Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Dark Hope: Renée Fleming Sings Pop In Pop Style

"Singing in the lowest part of my voice was key to making this work."

The tracklist of the new release from the accomplished soprano Renée Fleming is full of surprises. Check out the Amazon page for detailed information and an interesting interview. Personally I like her approach in this recording, you know it could be a train wreck like her Perfect Day at the 20th anniversary of the Velvet Revolution... Singing pop songs in operatic style usually sounds terrible, especially those truly great pop songs. To me pop singing is all about seeking the the perfection of imperfection, songs like Perfect Day should be sung in Lou Reed's talking-into-a-walkie-talkie style, and Frank Sinatra is a master because he knows which notes are better to be left out. And what do you think a great tenor like Ian Bostridge would learn from Bob Dylan, a man condemned as "can't sing" by many music fans? "Just the way he uses his voice is spectacularly subtle." Full audio interview is here. 

Here's the Spotify playlist: Dark Hope (19 tracks, 1 hour). I put the original recordings at the end. To keep it simple I only goes for the original artists, though Ms. Fleming might have the Jeff Buckley version in mind when she did Hallelujah. She did it well, but this live performance from k.d.lang remains my favourite.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

EMI & Virgin Classics: May Highlights On Spotify

Click the images below to open the albums in Spotify. Check out more information at the official page on the EMI site.

Gustav Mahler - the Complete Works 150th Anniversary Edition
(Spotify Links: 16CDs Set, 2-CD Set of Adagios)

Mahler: Sympony No.2 "Resurrection"

Brahms: Piano Concerto No.2, Klavierstücke Op.76

Shhh! Nigel Kennedy Quintet feat. Boy George

Classical Legends - In their own words

100 Best Verdi

And "Robert Schumann - 200th Anniversary 4 themed collections comprising Schumann's greatest works." Spotify links: Lieder, Piano Music, Chamber Music, and Orchestral Works. I promise you that I'm going to post my own Schumann playlist on his 200th birthday next month.

Thank you EMI, for getting your new releases on Spotify so soon:)

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Brahms: WoOs, Transcriptions and Four-Hand Piano Arrangements

Brahms transcribed most of his orchestral and chamber music into four-hand piano arrangements, a form in which most people got to hear and play those music during Brahms' lifetime. It is very interesting, and often revealing, to hear his texturally dense orchestral works in the striped down piano version, The first piano was actually planned as a sonata for pianos. No.15 of the Op. 39 Waltzes for piano four-hand is one of the most lovely tunes that Brahms, or any composer ever written. There are many gems in the WoOs and transcriptions in other forms too. Check out the previous playlists of Brahms' works with opus numbers if you missed them.

Here's the Spotify playlist:

Brahms: WoOs and Transcriptions (228 tracks, 12 hours)

Brahms: Four-Hand Piano Music (167 tracks, 13 hours)

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

KZ Musik: Music Composed In Nazi Camps

"KZ MUSIK is the most up-to-date and complete CD encyclopedia of musical works composed by musicians imprisoned in the Nazi camps between 1933 and 1945.  The composers were imprisoned, deported, murdered – some even survived – but all were of different national, social and religious backgrounds."

The official site:

The Spotify playlist: KZ Musik (142 tracks, 7 hours) I added in Messiaen's Quartet for the End of Time at the end.

Also check out Entartete Musik: Music Banned By The Third Reich if you missed it. Peace.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Pavarotti and His Pop Star Friends

Pavarotti did many charity concerts with pop artists, and some of the collaborations are excellent. Though I'd rather see him get some kicks from Caravan with Van Morrison, or support the old and husky Joni Mitchell in a soulful Both Sides Now, other than listen to him doing O Sole Mio with a unequal Bryan Adams.

Since one of the albums is made for Cambodia and Tibet, please allow me for some political rant here. I am native Chinese and have never been to Tibet, but I know that Tibet was not always part of China, and I respect Tibetans' culture and their own choices. One thing I don't understand is: for all the pro-Tibet activists, why just say "Free Tibet" but not "Free China"? How could it be possible for the Tibetan to freely express their opinions and vote when all the other PRC citizens still can't? Why don't they dare to admit the real problem of Tibet is that China is not a democracy? Wouldn't it be ridiculous if America was under the totalitarian regime and the Europeans just claim for the rights of native Americans in Alaska? I cannot help but to think that, in some foreigners' minds, the image of the Tibetans are overly romantic: a highly spiritual race living in the roof of the world, communicate with Buddhas and fighting the evil Communists invaders. The truth is, Tibetans suffer from the current status of China as much as every other Chinese people does, and the only peaceful way to free Tibet is to stop the CCP dictating and brings religions liberty and the right to vote to all Chinese people.

Rant over. Here's the Spotify playlist: Pavarotti & Friends (82 tracks, 5 hours) I don't understand why the best song, It's A Man's World with James Brown, is not include in the CD release. Do check out the gorgeous video below.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

The Poet Speaks: Poetry and Speeches on Spotify

Spotify is not only the best online music collection, it also offers many great recordings of historical speeches, audiobooks and poetry read by the poets. You can hear Dylan Thomas reads The Speech Of Oedipus At Colonus, T. S. Eliot reads The Love Song Of J. Alfred Prufrock, W.B. Yeats reads Lake Isle of Innisfree, and many more, includes Anna Livia Plurabelle from Finnegans Wake  read by James Joyce himself and remixed by DJ Spooky.  And beware, Oscar Wilde has an old witch's voice... For the speeches playlist, I also put in the classic radio shows from the young, hungry, pre-"Citizen Kane" Orsen Welles, who was then still eager to make his mark on the world.

Here's the Spotify playlists: The Poet Speaks (497 tracks, 23 hours) and Historic Voices & Great Speeches (728 tracks, 3 days).