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27 December 2011
By Elissa Poole in The Globe and Mail (Canada), December 27, 2011


“Our verdict is in: This was the year’s best music”

It’s almost 2012 — so naturally, it’s time for a roundup of the best music that 2011 had to offer. Here are the Top 10 albums of the year (and the best in the classical category) according to The Globe’s music critics.

Elissa Poole’s Picks

  1. Ann Southam: ReturningsEve Egoyan, piano — So different from the joyful minimalism of her earlier music, the late Ann Southam’s final works for piano, written for Eve Egoyan, are spare and haunting, inhabiting a circumscribed world where the expressive resonance of even the simplest musical element is questioned, and where resolution is always possible but rarely permanent.
  2. Hector Berlioz: Nuits d’été; Handel: AriasLorraine Hunt Lieberson, mezzo-soprano; Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra, Nicholas McGegan, conductor — The now-legendary Lorraine Hunt Lieberson sang Berlioz’s Nuits d’été in public only once, in 1995, but fortunately the microphones were there to capture that luminous performance, and it has finally been released. The orchestra may not be as suave as we’d like, but the singing is in a class all its own.
  3. Martin Arnold: AberrareQuatuor Bozzini — When is a string quartet not a string quartet? When it’s a string quartet by Martin Arnold, which is as likely to conjure a primitive consort of stone flutes or the musical ruminations of a medieval monk. Live inside this music for a while and consciousness alters.
  4. Poesie: Orchestral Songs by Richard StraussDiana Damrau, soprano; Munich Philharmonic, Christian Thielemann, conductor — Silvery sound, beautiful diction and an extraordinary range of expressive nuance give soprano Diana Damrau’s captivating performances of Richard Strauss’s orchestral songs — many of them written for his wife, with piano accompaniment only — the kind of intimacy we rarely get outside of chamber music.
  5. Max Reger: Piano Concerto in F Minor; Richard Strauss: Burleske in D Minor — Marc-André Hamelin, piano; Rundfunk-Sinfonieorchester Berlin, Ilan Volkov, conductor — How often do we listen to a late romantic concerto we haven’t heard a hundred times? Gone are the memory cues; gone the baggage of the canon. And who better than Marc-André Hamelin to make a formidable case for Max Reger’s virtuosic, semi-modernist tribute to Brahms and let listeners decide for themselves where it fits?
  6. Béla Bartôk, Richard Strauss, Edvard Grieg: Violin SonatasVilde Frang, violin; Michail Lifits, piano — Vilde Frang plays Bartok with astounding precision, but her performance is as potent as it is clear. Her instincts are also astute in late romantic repertoire, evident in her supple phrasing and tonal nuance. No wonder the music industry has its eyes on this young Norwegian violinist.
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26 December 2011
By Frans de Waard in Vital #812 (Netherlands), December 26, 2011


“An excellent release of fine noise.”

At cross-roads. That’s what comes to mind when listening to the trio disc of Pierre Yves Martel, Philippe Lauzier and Martin Tetreault. No instruments are listed on the cover, but let’s assume it’s a turntable and an assorted range of acoustic instruments and electronic sound generators. They are used to play improvised music, and so far nothing new. But the end-result is quite interesting: its as if these three men are attempting at something that is more noise based than is common in these circles. At a cross-road of improvised music and noise. Obviously not a HNW release but in a true experimental fashion a disc of intelligent noise. It seems all recorded straight to tape, with microphones picking up very closely the sounds that are produced, which makes this pretty ’in y’r face’ release, perhaps with the exception of y = cZ + d, which sounds a bit distant. Things work best when all sound sources are used on an equal level, acoustic and electronic sounds colliding together in an infinite mixture of possibilities. An excellent release of fine noise.

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26 December 2011
By Frans de Waard in Vital #812 (Netherlands), December 26, 2011


“The voice is the same throughout and the music is all highly freely improvised.”

Some entirely different is the music of Fortner Anderson, although its better to say the poetry and a bit of music of the person in question. We have reviewed his work before. Here a work of thirty-five short pieces, like a diary. Each piece starts with a date introduction and something about that date, along with improvised music of Michel F Côté, Sam Shalabi and Alexandre St-Onge on drums, guitar and electronics. Unlike Six Silk Purses: The Poems Of Fortner Anderson, this has however less variation in the execution. The voice is the same throughout and the music is all highly freely improvised. Some of these poems are quite nice, or even funny and sometimes sad (about a friend on chemo) but I wonder if I rather read the book (which is apparently also available, but I didn’t see it) and hear the music separately, but perhaps I am just not that much a poetry kind of guy. Or a CD single would be more in place and not one that lasts forty-eight minutes.

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21 December 2011
By Marc Medwin in Paris Transatlantic (France), December 21, 2011


“The recording is excellent, the playing superb all round, and the result is a fitting testament to the musical universe he created.”

“You’re sitting in a cab, maybe going over a contract, discussing mundane matters; you open the door, step out, and you’re confronted by the universe.” I can still hear Bill Dixon’s voice coming down the phone. It was a pivotal moment, because it was one of the few times he spoke of the emotive qualities underlying his music. It wasn’t that he was unwilling to discuss his work, far from it! He would fill extraordinary hours with the technical underpinnings of his unique compositional approach, but seemed unwilling to address directly the characteristics of his work that evoked matters of the spirit, those aspects of his vision that verbiage would not contain. And yet such concerns pervade every note he played and composed. Envoi is, in one way, just another Dixon composition, but the fact that it is his last performance lays on the work the burden of summation. Recorded at the Victoriaville Festival in 2010 and using the same forces as on 2008’s Tapestries, it does indeed look back while maintaining the autonomy expected from every Dixon performance.

As is often the case, Dixon’s universe is a slowly expanding one. There are moments of white heat, such as the big bang and percussive roar that opens the piece, and in the final minutes, a monumental crescendo brings the whole work into sharp focus, as was the case with Seventeen Musicians in Search of a Sound: Darfur. Despite these bursts of catalytic energy, much of Envoi exudes calm and reflection that I can only attribute to age and experience. Nowhere have Dixon’s characteristic intertwining melodies been so beautifully realized as they are here by trumpeters Steven Haynes, Graham Haynes, Taylor Ho Bynum and Rob Mazurek. Clarinetist Michel Côté adds to the sense of uhr-drone that has been so integral to Dixon’s music at least as far back as “A Quiet Feeling”, and Warren Smith’s tympani almost sound like another string instrument at times. Most surprising, though, are the pointillisms that keep the music moving, the sudden ring of a single pitch on vibraphone, or a strategically bowed attack from Glynis Lomon’s cello or Ken Filiano’s bass. Dixon was too ill to play on the performance, but I was not prepared for how perfect “Shrike” would be as an insert. A brief solo trumpet recording from the Odyssey box set, it combines long tones with dots of sound, recreating Envoi’s aesthetic in microcosm. It is the perfect point of transition, bringing Dixon’s past into a vibrant present. The recording is excellent, the playing superb all round, and the result is a fitting testament to the musical universe he created.

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15 December 2011

We suggest you check out Solitary Pleasures by Fortner Anderson, the latest addition to our shop.

8 December 2011

The holiday season is back and to help celebrate it DAME offers you its yearly Christmas sale! From December 8, 2011 to January 8, 2012, look for the red labels to find more than 80 titles with discounts ranging from 25% to 50% off!

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