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Music News 01/21/2015

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Native North America Vol. 1: Aboriginal Folk, Rock, and Country 1966 – 1985 (Light in the Attic, 2 CDs & book, $20.98) – This is an epic project by curator Kevin Howes to find and bring attention to Native American music from Canada and northern United States released on tiny labels during a time of Native American political and artistic revival. You’ll hear Arctic garage-rock, Yup’ik folk from Alaska, and many singer-songwriters who combined contemporary forms with Native storytelling, poetry, and ceremonial music. The 2-CD set comes in a small, 120-page book with notes, interviews, photos, lyrics and translations. CBC Radio had an interview with Mr. Howes and two of the musicians on the compilation.

John Luther Adams: The Wind in High Places (Cold Blue Music, $17.98) – Composer John Luther Adams won last year’s Pulitzer Prize in music for the mesmerizing Become Ocean. A new collection of three recent works for string ensembles showcases his continuing inspirations from nature. The harmonics and open strings in The Wind in High Places (performed by the JACK Quartet) are inspired by tones from the wind-played Aeolian harps. Four Canticles of the Sky (played by the 48 members of the Northwestern University Cello Ensemble) allude to the halos, arcs, and sundogs produced by low Arctic sun and ice crystals. And Dream of the Canyon Wren (also played by JACK) plays with the song of the desert bird, which, for Adams, evokes “feelings of deep tranquility and longing.”

 

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Anonymous 4 & Bruce Molsky, 1865: Songs of Hope and Home from the American Civil War (Harmonia Mundi, $18.98) – The four women of Anonymous specialize in early music and the medieval repertoire, but have also recorded two albums of early American songs, American Angels and Gloryland. Their third project, 1865, commemorates the 150th anniversary of the end of the Civil War, and presents an array of songs that were sung at the time—in churches, in parlors, on stages, and on the battlefields. They are joined by Bruce Molsky, a master of old-time vocals, fiddle, banjo, and guitar.

NOTE: Anonymous 4 are on a farewell tour (the group is disbanding after three decades), and will perform at the National Museum for Women in the Arts on Monday, March 2. They will sing selections from their previous album, Marie et Marion, in conjunction with the museum’s exhibit, Picturing Mary.

The Decemberists, What a Terrible World, What a Beautiful World (Capitol, $14.98) – This is a wonderful collection of new songs by the Decemberists, written and sung by group leader Colin Meloy. It’s the first batch of new work since 2011—in recent years, Meloy has worked on his Wildwood series of YA books (illustrated by Carson Ellis, who did this CD’s quilt-inspired cover). Meloy uses folk forms, like ballads and chanteys (and their old-fangled vocabulary) in inventive ways for very personal narratives and very catchy melodies. The band’s instrumental arrangements are augmented by a string quartet.

 

Concerts: Iván Fischer and Alexandre Tharaud

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The adventurous conductor Iván Fischer will lead his Budapest Festival Orchestra at the Strathmore this Friday, January 23, in a program of Mendelssohn and Mozart. They have just released a recording of Brahms: Symphony No. 2 (Channel Classics, $20.98). The Symphony, written in 1877, is programmed with the Tragic Overture and the Academic Festival Overture, both written in 1880. Fischer writes: “a remarkable transparent purity can be heard in Brahms’s Second…he shows us his masterful skill in developing large-scale architecture from the simplest motifs.”

Pianist Alexandre Tharaud will be at the Phillips Collection on Sunday, January 25, playing Couperin, Mozart, Schubert and Beethoven. Tharaud’s latest album, Jeunehomme (Erato, $16.99) pairs Mozart and Haydn concertos, accompanied by Les Violons du Roy Chamber Orchestra. Tharaud is equally at home in Baroque repertoire, and there is a new budget re-issue of his Rameau: Nouvelles Suites (Harmonia Mundi, CD & HM catalog, $8.98), displayed downstairs.