It is apparent American rapper Mac Miller's relationship with pop princess Ariana Grande has influenced his fourth studio album in a large way. This is not just because her sultry voice features right from the start, beckoning listeners on the sweepingly beautiful album opener, Congratulations, and continues throughout the album in the form of background vocals or spoken sections.
Instead of the frat-boy rap of his older material, there are quiet, melodic moments and explorations into jazz-funk. The overtures of love are most apparent on the duet My Favorite Part, where Miller, 24, drops the rapping and croons: "You don't know how beautiful you are/That's my favourite part."
Joining in, she sings, "It'll be alright babe, see, me, I got you covered/I'm gon' be your lover, you might be the one," her honeyed vocals are the perfect foil for the rough edges of his laidback, low-key style of rapping.
The album is more than just a love fest for the couple. Miller has secured as guest performers some of the hottest names in the rap and R&B world.
THE DIVINE FEMININE
First single Dang! with LA rapper-singer Anderson Paak is an irresistible neo-soul track. Ty Dolla $ign softens up and even sings on Cinderella. Cee Lo contributes soulful stylings to the slow-burn track We. Kendrick Lamar's inimitable style is apparent in an understated feature on the album closer, God Is Fair, Sexy Nasty.
Unfortunately for Miller, they all seem to outshine him, delivering far more memorable verses as well as showing the energy that is required of the jazz funk/neo soul genre that he attempts to explore.
Still, Grande should be proud that her man is trying to grow up.
The Clarinotts is the world's foremost clarinet family, formed by Vienna Philharmonic principal clarinettist Ernst Ottensamer and his sons Daniel (also a principal in the Vienna Philharmonic) and Andreas (principal of the Berlin Philharmonic). Their debut album features original works and arrangements for two and three clarinets, sometimes in combination with basset horn (a member of the clarinet family with a slightly lower range), performed with much zest and finesse.
The Clarinotts and Wiener Virtuosen Streichensemble
Deutsche Grammphon 481 1917
Mendelssohn's Concert Piece No. 1 (Op. 113) is a delightful repertoire work in three movements, with excellent interplay between the siblings, Daniel on clarinet and Andreas on basset horn. Franz and Karl Doppler's Rigoletto Fantasy for three players was arranged from the original for two flutes, and luxuriates in popular melodies such as La Donna E Mobile, Caro Nome and Bella Figlia Dell'Amore.
Also of operatic origin is the trio Soave Sia Il Vento from Mozart's Cosi Fan Tutte, while Rossini's La Danza, with the pastorale from William Tell Overture as introduction, is operatic in its intensity and outward display.
The longest work is Bela Koreny's Cinema I, conceived as dramatic movie music with a jazzy vibe. Serving as encores are Luiz Bonfa's popular Manha De Carnaval and the thrills and spills of Olivier Truan's The Chase, which complete a highly enjoyable hour.
Chang Tou Liang
What constitutes a great sonata? This seems arbitrary as the piano sonatas in this box-set range from two-minute masterpieces by Scarlatti to half-hour mammoths from Liszt, Schumann and Schubert.
VLADIMIR HOROWITZ PLAYS GREAT SONATAS
Sony Classical 88697884092 (10 CDs)
One might argue that whatever Ukrainian-American virtuoso Vladimir Horowitz (1903-1989) touches turns to gold, especially Scarlatti's single-movement harpsichord miniatures of wit and wonder (there are 32 of them here).
He also exhibited a special sympathy for the neglected Muzio Clementi, with several sonata movements, and reignited an interest for Alexander Scriabin, whose Sonatas No. 3, 5, 9 and 10 get definitive performances.
The electrifying side to Horowitz's virtuosity is heard in Chopin's Funeral March Sonata, Schumann's Third Sonata (also known as the Concerto Without Orchestra), Liszt's Sonata In B Minor and Rachmaninov's Second Sonata.
He is less convincing in Schubert's last Sonata In B Flat Major and Beethoven, where the playing is often overstated. From the 20th century, he practically owned Samuel Barber's Sonata and Prokofiev's Seventh Sonata (he gave the American premieres) and makes a good case for Kabalevsky's banal Third Sonata.
The only disappointment is the presentation, as the lack of programme notes for new listeners is unacceptable.
Chang Tou Liang