New NativeDSD Reviews Mar 28 by Reviewers Joel D. Parker, Kip Peterson and the Huxholt/Meyer Review Duo in Call for Reviewers

 

Joel D. Parker

The Contemporary Fortepiano by the Rembrandt Frerichs Trio is truly an outstanding example of what new jazz recordings can bring to the already well-stocked table. The most impressive element that stands out immediately is the use of textures and timbres to make a jazz-fusion album that is designed for the connoisseur of acoustic music. Rich woody flavors emerge with Frerichs’ fortepiano and harmonium, and the violone (a precursor to the modern double-bass) played by Tony Overwater, along with Vinsent Planjer’s deft use of an array of unique percussion instruments, such as the African log drum. While familiar jazz chord progressions and classic riffs come through, this stellar recording highlights the extraordinary tones that each of these instruments exude. The very earthy dulcimer-like sounds that Frerichs elicits, along with the multidimensional and lush percussion, mediated by the extraordinarily natural-sounding acoustic bass allows moments in the album to drift from a more straightforward jazz dynamic into the realms of New Age and even Arab tarab-style music. Planjer’s rain-like beats, one the one hand, have the effect of a Zen garden in certain moments – particularly in the opening tracks of the album. In later tracks, on the other hand, chiseled melody lines draw from the Eastern Mediterranean, and in the 12th track Hak en Tak, influences from the Western Sahara region of Africa reveal themselves. The album is tightly woven and organic throughout—though to be fair it is the acoustic temperament that helps the personalities of the trio come to the surface in each of the individual experiments that comprise the albums tracks. That said, the album reserves its least conventional moments for the last few tracks of the album. This has the effect of pushing the listener to listen even more carefully as the album reaches its conclusions. The opposite of glossy and artificial “elevator jazz,” the musicians push their instruments to the edge of the musical cliff and have a look down without stumbling into an anarchic mess at any point.

5 stars: Performance
5 stars: DSD Recording

The Contemporary Fortepiano

Rembrandt Frerichs Trio

Qualities: DSD 64fs, 128fs, 256fs, DXD
Channels: Stereo, Multi, StereoDXD, MultiDXD

 

 

 

 

Kip Peterson

When I hear a tune played by Bill Evans, his playing grabs my attention immediately. This is for several reasons. First, since I’m no more than an amateur pianist and composer, I marvel at his musicality, dexterity, and innovative style. Wherever he travels on the keyboard, he makes statements of emotion, beauty and grace. For me, though, he is simultaneously an inspiration and a frustration, because though I so enjoy his music, I wonder why I even try to play piano, knowing such talent exists. Of course, we should be grateful he inspired other true talents, like Liz Story, a wonderful pianist who after hearing him play while attending The Julliard, changed the focus of her music career to improvisation.

Choosing a DSD album of Bill Evans was, then, a simple one. “Some Other Time – The Lost Session from the Black Forest” intrigued me because the album had been creating a bit of a stir amongst fans as a heretofore unreleased album, discovered only recently. Add to that the fact that the band members are peerless—Jack DeJohnette on drums and Eddie Gomez on bass, a worthy heir to Scott LaFaro in many respects—and it seemed like an obligation to own this album.

As you might imagine, the music and playing of these legendary jazz artists does not disappoint. There is a synergy within the trio that implies studious rehearsing was probably unnecessary, though that is always the startling thing about musicians of this caliber. Tracks such as “What Kind of Fool Am I?” (for which there are two versions included) and “These Foolish Things” strike the heart with full force and remind one of what a musical genius Evans truly was. The album’s namesake, “Some Other Time,” is guaranteed to melt you.

Sonically, the DSD presentation is as one might expect with an inviting smoothness and spaciousness. Though I will say that without knowing how this newly-discovered recording was mastered or captured at the time in 1968, it seems a little unbalanced with the piano on the left being a little more forward than in most of Bill Evans’ catalog of famous recordings. This is not a criticism per se, just a quibble. For anyone who loves the inventive, emotional jazz interpretations of Bill Evans, this album is a must.

Bill Evans – Some Other Time (The Lost Session from the Black Forest)

Bill Evans

Qualities: DSD 128fs, 64fs, 256fs
Channels: Stereo

 

 

 

 John Huxhold and Eric Meyer

  1. Prokofiev “Romeo and Juliet” complete
    Valery Gergiev, conductor
    London Symphony Orchestra
  2. Rachmaninoff “Symphonic Dances”
    Stravinsky “Symphony in Three Movements”
    Valery Gergiev, conductor
    London Symphony Orchestra
  3. Rachmaninoff Piano Concerto No. 2
    Prokofiev Piano Concerto No. 2
    Daniel Matsuev, piano
    Valery Gergiev, conductor
    The Mariinsky Orchestra

For over a decade, he has been all over the place. A 2004 piece on “60 Minutes” called him “The Wild Man of Music: Valery Gergiev Known as the World’s Busiest Maestro.” His flamboyant style rivals that of Karajan or Bernstein with a personality to match. As a major “go to” interpreter of the Russian repertory he is in demand all over the world.

