Sir Mix-A-Lot & Seattle Symphony: Baby Got Back Live

Two of my fave things: classical music and one hit wonders! Rapper Sir Mix-A-Lot surprised the classical crowd at a recent Seattle Symphony performance by joining the orchestra for a lively, string-accented version of his hit “Baby Got Back” and bringing some of the female audience members on stage to dance….

Dysphemic & Miss Eliza: Hungarian Dance Video & Mp3!

It was just over a year ago when we first introduced you to “Classical Dub-step” duo Dysphemic & Miss Eliza. The duo is offering a free, legal mp3 download of “Hungarian Dance,” one of the tracks on their Synthetic Symphony EP, as well as their futuristic new video for the song…

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Dysphemic & Miss Eliza Official Site

Introducing “Indie Classical” Ensemble Plumes

The unusual, lovely music of self-described “indie classical” ensemble Plumes floated into my inbox like a precious, refreshing breath of fresh air atop the sea of mediocrity that’s emailed to me on a daily basis. Plumes are currently working on their debut full-length album, which is tentatively set for release in July. In the meantime, you can listen to the orchestral track “Hero and Leander” from the band’s upcoming album and watch a live performance of “Messy Love” below…

Hero and Leander Uploaded by Plumes

Plumes Official Site

Renee Fleming: Haunted Heart

Guest Review by: Brendan

I found Renée Fleming’s 2005 release, Haunted Heart, while looking for different renditions of the song “My One and Only Love” and Renée’s voice bathed me in warmth. It’s an incredible performance of a song I’ve heard countless times before (runner up versions: Sting on the Leaving Las Vegas soundtrack and the John Coltrane and Johnny Hartman collaboration). This collection showcases the lower, more intimate range of Renée’s voice. It’s essentially a vocal jazz album, though it does feature a few classical tracks.

Another highlight of the album is Renée’s rendering of Joni Mitchell’s “River,” which again for me transcends all other covers. The arrangement is sparse, and Renée pours her soul into the song.

“You’ve Changed” is injected with a level of desperation and yearning that previous versions fail to match, even Billie Holiday’s. Renée’s version reminds me of the saddest story I’ve ever heard – The Nightingale and the Rose by Oscar Wilde (which you can hear me read here).

Mahler‘s arrangement of “Liebst du um Schönheit” fits remarkably well alongside these pop and jazz classics. Accompanying Renée on Haunted Heart are legendary guitarist Bill Frisell and Fred Hersch on piano.

I don’t appreciate Renée’s 2010 pop album, Dark Hope, quite as much, but it’s also worth checking out for her versions of “Mad World” (Tears for Fears/Gary Jules) and “Endlessly” (Muse).

We were not granted permission to share an mp3, but you can hear samples of each track at the link below…

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Renée Fleming Official Site

Tori Amos: Sin Palabras (Night Of Hunters Instrumental)

When I reviewed Tori Amos’ new classical-inspired album, Night Of Hunters, I said: “I hope the powers that be at Deutsche Grammophon can convince Tori to record a purely classical album next time around.” My wish has been granted with the label’s release of an exquisite instrumental version of the album entitled Sin Palabras (Without Words).

Sin Palabras has all of the strengths of Night Of Hunters, yet none of the weaknesses that plagued that album’s vocal trickery and lyrical fantasy. As a result, even songs that I found irksome in their original form – such as “Cactus Practice,” which incorporates Chopin’s “Nocturne Op. 9 No. 1” – sound absolutely lovely sans vocals.

This gorgeous instrumental version illuminates all of the intricacies and nuances of the arrangements. The brilliance of Tori’s piano playing, as well as that of her accompanying orchestra musicians, is put on full and stunning display.

Following is the track list for Sin Palabras along with the classical works sampled in each song:

1. Shattering Sea (Alkan: Song of the Madwoman on the Sea-Shore, Prelude op. 31 no. 8 )
2. SnowBlind (Granados: Añoranza – from 6 Pieces on Spanish Folksongs)
3. Battle of Trees (Satie: Gnossienne no. 1)
4. Fearlessness (Granados: Orientale from 12 Spanish Dances)
5. Cactus Practice (Chopin: Nocturne op. 9 no. 1)
6. Star Whisperer (Schubert: Andantino from Piano Sonata in A major D 959)
7. Job’s Coffin
8. Nautical Twilight (Mendelssohn: Venetian Boat Song from Songs Without Words op. 30)
9. Your Ghost (Schumann: Theme and Variations in E flat major WoO 24 from Ghost Variations)
10. Edge of the Moon (Bach: Siciliano from Flute Sonata BWV 1031)
11. The Chase (Mussorgsky: The Old Castle from Pictures at an Exhibition)
12. Night of Hunters (Scarlatti: Sonata in F minor, K.466 and the Gregorian Chant “Salva Regina”)
13. Seven Sisters (Bach: Prelude in C minor)
14. Carry (Debussy: The Girl with the Flaxen Hair, from Preludes I)

Whether you loved or hated Night of the Hunters, or experienced mixed feelings as I did, I highly recommend Sin Palabras. It’s one of the most beautiful recordings I’ve ever heard. So much so that I added it to my Top 25 Albums of 2011, which already included Night of the Hunters.

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Night of Hunters (Sin Palabras) [Instrumental Without Words] - Tori Amos