A special eight-page section focusing on recent recordings from the US and Canada

JL Adams Ilimaq Glenn Kotche drum kit/perc John Luther Adams elecs Cantaloupe F (CD + ◊) CA21112 (47’ • DDD)

John Luther Adams has forged a distinctive voice through music that evokes environmental vistas, including his Pulitzer Prize-winning orchestral work Become Ocean (11/14). The composer, a longtime resident of Alaska who now lives in New York, doesn’t need massive forces to exert his spellbinding touch. In Illimaq (‘spirit journeys’ in Inuit) Adams employs a single percussionist – a very busy one, at that – and electroacoustic soundscapes to conjure a spectrum of natural panoramas.

The five movements have titles that give a hint of the atmospheres Adams is describing. ‘Descent’ introduces relentless and surging bass-drum figures against whooshes of electronic sound. The music takes on an even more otherworldly aura in ‘Under the Ice’, with an array of delicate and metallic percussion blending with screeching, popping and swooping electronics and field recordings. These ideas lead seamlessly into the shimmering bells and aquatic murmurings of ‘The Sunken Gamelan’. A barrage of percussion erupts in ‘Untune the Sky’, which suggests forces that can’t be controlled, as if Adams were surveying nature in its wildest guise. Then the music drifts back to the peacefulness of the first movement in ‘Ascension’, with whispers of sound drifting into the heavens.

Glenn Kotche, drummer in the band Wilco (and a composer himself), illuminates the wondrous and multifaceted percussion colours and effects. There are times when the sonic line between percussion and electronics is completely blurred – a testament to Kotche’s nuanced artistry and Adams’s compositional magic, which are presented here in both audio and DVD formats. Donald Rosenberg talks to... Denise Tryon The Philadelphia Orchestra horn player on her new disc of lowlying repertoire

Explain the idea behind the disc... When I started thinking about recording an album, I wanted to perform pieces showcasing the register of the horn in which I specialize. Since there are so few pieces written for the low horn, I needed to commission new works. So, for me, this album is mostly about the collaboration with the four composers (Miller, Pawelek, Askim and Clearfield). I enjoyed the process of working with each of them on their piece, so it feels very personal to me

And the title’s personal, too? The title, SO•LOW is a homage to my father, who heard me perform all of the works on the album in recital a month before he passed. He had an incredibly dry sense of humour. When I first learned to play the horn, he would always ask after a performance, ‘Did you have a solo? Was it so low you could hardly heard it?’ It’s a pretty terrible joke, but it always made me smile.

G Gabrieli . J Williams G Gabrieli Sacrae symphoniae – selections (arr Tim Higgins) J Williams Music for Brass National Brass Ensemble Oberlin Music F Í OC15-04 (68’ • DDD/DSD)

The Oberlin Music Conservatory’s CD label pays homage to an iconic analogue recording with a recital of 13 antiphonal Giovanni Gabrieli tracks and the world-premiere recording of a new work by John Williams. The players are an all-star crew of 26 brass players

What are the challenges of playing ‘so low’? Most of the classical and romantic literature focuses on the mid to upper register of the instrument. As someone who specializes in the lower register, I am interested in developing repertoire encompassing that range of the horn. Some technical difficulties of the low register are developing a beautiful sound, plus fluidly moving through this range.

And what’s next? For my next album, I want to continue commissioning works for low horn. This time I would like to focus on a concerto and couple the new work with Kerry Turner’s Concerto for Low Horn in F.

called the National Brass Ensemble, recruited from major US orchestras in Cleveland, Philadelphia, Boston, New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Detroit and Chicago.

The recording was inspired by ‘The Antiphonal Music of Gabrieli’, made in 1968 and featuring brass ensembles from the Chicago, Philadelphia and Cleveland orchestras playing 17 excerpts from Gabrieli’s Sacrae symphoniae (1597), which made Gabrieli’s Canzon per sonar No 2 a classical radio hit. The titles overlap and duplicate, but the National Brass Ensemble score with an exquisite O magnum mysterium, which does not appear on the earlier recording.