Uncommonly Classical

Paul Ballyk

Hi. I’m Paul Ballyk and this is my classical music blog. When I’m not blogging, I’m listening to music and/or managing my music company, HBDirect.com. My two big loves in music are classical and jazz (this is doubtless a byproduct of having been trained and played professionally as a trombonist; an instrument that is equally at home in Elgar or Ellington).

Not everything that I write about in this blog will be about recorded music. I’ll likely include mentions about musical events, humor, milestones and perhaps the occasional recipe (which are not musically related on their own, except that, as with wine, certain dishes seem to taste better with the right music playing).

So, what is this blog all about? I named it “Uncommonly Classical” because, as the tagline suggests, there are many wonderful recordings that simply get lost in the crowd, and they deserve to be heard. I’m not planning on writing about Beethoven symphony cycles or the best Mahler 2nd - I think that we’re all pretty much good there. Instead, you may often see write-ups about composers or performers that you (or I) had never even heard of. But if you are drawn to the repertoire, I can promise you that you will enjoy the recording. And if it happens that you don’t, I’ll take it back and refund your money (assuming of course that you bought it from HBDirect.com, or I can’t really).

If you get a chance, let me know what you think about this blog, or about the recordings reviewed here. If you happen to hear one of them, you can leave your comments on the blog or send an emai to me at paul [at] hbdirect.com. Also, if you have some suggestions for recordings that you feel should be covered here.  please let me know - and thank you for the visit. - Paul Ballyk

Remembranza - Piano pieces by Piazzolla, Villa-Lobos; Nazareth, Granados, Albeniz / Rosa Antonelli, piano

Posted by on Mar 4, 2013 in Various Periods | 0 comments

Pianist Rosa Antonelli takes us on a musical tour of South America and Spain with this collection of beguiling pieces for solo piano titled Remembranza, remembrance of Latin sounds. The melancholy romantic music by Astor Piazzolla, Heitor Villa-Lobos, Ernesto Nazareth, Enrique Granados and Isaac Albéniz forms an attractive program that Ms. Antonelli performs with complete and natural fluency for the idiom. Considered a leading exponent of Spanish and Latin American music, Rosa Antonelli made her debut at Carnegie Hall in October of 2011 with...

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Imogen Holst: Choral Works / Choir of Clare College, Cambridge

Posted by on Mar 2, 2013 in Modern | 0 comments

I have been listening to and enjoying this CD at intervals over the past several months. At some point, being so handily close by, it became my touchstone in the assessment of other choral albums that came my way. Of those that had to stand in comparison, few made the cut. The performances by the Choir of Clare College, Cambridge and the Dmitri Ensemble under Graham Ross are simply exemplary. Imogen Holst (1907-1984) was the sole child of composer Gustav Holst. She was a composer, teacher and performer. The music on this Harmonia Mundi CD...

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Three Cabinets of Wonder - Orchestral Music of Michael Colina

Posted by on Feb 28, 2013 in Contemporary | 0 comments

Composer Michael Colina’s background reads unlike any other composer I’ve ever heard of. Neither a performing musician nor a student of music, he entered his new career as a composer some eight years ago after 25 years of producing recordings and writing music for some of the greatest talents of contemporary jazz. He states that he is now writing the music he loves and wants to hear. Influences of interests, life and learning include a tropical paradise in Cuba and the beaches of South Carolina, Santería drumming, Aretha...

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Giovanni Battista Buonamente: sonatas, canzonas and sinfonias / Helianthus Ensemble

Posted by on Feb 27, 2013 in Baroque | 0 comments

The curious existence of a collection of seven wind instruments in a convent in Assisi Italy and the investigation into its history by a dogged musician lead to the realization of this very enjoyable Brilliant Classics CD of sonatas, canzonas and sinfonias by Giovanni Battista Buonamente (c.1595-1642). The collection of instruments was made up of a traverso (baroque flute), four cornetts (conical bored instruments with finger holes and a cup-shaped mouthpiece that was buzzed like a trumpet), a dulcian (the double reed predecessor of the...

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Three Views: Music for trombone, piano & percussion / Mark Hetzler

Posted by on Feb 26, 2013 in Contemporary | 0 comments

Unique instrumental combinations, multicultural influences and top-notch performances make Three Views an easy pickup for anyone with an exploratory musical palate. What drew me to this album first was Mark Hetzler’s name. As a member of the Empire Brass for 18 years with an impressive resume of performances with esteemed orchestras, I was confident that Hetzler would not afford a disappointing performance. I couldn’t have been more right. Six contemporary composers are represented on the album, including Mark Hetzler himself. Though...

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Strike the Viol - Ayres & Divisions by Jenkins, Lawes, Locke…

Posted by on Feb 22, 2013 in Baroque | 0 comments

This is the second recommendation in a row for a title from Flora Records, a tiny Belgium label specializing in music from the first half of the 17th century. This period of time has been the label’s focus recently anyway, for the past half dozen or so releases. Strike the Viol is a program of consort music from the great English tradition of Jenkins, Lawes and Locke - a high point in the history of English classical music. There are also short pieces here by John Coperario, Daniel Norcombe and Christopher Simpson as well as some...

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Amarante - Airs de cour / Céline Scheen

Posted by on Feb 20, 2013 in Baroque | 0 comments

Please be aware that no English notes accompany this Flora Records album of songs performed by Céline Scheen titled Amarante. Also, there are no translations of the songs, which are sung and printed in the booklet in French. If you don’t read or understand French and have no interest at all in listening to songs not knowing what is being sung, you should probably hit the back button now. However, even with this strike against it, I’m strongly compelled to recommend this beautifully packaged, recorded and performed Flora CD of airs de cour...

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Hans Huber Quintet and Sextet for Winds and Piano

Posted by on Feb 18, 2013 in Post Romantic | 0 comments

Musiques Suisses presents a second CD dedicated to the chamber music of Hans Huber (1852-1921). The previous one (MSS 6257) gave us the Quartet for Piano & Strings and the Quintet for Piano & Strings. This new release, also of chamber music with piano, offers the composer’s music for winds - a quintet and a sextet both scored for flute, clarinet, horn and bassoon, with an oboe as the fifth wind instrument in the sextet. There is not very much of Huber’s music available on CD; what there is comes primarily from two...

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Terpsichore, Muse of the Dance / Skip Sempé

Posted by on Feb 17, 2013 in Renaissance | 0 comments

When it comes to the sound of a renaissance band, I have to admit that a raunchier one than is heard here has generally been more my cup of gruel. Give me blaring shawms, raucous bagpipes, rude crumhorns, thunderous drums and throw in a hurdy-gurdy once in a while - the bawdier the better! But I know that there’s more than one way to skin a haggis. On this new Paradizo CD, Skip Sempé and his Capriccio Stravagante Renaissance Orchestra have created a program that not only includes some of the edgier sounds these bands can produce,...

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Pisendel, Violin Concertos from Dresden - Johannes Pramsohler

Posted by on Feb 16, 2013 in Baroque | 0 comments

In the first half of the 18th century, Dresden was well known for the excellence of its music organizations, which drew the finest players and singers from all over Europe. Bach aspired for a position there while in Leipzig working on music which would become part of his B Minor Mass, and so written with the capacity of the Dresden instrumental and vocal ensembles in mind. Renowned violinist Johann Georg Pisendel (1687-1755) was concertmaster of the Dresden court orchestra at this time. Many of the leading composers of the day wrote concertos...

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