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Release Radar Reviews

Release Radar Review #1 Part 2

Laura Mvula, two Oceans, and a Beethoven surprise.

We’re back with the second part of my first Release Radar Review! This automatically generated Spotify playlist throws together some weird sequences of music. Then I listen to it and attach meaning that isn’t there. Let’s dive straight into this Release Radar Review: Part 2 with some Beethoven… or is it?

Beethoven String Quartet no. 14

Apparently I need to listen to more Beethoven String quartets, because at first I thought this was a clever pisstake. IMSLP tells me that his lordship did indeed write the notes, but the four in Quatuor Ébène play them like it’s their last chance and they’re running out of time. Impeccable ensemble and spirit – fantastic!

Richter

Following an ending that wasn’t an ending, Richter stamps his way onto the stage. It may be the piano or the acoustic, but the piano does sound out of tune at first. Just a moment…

I said a moment there, but it took me half an hour to scroll to the bottom of the track list of this ‘album’. Etudes-Tableaux, Rach 1 & 2, Songs, Preludes, Prokofiev concertos, Sonatas, Visions Fugitives. And barrels more. Who has put out this diabolically long album? Profil Hänssler, apparently. The fuller title is Profil Edition Günter Hässler. No, I don’t know them either. What a wonderful resource, though: all those Richter recordings! He is a towering legend.

Whitacre

A wrench to this next song: from highly virtuosic performance to a simple but no less emotional song. A Boy and a Girl, by Whitacre. When I was still new to Whitacre, I would listen repeatedly to his choral works, revelling in the sweet, sweet chords stacked into the sky. With this one in particular, I drenched myself in the beautiful sorrow of the progression of the story; the inevitability of death after love, and the beauty of togetherness in silence.

Brighter Dawn (from Clemency film)

Aha! One of those harmonic transitions that really works! The Whitacre above ends in a G major 9 chord, and this one starts with an F major 7th. The muted strings or pads at the beginning of this track match the voices of Voces8 well too.

Laura Mvula, I love your voice! I was lucky to meet Laura when she was speaking at my graduation in Birmingham. I was also lucky to work with her husband, Themba Mvula, a superb baritone, and her brother, James Douglas, a superb cellist, while studying at Birmingham Conservatoire. I accompanied both of them in one concert (there was a lot of music to play in that one!) and, if memory serves, Laura sang Beyoncé’s Halo. (I didn’t accompany her though.)

If you haven’t heard Laura’s music, I insist that you take a break from this smorgasbord and go and check out her album Sing to the Moon.

Bumbumbum

From the sublime to the ridiculous – Bumbumbum?! I can’t even bring myself to listen past the first 10 seconds, after the previous track. In fact, I’m not even going to share the link. So there.

Schubert – Symphonie no. 3

…And back to the sublime! You’re playing with me, Spotify, you really are! LSO continues its album art theme of ‘ice the cake, then draw a cocktail stick through it’. Alternatively, ‘pour some sour cream into my soup then…..’. 

Excuse me, I seem to have got distracted from the music. Look, I am in my third hour of listening to and writing about this playlist. Roger Schumann is a composer. Of music. Happy? Good.

I can’t tell what is in the background of this album art. A Monarch butterfly on speed? A clarinettist projectile vomiting? 

Oh look, a new track!

One of the top search results for ‘Antonioni music’ is a journal entry in ‘The New Soundtrack’ entitled “The Soundscape in Michelangelo Antonioni’s Cinema”. I shall be reading that when I get the chance. Meanwhile, let’s talk about Francesco Antonioni who I have just realised is the composer of this track. 

‘Lights, after the Thaw: III, Liebeslied – Andante’ is an intensely interesting piece that I am currently struggling to categorise or relate. I shall have to come back to this one later.

Brahms

Yes, Brahms, nemesis of pianists, especially those accompanists whose instrumentalists are disorganised and give them (us) the music too late: i.e., less than a year before the performance.

Whie I certainly know the name Raphael Wallfisch, John York is less familiar. But they have recorded a lot of the piano & cello repertoire together, apparently, so shame on me.

(Later I realised these are not the cello sonatas, but other works by Brahms arranged for cello!)

Call and response

The Byrd responses! By the choir of St. John’s, Cambridge. This choir (used in the same sense as ‘this river’) recorded possibly my favourite choral album, chock full of the best of English choral music. Still sounding good!

La Mer

When I want company in my melancholy, my go to artist is Olafur Arnalds. It’s the sort of music you feel while commuting through London at 1am while half-awake. Oceans is slightly different from Arnalds’ usual style – a more driving beat here. ‘Fateful’ chord progressions, slightly reminiscent of Max Richter.

The Ocean

Very appropriately, some of Debussy’s ocean now. Which is where we will leave this review. Otherwise I will never finish this.

Release Radar Review Part 2 – Coda

My original intention for this review was to pick out the most interesting tracks from my Release Radar. This could mean discovering a new artist, or a new release of an artist I already follow, or an interesting transition between songs. This time, however, I got distracted by the idea of trying to write something about each song in the time it took the song to play. I wasn’t always successful, but it was an enjoyable process, even if it was a lengthy one. 

If you missed Part 1, you can find that here, and you can find all my Release Radar Reviews here. I hope you enjoyed listening to this playlist that Spotify automatically hacked together for me. You can check out the full playlist below. Let me know if I helped you discover a new artist or track!

Full playlist below:

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