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"A Gathering of Friends" Williams / Yo Yo Ma album with Pablo Sainz-Villegas & Jessica Zhou


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It's an interesting experience to hear this version of the cello concert which, in both arrangement and performance, feels different to the one we heard 20 years ago for John's 70th birthday. It's definitely one of his better concert works (I have yet to hear Mutter's concerto) and it's very nice to have a different, perhaps more delicate, take on the same material.

 

I just realised something. The 2002 version was my first experience with John's concert music. 20 years!

 

Karol

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3 hours ago, Tom Guernsey said:

Must be because I'm in the UK as I can only see it available on CD at Presto. However, it is up at 7Digital (https://uk.7digital.com/artist/john-williams-yo-yo-ma-new-york-philharmonic/release/a-gathering-of-friends-20933890?f=20%2C19%2C12%2C16%2C17%2C9%2C2) so that'll do me (even if 7Digital is always more than Presto...).

I ordered mine off amazon yesterday, come this afternoon! Listening now!

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My copy arrived. Listening right now; loving it!

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9 hours ago, Tom Guernsey said:

Must be because I'm in the UK as I can only see it available on CD at Presto. However, it is up at 7Digital (https://uk.7digital.com/artist/john-williams-yo-yo-ma-new-york-philharmonic/release/a-gathering-of-friends-20933890?f=20%2C19%2C12%2C16%2C17%2C9%2C2) so that'll do me (even if 7Digital is always more than Presto...).

Interesting. That is possible that Presto does not have Sony digital distribution rights in the UK. 

 

It's also interesting that 7Digital is only offering CD resolution (both in the UK and US) when other sites have the 96/24 versions. 

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4 hours ago, lairdo said:

Interesting. That is possible that Presto does not have Sony digital distribution rights in the UK. 

 

It's also interesting that 7Digital is only offering CD resolution (both in the UK and US) when other sites have the 96/24 versions. 

Presumably not. As I noted earlier, the independent classical label stores seem to only have other smaller label albums available digitally and Presto only has stuff from Sony Classical, DG etc., available on CD. I just had another look and not only is A Gathering of Friends still only available on CD, but it's gone up by a couple of quid! I already bought it at 7Digital in regular lossless, that'll do for me. Just need to actually listen to it now...

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I absolutely adore Highwood's Ghost. Very nice and eerie, it actually makes a nice companion to Heartwood from the 2002 album. The cello concerto will take some time to get used to as I'm so familiar with the other Yo-Yo Ma recordings. 

 

The arrangements of the film themes are nice, especially the last two tracks. The cello arrangement of With Malice Towards None is probably my favourite version and I also think this is the nicest theme from that score. It's nice to have a stripped down Avner's theme as well, makes for a nice change. The Schindler's list suite is probably bit overplayed but at least the cello version adds a slightly different, perhaps less Jewish, vibe to the whole which helps to distinguish it from all the other million recordings. The second movement changes the tone of the piece almost entirely.

 

Speaking of which, I always thought it is a shame this suite should feature Auchwitz-Birkenau as the third movement. Without it, it feels somewhat incomplete and almost too "sweet". With this subject matter you sort of need to go there.

 

Karol

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On 20/05/2022 at 5:47 AM, WilliamsStarShip2282 said:

 

The only excuse I ever got for this kind of mastering was "oh its because people listen to it on their phones now and needs to sound good through phone speakers". I don't think anyone is listening to this album with phone speakers....

 

I don't know of any phone that can play audio CD 🤔...

I mean, give me the CD as it's supposed to be, then who want to listen to it through phone speakers can apply the filters they want when they rip the cd...

 

 

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5 minutes ago, ciarlese said:

 

I don't know of any phone that can play audio CD 🤔...

I mean, give me the CD as it's supposed to be, then who want to listen to it through phone speakers can apply the filters they want when they rip the cd...

 

 

 

Most of us on here prefer cd's or highest quality possible. But a lot of stuff is done through download and streaming and I think they jumped on that train.

 

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4 minutes ago, WilliamsStarShip2282 said:

 

Most of us on here prefer cd's or highest quality possible. But a lot of stuff is done through download and streaming and I think they jumped on that train.

 

I see it can be a choice, but that isn't taking into account the genre of the music they are selling, nor the audience who are going to listen to it, so it's a wrong choice.

On top of that, I think we can all agree that no expectations must be had on a company which since decades keeps being confused between two major artists of their catalogue, only because they have the same full name.

This label doesn't waste any occasion to embarrass itself since TPM was released...

 

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42 minutes ago, ciarlese said:

I see it can be a choice, but that isn't taking into account the genre of the music they are selling, nor the audience who are going to listen to it, so it's a wrong choice.

On top of that, I think we can all agree that no expectations must be had on a company which since decades keeps being confused between two major artists of their catalogue, only because they have the same full name.

This label doesn't waste any occasion to embarrass itself since TPM was released...

 

 

 

Yes and no. The DG Across The Stars was pretty loud and beefy too.

 

 

You know what I found most striking is With Malice Towards None. There are a few versions of this piece, all different, and all very powerful in different ways even though they're not all that different. John is an amazing composer for many reasons, but its things like this that make him one of the highest greats.

