Tomorrow (Saturday, October 12) is National Album Day 2019! Following on from the success of the inaugural event last year, this celebratory occasion aims to emphasize the pleasure of listening to albums in their entirety rather than just heading to individual tracks – a goal perfectly summed up by the theme “Don This year’s ‘t Skip’ and #DontSkip hashtag.
The day also recognizes the thought and invention that goes into creating a truly well-crafted album, where each track leads perfectly to the next, creating a whole that is far more than the sum of its parts. The Beatles’ Abbey Route, say, where The Pink Floyd The dark side of the moon are classic examples from the pop world – for all the brilliant songs themselves, not listening to these masterpieces from start to finish seems almost unthinkable.
But brilliant albums are by no means the preserve of rock and pop. In recent years in particular, the world of classical music has excelled in the imagination and production of superbly programmed albums. Some explore a single composer in different intriguing and alluring ways, others bring together works by composers who at first glance may seem unlikely bedfellows but work wonderfully in the company of the other.
You can find details about National Album Day 2019 here. But in the meantime, we in the BBC Music Magazine The team has thought of albums that have greatly inspired us and that we would be happy to recommend to others …
Now that the recording industry has produced dozens of versions of major masterpieces, the concept album seems to have made a comeback in recent times. Piano book, Lang Lang’s collection of piano music for beginners, is a recent and charming example, inspiring learners around the world that simple can always mean beautiful. Lang Lang’s interpretations of Bach’s Prelude No. 1 of 48, Beethoven‘s For Elise, Chopin’s ‘Raindrop’ prelude and many others are small slices of perfection.
The album I come back to again and again, however, celebrates the 500e birthday of Leonardo da Vinci. I from Fagiolini Shaping the invisible is a fascinating journey through the work of the genius of the Italian Renaissance: art, drawings and more, with music to accompany each: Tallis, Howells, Victoria, Rubbra, Bach and more make up the imaginative program. You don’t need to refer to Leonardo’s work to appreciate the musical art on display, but it doesn’t half help.
Was it really 20 years ago that as a feature editor Classic CD magazine, I opened my post to be greeted by the conductor’s photo Ivan Fischer looking at me in front of a new music CD from Kodály? At the time, I knew very little about Fischer and his Budapest Festival Orchestra and, I admit, not much about the composer either. This superbly performed and, above all, imaginatively programmed record instantly changed all that.
Dotted with famous Hungarian orchestral works – the Galanta dances, Marosszék dances and, finally, the Harry Janos Suite – were songs performed by local children’s choirs. While Fischer’s initial intentions in doing this were, I guess, to emphasize the importance of vocals in Kodály’s overall approach and musical production, it also gave the album itself. variety, freshness and a change of pace. From there, I moved on to investigate Kodály more, as well as his Hungarian contemporaries Bartók and Dohnányi.
Philips 462 8242
Programming is an art form in itself: putting music in context, while allowing tracks to express themselves independently, is easier said than done. In his 2018 album Solo, flautist Emmanuel Pahud contrasts Telemann’s 12 Fantasies with works spanning the last three centuries. The result is an epic investigation into unaccompanied music that takes the listener through mountains of minimalism and under an avant-garde avalanche, exploring every extended technique along the way.
Although the likes of Jörg Widmann Small suite (2016) and that of Varèse Density 21.5 capturing attention as stand-alone works is the process of hearing Telemann’s contemporary creations interspersed with trinkets that makes this album so fascinating. There are a lot of flautists who can handle this type of repertoire, but no one else has presented them in a program like this. It’s a collection that demands to be listened to from start to finish to feel the full benefit of synaptic tingling.
Warner Classics 9029570175
Great soundtrack albums are, by their very nature, organized listening experiences. You have to listen from the beginning to follow the sonic progression of the story. The album of The Truman Show. The only artist credited on the front is German-Australian composer Burkhard Dallwitz and, in my innocence, I assumed he wrote everything I heard in the film. But no, someone called Philippe Glass had actually composed some of the best songs.
It’s a smart idea that the film’s fictional show uses music by Glass to accompany scenes, both pre-existing and original pieces. Thus, Dallwitz marked the film and A glass marked the show in the film. Suffice to say that I went in search of more music in A glass, today one of my favorite composers. The album also contains tracks from Chopin and Wojciech Kilar. A colorful trip!
Milan Records 35850-2
An album came out this year that challenged my preconceptions about 16th century choral music, a genre I never thought I’d get emotionally invested in. With glorious sound quality, the Armonico Consort and Choir of Gonville & Caius College, Cambridge had pierced me with their Oversized polyphony album, with 40- and 60-part masses by Striggio and those by Tallis Spem in Alium, interspersed with songs by Hildegard von Bingen.
These ethereal chants (which, I admit, had previously left me numbed with boredom) were distinguished by their notes seamlessly sustained under tumbling melodies. It was programming at its best – Hildegard’s chants brought out colors in large-scale works that I had never noticed, and the purity and depth of sound gave the chants a new sense of space. .