It's a brave new musical world. Between downloads, iPods, music sharing websites and the good old CD, we have more easy access to the songs and symphonies we love than ever before. In this visit to All Things Considered, host Jacki Lyden and I explore an East meets West mashup in a concerto for Persian ney (bamboo flute) and orchestra, a young composer who treats electronic and acoustic instruments as equals, an opera star who goes back to church and a violinist who plays Vivaldi with delicious abandon.
Revved-up Vivaldi, Persian Bamboo And Soaring Spirituals: New Classical Albums
Ecstatic Dance (from Concerto for Persian Ney and Orchestra)
East meets West musical encounters are nothing new, but Iranian composer Reza Vali's Concerto for Persian Ney and Orchestra is different. It doesn't try to adapt the foreign instrument to the symphony orchestra. Vali's ney, a vertically blown bamboo flute native to many Middle Eastern cultures (played expressively by Khosrow Soltani) is a potent personality in the music, sounding notes outside the Western scale, forcing the listener to hear two distinctly separate worlds — sometimes melding, sometimes jostling for attention.
All Day, All Night
Lawrence Brownlee may be one of the world's most elegant, exciting and acclaimed Rossini tenors, but his roots are in the music of the African-American church. These traditions merge in Spiritual Sketches, his new album of traditional spirituals in fresh arrangements by pianist Damien Sneed. Brownlee's supple, strong and high-flying voice, perfectly suited to the early 19th century operas of Rossini and Donizetti, is an instrument of great beauty and expression. Yes, he indulges in skyrocketing a note or two here, but his soulful singing is naturally phrased, rhythmically alert and sounds like it's coming straight from his heart to yours.
Vivaldi: Violin Concerto in D major, RV 232 - 'Allegro'
Con moto, in Italian musical parlance, means "with motion." And violinist Giuliano Carmignola has energy (and bow hair) to burn in this album of spirited violin concertos titled Vivaldi con moto. I suppose it helps that Carmignola is saddled up on a motorcycle for the album cover. Anyway, forget the old dig against Vivaldi that he "wrote the same concerto 500 times." These pieces contain white-hot fast movements, played with extraordinary dexterity and detail by Carmignola, and inventive slow movements that, even with the proscribed absence of vibrato, sport rich legato lines that may stick in your head for a while. The Accademia Bizantina, conducted by Ottavio Dantone, backs Carmignola with the exuberance of a punk band.
Daniel Wohl: 'Corpus'
Paris-born and Brooklyn, N.Y.-based composer Daniel Wohl blends electronics and acoustic instruments in provocative and surprising ways on his new album, Corps Exquis (Exquisite Corpse). Violin and cello squeal like electric guitars. A piano promenades and a bass clarinet waddles in and out of the frame. And in the final segment, indie singer Julia Holter adds breathy vocalise amid the wistful strings and piano. The record began its life as a multimedia performance piece that mixed video and avant-garde cinema with experimental classical and rock music. Listen to Corps Exquis at night, with the lights down, and let Wohl's odd and exquisite sound world take over.