 

The mastering though I have to admit after giving the Cello Concerto a good listening too, it really just is not good. Its not that it isn't appropriate its just bad. Its waaaaaay too loud in some spots or others where some the orchestra sounds kind of muffled, the cello isn't the most prominent thing, but you hear every little minor detail of the celeste. This new version sounds more intimate though, would love to hear it live to hear what it is actually supposed to sound like.

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So except for the compressed sound, the rushed mastering and the general bad sounding, it's a great album?

 

Pheeew!!! :lol:

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6 hours ago, Tom Guernsey said:

Presumably not. As I noted earlier, the independent classical label stores seem to only have other smaller label albums available digitally and Presto only has stuff from Sony Classical, DG etc., available on CD. I just had another look and not only is A Gathering of Friends still only available on CD, but it's gone up by a couple of quid! I already bought it at 7Digital in regular lossless, that'll do for me. Just need to actually listen to it now...

 

That's odd, I'm in the UK and Presto has tonnes of Sony and DG (plus other Universal) stuff available for download, including hi-res, and including this Gathering of Friends album.

 

Also, the issue you mention with the couple of quid might be a VAT issue - have you maybe changed your country location on their site, possibly? As you can see from my screenshots, if you set Guernsey as your country then the CD costs £11.25, but in the UK with VAT it changes to £13.50.

 

 

presto gathering.png

presto guernsey.png

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4 hours ago, WilliamsStarShip2282 said:

 

 

Yes and no. The DG Across The Stars was pretty loud and beefy too.

 

I can't remember similar reactions when it was released: was that as bad?

I am starting to get worried that we will have to rely on vinyls to provide us top quality mastering, which would be expensive and unneeded, given the potential of the audio CD format 😒

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13 minutes ago, ciarlese said:

 

I am starting to get worried that we will have to rely on vinyls to provide us top quality mastering, which would be expensive and unneeded, given the potential of the audio CD format 😒

 

Agreed.

 

The vinyl for this album comes out in August. It will be interesting to hear that.

39 minutes ago, Bespin said:

So except for the compressed sound, the rushed mastering and the general bad sounding, it's a great album?

 

Pheeew!!! :lol:

 

Yes!

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2 hours ago, UK_Tubist said:

 

That's odd, I'm in the UK and Presto has tonnes of Sony and DG (plus other Universal) stuff available for download, including hi-res, and including this Gathering of Friends album.

 

Also, the issue you mention with the couple of quid might be a VAT issue - have you maybe changed your country location on their site, possibly? As you can see from my screenshots, if you set Guernsey as your country then the CD costs £11.25, but in the UK with VAT it changes to £13.50.

 

 

presto gathering.png

presto guernsey.png

How odd... rather than bore everyone else I've messaged privately! However, very much appreciate the feedback, the vagaries of international buying!

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9 hours ago, ciarlese said:

 

I can't remember similar reactions when it was released: was that as bad?

I am starting to get worried that we will have to rely on vinyls to provide us top quality mastering, which would be expensive and unneeded, given the potential of the audio CD format 😒

 

I think because it was kind of "acceptable" although still kind of out of place. This album though most of the mastering is just not good to bad.

10 hours ago, lairdo said:

 

The other tracks are appropriate to the album. As I wrote earlier, this version of Highwood's Ghost is not as appealing to me as the one on the Bernstein 100 Blu-ray. That's not to say I don't like it here. Just the one with the Boston Symphony sounds more coherent. Perhaps it is the mastering issue since the big orchestra section is not compromised sonically on that recording.

 

I am actually very disappointed in this recording. Its a piece I particularly like, but even with John's performance at Tanglewood not being the best (I think they played through it twice before the concert) there were still some mistakes, wasn't perfect, so I was hoping for a really nice, well rehearsed recording. This one sounds more like a first read through. Very un-natural and not well performed I have to say. Not to mention there is zero room sound which does a dis-service to the piece entirely. This one sounds so weird to me though, so UN-NATURAL, almost like everything was performed separately, including a bunch of different takes that were poorly thrown together.

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5 hours ago, WilliamsStarShip2282 said:

I am actually very disappointed in this recording. Its a piece I particularly like, but even with John's performance at Tanglewood not being the best (I think they played through it twice before the concert) there were still some mistakes, wasn't perfect, so I was hoping for a really nice, well rehearsed recording. This one sounds more like a first read through. Very un-natural and not well performed I have to say. Not to mention there is zero room sound which does a dis-service to the piece entirely. This one sounds so weird to me though, so UN-NATURAL, almost like everything was performed separately, including a bunch of different takes that were poorly thrown together.

 

Very well put, and agreed that Highwood's at Tanglewood was not perfect for sure. Maybe it was more spontaneous? Plus, I think it likely benefited from the energy of celebrating Lenny's 100th. I think that whole concert is wonderful.

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1 hour ago, lairdo said:

 

Very well put, and agreed that Highwood's at Tanglewood was not perfect for sure. Maybe it was more spontaneous? Plus, I think it likely benefited from the energy of celebrating Lenny's 100th. I think that whole concert is wonderful.

