From Björk to Costello with Anne Sophie von Otter and Brooklyn Rider

Monday, September 26, 2016

Anne Sophie von Otter and Brooklyn Rider: So Many Things Anne Sophie von Otter and Brooklyn Rider: So Many Things (Naïve Records)

Here’s a fun listening exercise: put on the Metropolitan Opera’s 1991 recording of Le nozze di Figaro and drop the needle on Cherubino’s first number, “Non so più cosa son, cosa faccio,” sung by the Swedish mezzo-soprano Anne Sofie von Otter. Then cue the opening track of So Many Things, an intriguing new release by Otter and the intrepid string quartet Brooklyn Rider. The album begins with an arrangement of Kate Bush’s “Pi,” and the back-to-back listen is bound to amaze. Otter, who made her acclaimed Metropolitan Opera debut nearly two decades ago in the role of Mozart’s oversexed teenager, turns from opera diva to dusky chanteuse with startling ease.

Immediately following “Pi,” a piercing rendition of “Am I in your light,” from John Adams’s Doctor Atomic (in an arrangement by Evan Ziporyn), returns the listener to the opera house. The juxtaposition is utterly convincing. The aptly named So Many Things brings together music by a seemingly motley crew of composers, songwriters, and whatever else you want to call people who invent music – from Anders Hillborg and Nico Muhly (who provides the album’s title track) to Brad Mehldau, Elvis Costello and Björk. (This isn’t Otter’s first genre-bending rodeo; her previous collaborations included work with Costello and Mehldau, and even an ABBA cover album.) So Many Things also features two new works: Caroline Shaw’s characteristically alluring “Cant voi l’aube,” and the irresistibly hip “For Sixty Cents” by Brooklyn Rider violinist Colin Jacobsen.

The album’s most exquisite offering may be Elvis Costello’s “Speak darkly, my angel.” Costello’s Schubertian songwriting prowess finds an ideal interpreter in Otter; at the hands of Brooklyn Rider, Rob Mathes’s cinematic arrangement takes flight. Here and throughout, as such versatile artists seize a kaleidoscope of styles with undaunted aplomb, So Many Things tears down the very concept of genre. As Alban Berg once famously reassured a sheepish George Gershwin, reticent to play “Summertime” for the creator of the Lyric Suite, “Mr. Gershwin, music is music.” Otter and Brooklyn Rider make a strong case.

Anne Sophie von Otter and Brooklyn Rider: So Many Things
Naïve Records | Released Sept. 30

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