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Music News 01/28/2015

Schubert’s Winter Journey: Book and CD

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Tenor Ian Bostridge is a star of operatic and recital stages, but he is also an Oxford-educated historian. His new book, Schubert’s Winter Journey: Anatomy of an Obsession (Knopf, $29) is a multi-faceted exploration of Winterreise, Wilhelm Müller’s suite of poems that Schubert transformed into a powerful song cycle. Bostridge devotes a chapter to each of the 24 songs, and uses a variety of means—discussions of Romantic paintings, poetry, and novels, political Vienna, geological and botanical studies of the times, the waltz craze, musical and performance analysis, and his own long history of performing the piece. The book is carefully and beautifully produced—the white cover has embossed footprints—and is printed on glossy paper, in a trim, “old-fashioned” size.

To coincide with the book, there is now a box set, Schubert: Winterreise/Die Schöne Müllerin/Schwanengesang (Warner Classics, 3CDs & 1DVD, $23.99). Bostridge performs with Leif Ove Andsnes, Mitsuko Uchida, and Antonio Pappano, respectively, on piano.

There is also a DVD with a filmed performance (directed by David Alden) of Winterreise (with Julius Drake, piano)—a very expressionist visual take that Bostridge writes has been an influence in subsequent performances.
NOTE: Ian Bostridge will sing Winterreise, with Julius Drake on piano, and talk about his book on Saturday, Feb 7, at the Library of Congress.



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Punch Brothers, The Phosphorescent Blues (Nonesuch, $16.98) – The Punch Brothers continue their “new-grass” journey, taking the classic bluegrass lineup (fiddle, banjo, mandolin, guitar, bass) into new territory, with epic song-suites, with touches of jazz, contemporary classical, and pop. The back cover of Phosphorescent Blues shows the quintet in the dark, staring at (and illuminated by) their iPhones. This notion of electronically-induced isolation and alienation is one of the themes of the album. But it’s not heavy, as the songs’ melodies and virtuosic playing carry us through.

NOTE: The Punch Brothers will be playing three nights at the 930 Club, Friday through Sunday, February 20 – 22.

Rez Abbasi Acoustic Quartet, Intents and Purposes(Enja, $15.98) – Guitarist Rez Abbasii looks back on ’70s “jazz-fusion/jazz-rock” and frees the songs from their “period” electric settings. By setting aside the synthesizers and electric guitars—recasting the songs for acoustic guitar, vibes, bass and drums—Abassi lets one hear the songs anew. The tunes are from Weather Report, Mahavishnu Orchestra, Return to Forever, and the bands of Herbie Hancock, Tony Williams, Larry Coryell, Billy Cobham, and Pat Martino.

Rudresh Mahanthappa, Bird Calls (Act, $15.98) – Alto saxophonist Rudresh Mahanthappa has a fierce tone, and his many musical projects have included explorations of classical Indian music to collaborations with Bunky Green. Bird Calls celebrates Rudresh’s first inspiration, Charlie Parker, by constructing new songs from a Parker composition or solo. The notes pour forth, with Adam O’Farrill on trumpet, Matt Mitchell, piano, François Moutin, bass, and Rudy Royston, drums. As Rudresh writes, “this album is a not a tribute…it is a blissful devotion a man who made so much possible.”

NOTE: Rudresh Mahanthappa and Rez Abbasi will be part of the Ragamala Dance Company’s performance at the Clarice Smith Center, and the University of Maryland, Saturday, February 7 (and Mr. Mahanthappa will give a clinic on Februrary 6).