While there have been assertions that he is spread too thin, many of his recordings (like a particularly savage “Rite of Spring”) are some of the top choices of critics. And as if his schedule were not already full enough, his close ties to St. Petersburg’s Mariinsky Theater have produced many DVD videos and launched its own record label.

Lately Gergiev has developed an association with the London Symphony Orchestra producing highly acclaimed sets of the complete Mahler and Prokofiev symphonies. And now Native DSD has added three other recordings of his to its catalog and any of them would be worthy additions to your collection.

Prokofiev’s music to the ballet “Romeo and Juliet” is one of his finest compositions. Gergiev and the LSO gives it to us complete – every last note. It could be argued that we don’t really need all of it. Not the borrowing from his other works, not the repetitions of thematic material from previous scenes, or not the music to simply send the dancers off into the wings. However, even these incidentals are beautifully written and these days programming your own suite of favorites is a cinch. The performance is idiomatic and superbly played, so much so that it was voted the winner of the Orchestral category and the Disc of the Year for the 2011 BBC Music Magazine Awards.

The icing on this musical cake is a terrific engineering job. The soundstage is deep and wide. Even when everybody is playing loud all at once, all the strands of the orchestral fabric are evident. Upper frequencies are especially lucid and easy on the ear.


Prokofiev Romeo & Juliet

London Symphony Orchestra, Valery GERGIEV

Qualities: DSD 64fs
Channels: Multi, Stereo

 

The same goes for another Gergiev/LSO recording—the Rachmaninov “Symphonic Dances” and Stravinsky’s “Symphony in Three Movements.” In the Stravinsky Gergiev brings out all the spikey rhythms and pungent dissonances of this neo-classic gem while the “Dances” do just that. The tempo in the opening movement is on the slow, deliberate side, but the sweep of the rest of each of those grand Rachmaninoff gestures is given full expression.

As with the Prokofiev, the engineering is spectacular. The string foundation is full and solid, the soundstage is holographic, and the bass is tight, strong and never boomy. In fact, at several points the bass drum comes at you straight down the middle like a speeding semi and shakes whatever furniture you happen to be occupying. And with its bass drum thwacks and pinpoint location of every instrumental section, the Stravinsky is an especially good demo of your He-Man hi fi rig that throws an incredibly wide and deep soundstage. The fact that these are live recordings make this achievement even more impressive.


RACHMANINOV Symphonic Dances, STRAVINSKY Symphony in Three Movements

London Symphony Orchestra, Valery GERGIEV

Qualities: DSD 64fs
Channels: Multi, Stereo

 

 

The third release with Gergiev at the helm is the Second Piano Concertos of both Rachmaninoff and Prokofiev. This time instead of the LSO he’s leading his own Mariinsky Orchestra recorded on the label of the same name with soloist Dennis Matsuev. While Rachmaninoff’s Second is one of the most recorded and famous of all his concertos, it is in the last several decades that the flashier and propulsive Third has gained on it a bit in both popularity and the number of recorded versions. In Prokofiev’s case the same is true: the third being performed and recorded more often than its older sibling. Two does tend to meander and lacks the sharp focus of Three. Overall, however, it has a searching, mysterious quality contrasted with more exclamatory parts along the way that is quite attractive. And the percussive conclusion gives Bartok’s piano concerti a run for their money.

Gergiev and his soloist capture the grand sweep and unique character of both concertos. Matsuev’s fingers scurry effortlessly up and down the keyboard, especially at the beginning of the final movement. He has technique to burn and, especially in the softer, lyrical parts, he’ll isolate a phrase here or there, weave it precisely with another, and then after a pause, come roaring back to deliver the goods. Even fistfuls of dissonance at huge climaxes are never muddy or congested. It’s all clean and finely calculated without sounding sterile.

The soundstage is not as dramatically 3-D as in the LSO Live recordings. In fact, some have complained that this was recorded in the sonic equivalent of a phone booth. It is true that the recording puts the piano and the orchestra up close, but not claustrophobically so. Moreover, that position tends to illuminate details that might otherwise be missed in an acoustic that, while clearly not cathedral-like, is spacious enough to allow the music to breathe.

Rachmaninov Piano Concerto No 2, Prokofiev Piano Concerto No 2

Denis Matsuev, Mariinsky Orchestra

Qualities: DSD 64fs
Channels: Stereo, Multi

 

Reviewers Joel D. Parker, Kip Peterson and the Huxholt/Meyer Review Duo

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