The Well-Tempered Ear

Classical music: ECM Records finally streams its entire catalogue of award-winning artists and recordings

November 18, 2017
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By Jacob Stockinger

The critically acclaimed and award-winning independent label ECM (Edition of Contemporary Music) was founded in Munich, Germany, in 1969 by the Grammy-winning producer Manfred Eicher (below).

Known for its penchant for the contemporary and even avant-garde, Eicher’s label was nonetheless a conservative hold-out when it came to the newer technology of digital streaming.

The old technology has its points besides superior sound quality. When you got an ECM CD, you usually also got one of their terrific black-and-white photographs, often a square-format landscape, as a cover. (ECM even published a book of its photographic covers.)

But as of this past Friday, ECM finally gave into the inevitable and streamed its entire catalogue. Its rationale was that it was more important for its music and musicians to be heard than to remain loyal to certain platforms.

ECM also cited the pressure from unauthorized uploads to YouTube and bootleg versions of its recordings as the reason for the decision.

So as of yesterday, ECM, which has won many awards for individual titles and artists, will be available on Apple Music, Spotify, Amazon, Deezer, Tidal and other streaming services.

ECM is known for its popular and critically acclaimed jazz artists including pianist Keith Jarrett (below, of “The Köln Concert” or The Cologne Concert) and saxophonist Jan Garbarek and the Hilliard Ensemble (“Officium”). But it also included classical chamber music groups such as the Keller Quartet, the Trio Medieval, the Danish Quartet and others.

ECM is also known for championing contemporary classical composers (Arvo Pärt, below, who is the most performed contemporary composer, as well as Tigur Mansurian, Lera Auerbach, Gyorgy Kurtag and Valentin Silvestrov among others) and some outstanding crossover classical musicians, including Jarrett, a jazz great who has also recorded Bach, Handel and Shostakovich on both piano and harpsichord.

The Ear especially likes violist Kim Kashkashian and Harvard pianist Robert Levin (a frequent performer at the Token Creek Chamber Music Festival) in sonatas of Brahms. He is also fond of Alexei Lubimov in various piano recitals as well as the many recordings of Bach, Beethoven, Schubert, Janacek and Robert Schumann by the superb pianist Andras Schiff (below). In the YouTube video at the bottom, you can hear Schiff in a live performance of the Gigue from Bach’s Keyboard Partita No. 3.)

And there are many, many more artists and recordings worth your attention. Here is a link to an extensive sampler on YouTube:

https://www.youtube.com/user/ECMRecordsChannel

Who are your favorite ECM artists?

What are your favorite ECM recordings?

What ECM downloads do you recommend?

The Ear wants to hear.


Classical music: From Palestrina to Part, the pioneering early music vocal group The Hilliard Ensemble will disband into silence in 2014. Plus, the date for the next Handel Aria Competition is set for July 17 during this summer’s Madison Early Music Festival.

January 9, 2014
3 Comments

ALERT: Mark your calendars and datebooks. The second annual Handel Aria Competition — with an encore appearance by the winner last summer — that is sponsored by local business owners Dean and Orange Schroeder will take place on July 17, 2014 as part of the annual Madison Early Music Festival. Last summer, the “slam down” format proved to be a lot of fun, as you can see for yourself if you revisit my coverage with these links:

https://welltempered.wordpress.com/2013/07/05/classical-music-qa-organizer-dean-schroeder-talks-about-the-inaugural-handel-aria-competition-at-this-years-madison-early-music-festival-on-monday-night-july-8/

https://welltempered.wordpress.com/2013/07/10/classical-music-the-ear-finds-himself-in-handel-himmel-and-enjoys-the-first-handel-aria-competition-at-the-14th-annual-madison-early-music-festival/

Handel etching

By Jacob Stockinger

The pioneering early music vocal group the Hilliard Ensemble (below) has sounded another sour note to open the new year in classical music.

The ensemble, founded in 1973 and celebrating its 40th anniversary this season, will disband in 2014 after one last world tour, according to a story on NPR’s excellent classical music blog “Deceptive Candence.”

hilliard ensemble portrait

One has to wonder: How many more unfortunate events like this will we see as the Baby Boomer generation — which also fed and fostered the early music revival — ages and falls ill, then decides to retire or perhaps even dies?

Already we have seen some string quartets like the Guarneri and Tokyo  (below), decide to disband, although the venerable Emerson Quartet has decided to continue on after cellist David Finckel retired and was replaced by Paul Watkins, formerly of the British Nash Ensemble. The Hilliard Ensemble has only one of its original members still singing.

tokyo-qt

Unlike so many other early music groups, the Hilliard Ensemble specialized in late Medieval and Renaissance music rather than the more popular and well-known Baroque music and composers. Their specialities included works by Giovanni da Palestrina, Carlo Gesualdo, Orlando Gibbons, Thomas Tallis and Josquin Des Prez plus a host of generally unknown names (like the work by William Cornish in the YouTube video at the bottom.). But they also did perform Baroque music and especially made headlines when they revealed parallels between certain Bach works on the CD “Morimur.”

hilliard ensemble singing

The Hilliard Ensemble was also eclectic and adventurous. In its extensive catalogue of recordings, mostly on the innovative and inventive ECM label – an ideal home for the Hilliard Ensemble — it also performed music with best-selling New Age jazz saxophonist Jan Gabarek as well as the complete Bach motets. And they also recorded several works by the living popular Estonian composer Arvo Part.

Here is a link to see their impressive and extensive discography and impressive user review at amazon.com:

http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=search-alias%3Dclassical&field-keywords=Hilliard+Ensemble

And to top it off, the members of the Hilliard Ensemble themselves set the tone for receiving this news with their calm acceptance of the end of their era and their mission, successfully accomplished.

Here is a link to the NPR story:

http://www.npr.org/blogs/deceptivecadence/2013/12/19/255572105/leaders-in-early-music-face-a-final-curtain-with-grace


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