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October 2013
Enjoy the Music.com Review Magazine
Best Audiohpile Music Of 2013 Blue Note Award
Best Of 2013 Blue Note Music Awards
As Chosen By Music Editor Wayne Donnelly And Music Review Staff


Dmitri Shostakovich
Symphony No. 10 in E minor, Op.93
Vasily Petrenko conducting the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra
Read full review here.

Vasily Petrenko has made several impressive recordings with his Liverpool players, but none more impressive than this searing Shostakovich Tenth. There are many excellent performances of this work in the catalogue, but Petrenko brings us closer than any of them to the existential dread at the heart of Shostakovich's greatest symphonic work. The Liverpool Philharmonic might not be a world-class orchestra, hut they surely play like one here, giving Petrenko the wide dynamic and expressive range he's asking for. If, to all this, you add the best orchestral sound I've ever heard from Naxos, you have a Blue Note winner through and through. — Max Westler



Gustav Mahler
Symphony No. 1
Ivan Fischer conducting the Budapest Festival Orchestra
Read full review here.

This brilliantly recorded SACD disc offers further evidence that Ivan Fischer is one of the great Mahler interpreters and also that the incredibly responsive instrument of his Budapest Festival Orchestra can register Mahler at his most tempestuous and also his most tender. When it comes to the Mahler First, you have 272 choices, but not one of them is better performed (or better sounding) than this one. — Max Westler



Ludwig Von Beethoven
Symphony No. 9 in D minor, Op. 125
Erin Wall (s), Kendall Gladden (ms), William Burden (t), Nathan Berg (b), the San Francisco Orchestra and Chorus conducted by Michael Tilson Thomas
Read full review here.

There have been Apollonian Beethoven Ninths and there have been Dionysian Beethoven Ninths, but there has never been a performance of the symphony that so perfectly balances wisdom and passion as this new recording by Michael Tilson Thomas and his San Francisco Orchestra. MTT recorded a cycle of the Beethoven Symphonies with the English Chamber Orchestra in the 1970's, and those chamber-sized performances seem far removed from this Promethean achievement. Along with this remarkable Beethoven Fifth from last year (also a Blue Note winner), MTT is proving himself to be one of the great Beethoven interpreters of our time. — Max Westler



John Adams
John's Book of Alleged Dances; String Quartet (2008); Fellow Traveler
Read full review here.

If you don't already know the music of John Adams, this is as good a place as any to start. The Alleged Dances and his only String Quartet are both challenging and approachable -- and dare I add, great fun too. The Dances are quirky, epigrammatic, but wide-ranging in mood. The Quartet is a more serious work, but thrillingly inventive throughout. And here the very young Attacca Quartet does the impossible: they beat the famous Kronos Quartet at their own game -- which is playing music just like this. Passionate, edgy, laugh out loud funny, propulsive, the Attacca's performances here are a constant wonder. And the sound is pretty damn good too. — Max Westler



Modest Mussorgsky
Pictures from an Exhibition
Serge Prokofiev
Sarcasms, Op. 17; Fugitive Visions, Op. 22
Steven Osborne (piano)
Read full review here.

Steven Osborne is our most self-effacing virtuoso: for him the music always comes first. Osborne's technique is as formidable as anyone's, but he always uses it for the sake of expression, for probing ever deeper into the works he's playing. In Mussorgsky's Pictures, Osborne weaves the individual pictures into a coherent dramatic arc and so breathes new life into this familiar work. The pugnacious Sarcasms is Prokofiev at his most audacious. And for once the Fugitive Visions are truly visionary. The sound is demonstration quality. — Max Westler


The Soviet Experience, Volume 3
String Quartets by Dmitri Shostakovich and His Contemporaries
Shostakovich: String Quartets Nos. 9 - 12
Weinberg: String Quartet No. 6
Pacifica Quartet
Read full review here.

The third installment of the Pacifica Quartet's Soviet String Quartet series offers four more Shostakovich quartets (Nos. 9-12) plus the fascinating bonus of Mieczyslaw Weinberg's Sixth Quartet. Like all the Shostakovich quartets, these contain emotional extremes, from bleak, restless passages to outbursts of chaotic frenzy. The Pacifica Quartet once again prove to be compelling interpreters, with their warmth of tone, alertness to drops and rises of emotional temperature, and intensity in both solo passages and ensemble. Weinberg, a close friend of Shostakovich, has a voice of his own in his somewhat more traditional Sixth Quartet. Cedille Records once again offers superb sound, along with a valuable booklet essay and striking cover art. — Joe Milicia



Ralph Vaughan Williams: A London Symphony; Serenade to Music
Christopher Seaman, conducting the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra
16 singers from Mercury Opera Rochester (in Serenade to Music) 
Read full review here.

Ralph Vaughan Williams' London Symphony is a vibrant musical portrait of a great city, with passages both brooding and swaggering, French Impressionistic and pure English Robust. Englishman Christopher Seaman leads the Rochester (NY) Philharmonic in a convincing, beautifully recorded performance that captures both poignant woodwind solos and blazing brass climaxes. A very welcome bonus is a performance of Vaughan Williams' gorgeous Serenade to Music, featuring 16 vocal soloists from Mercury Opera Rochester. Harmonia Mundi's engineers allow us to hear the complex interweaving of voices and orchestral soloists in this richly melodic setting of Shakespeare's words. — Joe Milicia



Buzz Brass -- Mélanie Barney organ
Holst The Planets
Format: Vinyl (2 two 180 gram LP at 45 rpm)
Read full review here.

Contrary to some pop and rock releases, truly bad classical recordings are a rare thing. But towards the other end of the spectrum, so are exceptional ones. Fidelio's meticulous treatment of Holst's most famous work occupies this rare category. Accordingly, Barney and the Buzz Brass are up to the challenge of commanding our attention and appreciation throughout the piece. Engineer René LaFlamme, always the perfectionist, delivers a reference recording that stands up against the best, even under another name without the professorial nomenclature. In the process, they capture the feeling all right. — Claude Lemaire



Daft Punk
Random Access Memories
Format: Vinyl (two 180 gram LP at 33.33 rpm)
Read full review here.

Beyond any doubt, 2013 in general and this album in particular, marked a turning point for the music industry regarding marketing strategies and more importantly sound aesthetics. After 30 years of producing successive declining sales and sound quality due in large part to outrageous heavy compression and hard limiting policies -- a.k.a. the loudness wars; here, Sony Columbia, a major no less, gave 'carte blanche' to two of the most obsessive French techno-audiophiles in the galaxy and both players are now reaping the rewards while resetting the bar higher. In the end, Random Access Memories does exactly what the title suggests. It randomly accesses your most cherished memories of growing up in the 1970s: A long lost period when people; sound professionals, music producers and musicians dedicated to their craft of creating beautiful music, were rewarded to know that music fans would buy their LPs, appreciate their long studio hours and their talents on a dedicated sound system; dance in their bedroom and at the discothèque or simply air guitar and air drum. To take the time and savor the moment, opening that gatefold jacket, flipping through the booklet, reading the lyrics... that's what it was all about. — Claude Lemaire













































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