Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Listening post: from Louisiana to Africa to Europe and back to Texas

Plucked from various genres, here are some of the CDs from the hot spring releases that I'm particulalry jazzed about. First up is From Bamako to Carencro by Michael Doucet and Beausoleil. Let the sun shine in, indeed. One of Louisiana's finest exports, Beausoleil appears frequently on Prairie Home Companion, and you can hear them perform "Les barres de la prison" from the album live here. And below is a peppy "Bessie's Blues."
1958 ticker tape parade in New York City celebrating Van Cliburn's victory in the first Tchaikovsky Competition in Moscow
Jumping over to classical music, I got so much pleasure out of the new Van Cliburn LP collection from RCA that I kept it for eons after blurbing it so I could savor each disc. What a span of musical idioms—and you get to hear him both solo and with various famed orchestra leaders of the time in the concertos. A significant bargain and a great investment for lovers of piano music.
I love opera, and I cannot lie. I know it's not the most popular musical genre on the planet, but I would like to slip in this performance by Renee Fleming of a gorgeous aria from Dvorak's Rusalka, which premiered on March 31 in 1901.  "Over the past five years I have written nothing but operas" the composer wrote in 1904, just months before his death. "I wanted to devote all my powers, as long as the dear Lord gives me health, to the creation of opera. Not out of any vain desire for theatrical glory, but because I consider opera to be the most suitable medium for the Czech nation, and listened to by the widest audience, whereas if I compose a symphony I might have to wait years before it is performed." Dvorak based the work on a fairy tale, and in this excerpt Fleming portrays the daughter of a water-goblin who longs to be human after falling in love with a hunter/prince who passed by the lake in which she lives. Rusalka sings this song asking for the moon to reveal her love to the Prince.
Fleming has been influential in having this opera programmed, and I'm so excited that she'll be taking up the lead role again next season at the Met. (More Dvorak, both instrumental and vocal, on our website.)
Veering back to Americana, you can actually download a track from Emmylou Harris and Rodney Crowell's Old Yellow Moon here. Whether she sings solo, duets, or even backup harmonies, Emmylou's vocals are always heaven-sent. If you like the track, click here to order the album from us. It's currently in our Top 10 bestselling CDs, along with great selections by Creedence Clearwater Revival, Aaron Neville, The Chieftains, Eric Clapton, Chick Corea, and Jimi Hendrix.
So is there anything you've heard lately you'd like to recommend to us?


  1. JP,

    Did you happen to catch Aaron Neville on last week's Wait Wait Don't Tell Me? It was a pretty great one!

    1. I haven't caught up with that episode yet, but I look forward to it. There's a special coming up on PBS in which he sings the album's songs live--I saw a preview and it looked great.

  2. Admittedly, I'm not a huge opera fan. But I appreciate Fleming's performance very much. She has such amazing poise and a beautiful tone. I was unaware that opera is such a popular genre in Czechoslovakia, but I think it's wonderful. It's a pleasure to see such overt excitement in a "classical" crowd as was displayed in the vid you posted.

    Related in a tangential nature, am I the only one that is reminded, in spots, of "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" by that Dvorak piece?

    1. They are both songs of hopeless longing, beautifully rendered. I've always been struck by the sadness behind "Somewhere..". And that sadness is heard in this "Song to the Moon", the loveliest song I have heard in Czech.
      The water sprite's love has a dark fate, so the sadness foreshadows the end. The sheer beauty of the melody overcomes the language barrier. I am glad to hear it again--thank you!

  3. Can't wait to get my hands on the Emmylou Harris/Rodney Crowell album. Read a decent review in on Paste it's worth checking out.

  4. My tastes in music have been politely described as eclectic. So I really enjoyed this Listening Post! Keep em coming!