Music News 2/20/2020

JOHN ZORN: VIRTUE (Tzadik, $18.99) – Composer John Zorn has written another suite for the acoustic guitar trio of Bill Frisell, Julian Lage, and Gyan Riley. Last year, the trio recorded Nove Cantici per Francesco d’Assisi, Zorn’s songs inspired by the life of St. Francis. Virtue is also inspired by the life of a famous religious figure, in this case, Julian of Norwich (Mother Juliana), 14th-century mystic, anchoress, and author of Revelations of Divine Love.

NOTE: Bill Frisell will bring his Trio to the State Theater in Falls Church on Friday, April 3.

& Gyan Riley will play with his father, Terry Riley, at 6th & I Synagogue on Saturday, May 9.

Courtney Barnett, MTV UNPLUGGED: Live in Melbourne (Mom + Pop, $13.99) – Australian Courtney Barnett is one of the smartest and cleverest singer/songwriters to have emerged in the last five or six years. Her dense lyrics, sometimes delivered deadpan, sometimes punchy, are short-story worthy. Her new album, recorded on October 22, 2019, features her in an acoustic setting with her touring trio, with the addition of cellist Lucy Waldron. There are guest appearances by Paul Kelly, Marlon Williams and Evlyn Ida Morris. 

Pat Metheny, FROM THIS PLACE (Nonesuch, $16.98) – Electric guitarist Pat Metheny convenes his quartet (keyboardist Gwilym Simcock, bassist Linda Oh, and drummer Antonio Sanchez) to play 10 new tunes, augmented by an orchestra, conducted by Joel McNeely.

National Symphony Orchestra, DVOŘÁK / COPLAND (NSO, $14.98) – The National Symphony Orchestra has started its own record label.

The first release juxtaposes Antonin Dvořák’s Symphony No. 9 “From the New World” and Aaron Copland’s Suite from Billy the Kid.

Music Director Gianandrea Noseda conducts the NSO.


On Monday, Februrary 24, at 7 p.m, Washington Post art, architecture and music critic Phillip Kennicott will present his new book Counterpoint: A Memoir of Bach and Mourning (Norton, $26.95). The book is both an exploration on his fraught familial and musical relationship with his mother, his “complicated grief” after her death, and his journey in learning Bach’s Goldberg Variation as recommitment to music making.

In honor of the the event, I’ve brought in some recordings of The Goldberg Variations—one classic, and a couple of newer interpretations.

Glenn Gould, A State of Wonder: The Complete Goldberg Variations 1955 & 1981 (Sony Classics) collects both Gould’s iconic 1955 recording and his 1981 re-interpretation. The package also comes with a bonus disc of Gould and former Washington Post music critic Tim Page discussing the two versions. Mr. Kennicott mentions these recordings many times in Counterpoint.

Beatrice Rana, Goldberg Variations (Warner Classics) (2017)

Igor Levit, Goldberg Variations / Diabelli Variations / The People United Will Never Be Defeated (Sony Classical, 3 CDs) (2015) – Levit juxtaposes variations by Bach, Beethoven, and Frederic Rzewski.

NOTE: Beatrice Rana will play at the Kennedy Center on Tuesday, May 12

Igor Levit will also play the Kennedy Center a few days after that, on Friday, May 15.