Ry Cooder and Corridos Famosos: Live "From this rich catalog, Cooder cherry-picked only a dozen songs to include on Live but they’re fairly representative of his eclectic oeuvre. His picks also feature plenty of his guitar playing, which will please fans who felt (as I sometimes did) that his recent albums were a bit stingy with his greatest asset. " "The shows also were a family affair. The Corridos Famosos include Ry’s son Joachim on drums, Joachim’s wife Juliet Commagere on vocals, and her brother Robert Francis on bass, as well as an old friend and collaborator, Flaco Jimenez, the Tejano accordionist who was at Cooder’s side when he played this venue 34 years earlier. Terry Evans, another veteran of the 1977 shows, handles backup vocals, along with Arnold McCuller, filling in for Cooder’s other longtime singing partner Bobby King." Don't miss the clip at the end of the review. [more inside]
Georges Cziffra warms up for the BBC, mixing improvisation with a bit of the first Chopin étude. [more inside]
People can't decide if he looks more like Tom Cruise or Keanu Reeves. But whoever he looks like, it's the way he sounds and what he can play that make Benoît Sauvé unique. [more inside]
Pocket music apps are letting composers and artists create music anywhere - and they're developing fast. [more inside]
"In a way I wish it did not require such a formidable technique, because I do not really enjoy sweating over this music." This is virtuoso pianist Marc-Andre Hamelin speaking of Charles-Valentin Alkan, the Romantic pianist said to have made even Liszt nervous, and whose exhilarating works fell into obscurity due to their rigorous technical demands. For a warm-up, here's Alkan's major etude "Allegro barbaro", as performed by Jack Gibbons. A machine recording of his piece Le Chemin de Fer in which you can see the keys being pressed. Recordings of Youtube exist of people attempting his near-impossible Scherzo focoso (and, for comparison, a mechanical rendition of the same). And for encore, here is Hamelin again playing Les Quatre Ages, frequently considered Alkan's most mature work, a sonata depicting the four ages of man.
What's the most difficult piano piece? Opinions vary. Is it La Campanella, written by Liszt to show off what only he could do? (performance, score) Is it Balakirev's Islamey, which even Balakirev struggled to play? (performance, score) Or Ravel's Gaspard de la Nuit, written to top Islamey? (performance, score) Does Godowsky double his points by reconfiguring the already-difficult Chopin for the left hand? (performance) And if someone plays all four hours of Sorabji's Opus Clavicembalisticum, written across four staves to fit the extra notes, will anyone listen? (perfomance excerpts, score excerpts)