 

What do you think of the actual premiere recording with Nelsons? I actually like this one the best.

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6 hours ago, WilliamsStarShip2282 said:

 

What do you think of the actual premiere recording with Nelsons? I actually like this one the best.

 

I like the performance for sure from the Memorial Concert. But I think the recording (microphone placement and overall sound) is not quite as good as the 100th Anniversary one with Williams conducting. So it's a balance of those things. We're fortunate really (as we are with the Violin Concerto No. 2) that there have been multiple performances broadcasted and/or available of this piece. 

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The concerto isn't making any impresison so far. It starts out so fantastically enchanting and then JW does his usual, unnecessary weird chord thing... and then the canenza. I don't understand why he can't just keep the same spirit in which it opened. I was so invested at first.

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2 hours ago, bollemanneke said:

The concerto isn't making any impresison so far. It starts out so fantastically enchanting and then JW does his usual, unnecessary weird chord thing... and then the canenza. I don't understand why he can't just keep the same spirit in which it opened. I was so invested at first.

Sounds like it is making an impression.  

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Its down to personal taste isn't it. I have played the cd about 4 times already. I really like it a lot. And to be honest I wasn't expecting to like it that much. I only listen to soundtracks in regards to classical music! So I wasn't sure what to expect. 

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2 hours ago, Jurassic Shark said:

 

What?

I just don't like his non-film work most of the time. The fanfares are great though.

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1 minute ago, bollemanneke said:

I just don't like his non-film work most of the time. The fanfares are great though.

 

But what's the "unnecessary chord thing"?

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This new version of With Malice Towards none is a real demonstration of how JE likes to take a film themes and classical-them-up. He plays with the melody, takes it apart, complicates it, takes it in new directions, and it's all quite interesting. However, in the case of With Malice Towards None, one of the major strengths of the theme is its simplicity. It has an earnest, simple, directness to it that seems to speak to something JW felt was core to Abraham Lincoln. This version loses that earnestness and simplicity by complicating the main melody and with JW's stylistic concert music touches.

 

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I really like the album. I am just not completely happy with the track order. I think, Highwood's Ghost should have either been positioned directly after the Cello Concerto or at the end of the album. In the middle of these short film tracks is not really a favourable position. The film tracks are more easy listening and Highwood's Ghost requires some more attention, like the Concerto. 

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12 hours ago, bollemanneke said:

What JW often does, start out really interestingly and then denegerate into dissonance.

Except in CEOTTK where he starts with "weird chords" and ends in total harmony.

 

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2 hours ago, GerateWohl said:

I really like the album. I am just not completely happy with the track order. I think, Highwood's Ghost should have either been positioned directly after the Cello Concerto or at the end of the album. In the middle of these short film tracks is not really a favourable position. The film tracks are more easy listening and Highwood's Ghost requires some more attention, like the Concerto. 

 

If that is the choice, then definitely the end. Otherwise, it would get too "top heavy". But I kinda like it where it is, provides some great dynamic on the album. Difficult piece, three easier pieces, difficult piece, two easier pieces. Keeps the interest up, and easier to focus/un-focus throughout.

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5 hours ago, artguy360 said:

This new version of With Malice Towards none is a real demonstration of how JE likes to take a film themes and classical-them-up. He plays with the melody, takes it apart, complicates it, takes it in new directions, and it's all quite interesting. However, in the case of With Malice Towards None, one of the major strengths of the theme is its simplicity. It has an earnest, simple, directness to it that seems to speak to something JW felt was core to Abraham Lincoln. This version loses that earnestness and simplicity by complicating the main melody and with JW's stylistic concert music touches.

 

That was my impression as well. The simple, beautiful arrangement works way better than this version, which sounds kind of artificial IMO.

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2 minutes ago, Jurassic Shark said:

It should have been at the start of the album, like an overture usually is programmed at a concert.

 

If so, that would be one of the longest and weirdest overtures ever.

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1 hour ago, Thor said:

If so, that would be one of the longest and weirdest overtures ever.

 

1 hour ago, MaxTheHouseelf said:

The simple, beautiful arrangement works way better than this version, which sounds kind of artificial IMO.

 

6 hours ago, artguy360 said:

He plays with the melody, takes it apart, complicates it,...

 

18 hours ago, bollemanneke said:

and then JW does his usual, unnecessary weird chord thing...

 

The view on Williams concert works is not most gracious around here.

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I love when JW "plays with the melody, takes it apart, complicates it". And frankly, the original With Malice Towards None is a little bit boring...

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1 hour ago, Jurassic Shark said:

I love when JW "plays with the melody, takes it apart, complicates it". And frankly, the original With Malice Towards None is a little bit boring...

I love the 1.5 minute piano solo version on the OST.

Apart from that I am absolutely with you.

The other orchestral versions, especially those two on the Spielberg collaboration album sound a little inflated to me without adding much interesting musically.

But this version is here is a nice extension.

 

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15 minutes ago, GerateWohl said:

I love the 1.5 minute piano solo version on the OST.

 

Perhaps I'll get more into it if I play it myself. Have you played it?

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