al­bum reviews

Pasatiempo - - Pasa Tempos -

STILE AN­TICO From the Im­pe­rial Court (Har­mo­nia Mundi) Afi­ciona­dos of Re­nais­sance choral mu­sic ea­gerly an­tic­i­pate new re­leases from the con­duc­tor­less Bri­tish vo­cal en­sem­ble Stile An­tico. The group’s eight pre­vi­ous CDs have reg­u­larly fig­ured as con­tenders and win­ners in in­ter­na­tional record­ing com­pe­ti­tions. This ninth of­fer­ing will doubt­less follow suit. It is a com­pellingly pro­grammed, hold-your-breath beau­ti­ful recital of 16th­cen­tury mas­ter­works writ­ten for, or es­pe­cially as­so­ci­ated with, a suc­ces­sion of Haps­burg rulers, prin­ci­pally Max­i­m­il­ian I, Charles V, and Philip II. Eleven of the era’s all-star com­posers con­trib­ute to the playlist through works specif­i­cally at­tached to cer­tain mon­archs or po­lit­i­cal events. High­lights? Re­ally, there are no high­lights; ev­ery­thing is at the same el­e­vated level of qual­ity in both com­po­si­tion and per­for­mance. The en­sem­ble, which ranges here from 12 to 15 singers, brings flaw­less blend and bal­ance but also scores ex­pres­sive points through del­i­cate shad­ing of a cap­pella tone color. The ear­li­est work in the col­lec­tion vis­its King David’s lament on the loss of his son Ab­sa­lom, here in a stately motet Pierre de la Rue wrote on the pass­ing of Haps­burg fa­vored son Philip the Hand­some in 1506. Hein­rich Isaac’s kalei­do­scopic “Virgo pru­den­tis­sima,” from the fol­low­ing year, cel­e­brates Max­i­m­il­ian’s in­stal­la­tion as Holy Ro­man Em­peror. Great­ness in­hab­its ev­ery track by way of (among oth­ers) Nether­lan­ders Josquin and Gombert, Spa­niards Mo­rales and Lobo, and even English­man Tal­lis (since Mary I Tu­dor mar­ried a Haps­burg). — James M. Keller MARCO BEL­TRAMI Snow­piercer: Orig­i­nal Mo­tion Pic­ture Sound­track (Varese Sara­bande Records) Marco Bel­trami’s mu­sic for di­rec­tor Bong Joon-ho’s ice-suf­fused al­le­gory doesn’t com­pletely avoid the weighty, dystopian clichés of many dooms­day films. Nail-scratch­ing string blends, run-for-your-life tem­pos, and oc­ca­sional fright­ful elec­tron­ics are duly em­ployed. But Bel­trami, com­poser for Wes Craven hor­ror films and for such eclec­tic pic­tures as The Three Buri­als of Melquiades Estrada, can be sur­pris­ingly thought­ful even as he gen­er­ates ten­sion. The story is set on a hurtling train, and the score’s sweep­ing rhythms, steel-on-steel syn­the­sizer ef­fects, and steam-whis­tle sounds re­call both Alan Sil­vestri’s work on The Po­lar Ex­press sound­track and Trevor Jones’ on Run­away Train. The best mu­sic here avoids click­ety­clack al­to­gether and con­cen­trates on moody or­ches­tral touches. In the open­ing num­ber, “This Is the End,” win­some pi­ano lines dis­ap­pear be­hind tym­pani rolls and anx­ious vi­o­lins. Cel­los and vi­o­las strike somber chords in “Go Ahead.” “Sushi” is a sim­ple, melan­cholic pi­ano melody with a quick, equally melodic res­o­lu­tion. “Stomp” starts with a crush­ing drum strike and a deeply sounded pi­ano tone, while “We Go For­ward,” a song in the style of Bernard Her­rmann, fea­tures ner­vous vi­o­lin lines ac­cented with the clank of metal. Not ev­ery­thing is tense and dark. The in­sis­tent choo-choo beat of “Seoul Train” might even make you get up and dance. Snow­piercer isn’t easy lis­ten­ing by any means. But its var­ied, some­times vi­o­lent emo­tional con­tent has a sort of guilty-plea­sure ap­peal. — Bill Kohlhaase

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