is with cover songs like “When Sunny Gets Blue,” and “One For My Baby (And One More For The Road),” vocally distinctive and well-characterized, lovingly concentrating on subtleties and phrasing of texture. But this recording with its well-considered control of tempo is a reminder that Mr. Cawalla is an artist of intelligence and delicacy as well as splendor of voice. Mr. Cawalla sings most beautifully and sensitively, providing an embodiment of emotional outpourings in this music, singing softly at the right moment. The album bristles with robust melody as well as delicate scoring, betraying a masterly hand at work.