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Downtime

Apologies for some downtime over the last 48 hours!

Shoutcast 2 has been migrating to new servers which required changes to our various players.

We are pleased to report that all players have now been re-coded and all is well again!

It’s Cold Up North!

While the temperatures may be low in Scandinavia, much of the music is so uplifting that you forget about the icicles dripping from your instrument. In particular, you may be unfamiliar with a music genre known as Yoik. It has nothing to do with the exclamation “Yoiks” but refers to a traditional form of song of the Sami people of the Nordic countries and Kola peninsula of Russia. Originally, yoik (sometimes spelled joik) referred to only one of several Sami singing styles, but in English the word now tends to refer to all types of traditional Sami singing. As an art form, each yoik is meant to reflect or evoke a person, animal, or place and the sound is comparable to the traditional chanting of some Native American cultures.

A composer who is at the forefront of this genre is the Norwegian yoiker Frode Fjellheim who was responsible for the main theme in Disney’s “Frozen”. Frode has subsequently received praise from the Norwegian Sámi President for spreading yoik to new audiences. Similarly, the Norwegian female choir that appeared on the Disney soundtrack have also garnered some notoriety for the same reason and are busy capitalising on this success with the release of a new album called “Northern Lights”.

The choir was founded in 1986 and consists of around 30 amateur singers based in Trondheim. Despite being an amateur choir, they have attained an extremely professional international standard winning several international competitions over the last few years. Their cool new album was just begging to have a handful of tracks featured on our Album Playlist which is exactly what we have done!

Decca Re-Releases A Definitive

Always a dangerous statement as “one man’s meat is another man’s poison”, however, this newly packaged set of Beethoven’s complete String Quartet cycle could certainly qualify as a possible definitive for many – it is certainly a favourite for many critics. If you like your Beethoven more sweet and slow (a la Klemperer) the Allegri String Quartet may be more your “cup of tea”. On the other hand, if you prefer to hear Ludwig with rather more sharpness and alacrity (a la Karajan) we think that the Takacs Quartet will be “right up your street”. Here at The Ice Stream we are certainly more than happy to feature selected tracks from this mighty collection on our featured album playlist.

Originally released on 3 albums between 2002 and 2005, Decca has now put the whole cycle in one box set. While the CDs will bash your plastic to the tune of £34, this no lightweight collection but possibly a small price to pay for a definitve? Don’t just take our word for it – the three “Rasumovsky” Quartets album originally was a Grammy Award Winner for Best Chamber Music Recording & Gramophone Award Winner when it was first released.

It all began in 1975 when four students at the Music Academy in Budapest, Gábor Takács-Nagy (first violin), Károly Schranz (second violin), Gábor Ormai (viola), and András Fejér (cello) formed The Takács Quartet. According to their own story, Takács-Nagy, Ormai and Fejér had been playing trios together for several months when they met Schranz during a pickup soccer game after classes. With the immediate addition of Károly to their group the trio became a quartet.

They first received international attention in 1977, winning the First Prize and the Critics’ Prize at the International String Quartet Competition in Evian, France. After that the quartet won the Gold Medal at the 1979 Portsmouth and Bordeaux Competitions and First Prizes at the Budapest International String Quartet Competition in 1978 and the Bratislava Competition in 1981. The quartet made its first North American tour in 1982.

In 1983, the group decided it would be best for them and their families if they moved to the United States. A colleague offered them a position as quartet-in-residence at the University of Colorado at Boulder, and they accepted the job. This was also the year that Takács-Nagy left the group. While he was the first to go ,he was not the last and now Karoly Schranz and Andras Fejer are the only original members. British violinist Edward Dusinberre has been with the Quartet since 1993 and violist, Geraldine Walther (previously with the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra), joined in 2005 – the same year the quartet became associate artists at the South Bank Centre

Throughout its long journey, the Takacs Quarter has embarked on a successful series of recordings: a cycle of all six Bartók quartets (dedicated to the memory of Ormai, who died in 1995) and this critically acclaimed complete Beethoven quartet cycle, as well as quartets by Smetana and Borodin.

 

Live Long And Prosper

In our opinion, the abundant growth in the quantity of British Television has not yielded a similar increase in quality drama productions. In all probability we will not see the likes of superb productions many remember from the 70s & 80s again. There have been notable exceptions, of course, such as Downton Abbey which has been an international hit. This shining light amidst the gloom of reality television has brought about a small glimmer of a possible resurgence in high grade television.

One of ITV’s grasps at a follow-up to Downton’s successful period piece has been The Halcyon. The show tells the story of a glamorous five star hotel run by aristocracy during the Second World War. There is no doubt that the program makers spent a good deal of time, thought (and money) in putting this 8 part series together. It is, therefore, disappointing that ITV has announced that it has axed the show after just one series despite fans begging for more.

Here at The Ice Stream we were particularly disappointed by this news as the series music overseen by the accomplished film and televison composer Samuel Sim is superb. In addition to his input numerous guest stars such as Jamie Cullum, Beverley Knight and Tracy Kashi appear on the soundtrack. Renowned Eastenders star Kara Tointon also proved herself to be a budding charismatic singing talent in the mix of quasi classical and traditional jazz music. Fans of the series may prove to be unsuccessful in their campaign to get the series reinstated but they can, at least, relive some of the musical highlights here on The Ice Stream where we have put a selection of tracks from the soundtrack CD released in January this year on our new Album Playlist.

Tinkling Somebody Else’s Ivories

The latest addition to our current feature album playlist is a real showstopper! It is a new release from a man who has sold over 50 million albums. Aside from records with many groups such as Yes and The Strawbs, Rick Wakeman has released more than 100 albums as a solo artist alone!

Piano Portraits came out in January this years and, upon release, reached number 6 on the UK Albums Chart, becoming Rick’s highest charting album in the UK since 1975. Reaching the Top 10 these days is somewhat meaningless compared to the heady days of the 70s, but be in no doubt that this is truly worthy of success!

 

The album was made following the positive reception to Rick’s live radio performance of his piano arrangement of “Life on Mars?” by David Bowie following the singer’s death in January 2016. A subsequent single of the track was released in aid of Macmillan Cancer Support later in the year.

After Wakeman received offers from several music labels to produce an album of piano arrangements, he picked Universal. He has chosen a roster of songs that are his favourites or that he has played on as a session musician and as a member of Yes together with some classical pieces and original material. It is good to have the man back really “on form” and he is going to be promoting this new album on a 10-day tour of the UK between May and July of this year.