Al­bum reviews

Pasatiempo - - Pasa Tempos -

MARIA JOÃO PIRES Beethoven’s Pi­ano Con­cer­tos 3 & 4 ( Onyx) Pi­anist Maria João Pires long ago earned a rep­u­ta­tion for ec­cen­tric­ity, with­draw­ing from pub­lic view for ex­tended pe­ri­ods and at one point re­treat­ing to a farm in her na­tive Por­tu­gal, whence she re­ported that milk­ing goats was do­ing won­ders for the even­ness of her trills. Sev­eral years ago she moved to Brazil, fol­low­ing a health cri­sis and the col­lapse of a Por­tuguese ed­u­ca­tional in­sti­tute she had founded and that left her deeply in debt. A Bud­dhist, she is drawn to spir­i­tual in­quiry, and it is im­pos­si­ble not to hear this in her mu­sic-mak­ing, where she bal­ances on the ra­zor’s edge that sep­a­rates (or links) de­vo­tion to the score and the im­po­si­tion of in­ter­pre­ta­tion. Her ap­proach to Beethoven’s Third and Fourth Pi­ano Con­cer­tos is in­fused with Mozartian pu­rity — Mozart and Chopin are the com­posers with whom she is most as­so­ci­ated — which she ap­plies to pro­foundly per­sonal ex­pres­sion. Her tech­nique is crys­talline, her tone op­u­lent, her in­tent un­am­bigu­ous, her ego ab­sent. She in­fuses the first move­ment of the Third Con­certo with a tragic, even shell-shocked mien, and its sec­ond move­ment with con­tem­pla­tive melan­choly. Un­ac­cus­tomed sor­row in­hab­its the Fourth Con­certo, too, yield­ing an ex­pe­ri­ence of the piece that lies dis­tant from the main­stream. The Swedish Ra­dio Sym­phony Orches­tra (Daniel Harding con­duct­ing) proves a sen­si­tive, of­ten ex­u­ber­ant part­ner in th­ese in­ti­mately cap­tured, emotionally ar­rest­ing per­for­mances. — James M. Keller LAETI­TIA SADIER Some­thing Shines (Drag City) Few bands in the his­tory of pop mu­sic have a sound as dis­tinct as Stere­o­lab’s. Within just a few bars of Laeti­tia Sadier’s lat­est solo al­bum, you can tell it’s a re­lease from that band’s for­mer front­woman. The acous­tic gui­tar lays out the rhythm, the bass notes come in sound­ing as rich and sweet as choco­late chips, and soon an elec­tric gui­tar and or­gans are mak­ing slick runs up and down be­fore horns, flutes, and odd bits of noise get caught up in the eddy. Even be­fore Sadier sings a line in English, she lets her voice feel out the edges of this groove, hum­ming and howl­ing as if to her­self. When she does lend her se­duc­tively frosty voice, it’s to im­part sharply ob­ser­va­tional and oc­ca­sion­ally im­pres­sion­is­tic lyrics of ro­mance, life, and the cur­rent po­lit­i­cal cli­mate. “They are a class, they are at war, are de­ter­mined to win/Their plan is to trans­fer our wealth to un­der their sin­is­ter wing,” she sings in the bit­ing, acous­tic “Os­curi­dad,” adding an atyp­i­cal edge to her voice in what is pos­si­bly the most di­rect song she’s ever writ­ten. For­tu­nately, the al­bum as a whole is more up­lift­ing. Her in­stru­men­ta­tion and song struc­tures still feel some­how fu­tu­is­tic more than 20 years into her ca­reer, and her com­po­si­tional skills are still ex­tra­or­di­nary. What she’s wo­ven here is a ta­pes­try you can re­turn to end­lessly, notic­ing new de­tails each time. — Robert Ker

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