Posts from the Download This Category

“How to buy…” is an occasional series in which I offer profound insights into the record store buyer’s craft. This week: acquire instant expertise in country music.

In R&B, the words are merely a vehicle for the performance. People with amazing voices perform fearless acts of vocal agility over what are usually banal and uninspired lyrics.

For country music, which must, sadly, be performed by country singers, this is usually impossible. As a result, we must judge country singers by the content of the lyrics that were written for them by somebody else. Thankfully, this is easy to do, since all good country songs include certain key words and concepts. By assigning values to them, we can accurately distinguish the good from the bad. (more…)

Yesterday, I received a mahoosive box from the Berlin Phil, containing the best poster an orchestra has ever made, a copy of this season’s program, and a season pass for the Digital Concert Hall – a streaming video service that lets you watch live and archived performances from the Philharmonie.

I was mostly excited about the poster until I tried the video thing. Now I’m totally hooked. (more…)

Richard Strauss climbs a mountain with the help of the entire London Symphony Orchestra. John Sheppard rises to heaven on the voices of Stile Antico. Both of these records are glorious, magnificent, and awe-inspiringly wonderful, but they couldn’t sound more different.

Stile Antico: Media Vita

LSO Live: Strauss' Alpine Symphony

Phew! Almost two weeks into 2010 and I still haven’t caught up with November’s new releases. The prospect of listening to the unaccompanied choral music of Richard Strauss didn’t exactly fill me joy, but this album (released in November 2009) is both impressive and beautiful. It’s a must for any choral music geek.

2010 marks the 200th anniversary of Chopin’s birth. Pretty much everybody is going to release a Chopin album this year. When you’re designing the cover for yours, please take a moment to consider whether you’d like the artwork to suggest 1810 or 2010. If anybody needs me, I’ll be listening to Alice Sara Ott. Her first US release hits the shelves next week, on 1/19.

The audio on a live album sometimes does a good job of bottling the lightning of a live performance, but the cover almost never rises to the occasion. Invariably you get something on the spectrum between LSO Live’s high concept studio creations and DG Concerts’ stock-venue-pub-shot formula. Either way, they don’t say “live”. Imagine, then, the sense of glee when this arrived in my inbox. It makes me feel like I’m going to a concert. A+ for Naxos. It’s released on Tuesday 1/12.

Well, mostly, they wave their arms and get paid a lot. Like most senior managers (good and bad), they don’t seem to do much at all.

In this TED talk, Itay Talgam uses some wonderful examples of conductors at work to show how less can often be more, and even how nothing at all can be everything. I found his last example quite awe-inspiring.

He talks about Strauss’s Ten Commandments of Conducting, which can be found here (or here).

Thanks to JD for sending me the video. I’m sorry it took me so long to watch it.