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© 2011 Azica Records/Naxos of America
Jonathan Barlow founded Massif Trio to perform his arrangements of 19th century German art songs (Lied) for two guitars and voice. Massif Trio has received various honors including a grant and the “Orville Moore Memorial Award” presented by The Allied Arts, Inc. in recognition of their achievement in German Lied. They recorded an album Massif Trio plays Schumann, Schubert and Strauss with Azica Records whose roster includes such greats as Jason Vieaux, David Leisner and Grammy-winner Bill Cunliffe. The album is distributed internationally by Naxos. In addition to receiving internet radio play on Pandora, Last.FM and Spotify, the CD has been featured on Classical Minnesota Public Radio KNOW-FM 91.1. It has received reviews by the American Record Guide and All Music Guide; it was listed as a “Significant New Classical Release” and reviewed as “a masterful performance filled with keen musical insight, evocative text painting, and enticing sound quality (4.5 out of 5 stars).”-
ALL MUSIC GUIDE, August 2011
-Review by Mike D. Brownell
Often done to increase the number of customers that would purchase a given musical publication as well as to reach a broader audience, the practice of transcription has been commonplace for centuries. In the 20th and 21st centuries, the practice was increasingly expanded to include more unique combinations of instruments resulting in products that could be peculiar or even unpleasant. Such is not the case with the tastefully and impeccably written arrangements heard on this Azica recording of the Massif Trio. Two guitars and a tenor are united for exceptionally enjoyable performances of Schumann’s Dichterliebe, Schubert’s four songs on poems by Salis-Seewis, and Strauss’ Op. 29 Three Songs. Arranged by guitarist Jonathan Barlow, the utmost care is taken to ensure the original wishes of the composers were taken into account, even altering the tuning of the guitars to capture the complete range of the original piano accompaniment. The warm, gentle sound of the two guitars provides a wonderful backdrop for tenor Nathan Bird, allowing the subtle nuances of his voice to shine through without having to fight against the more powerful piano. As a whole, the Massif Trio produces a masterful performance filled with keen musical insight, evocative text painting, and enticing sound quality. At only 42 minutes in length, however, the short album will certainly leave listeners wishing there was a bit more on the program.
American Record Guide, November/December 2011 (excerpt)
Lieder singing with guitar accompaniment (instead of a piano) is not a new idea [but] using two guitars instead of one may be a first. It was done [here] to achieve a better balance between the singer and the accompaniment…[Among the] best performances here are Schubert’s simple and folksy lieder, like ‘Herbstlied’ (Autumn Song) and ‘Pflügerlied’ (Plowman’s Song).