A Singer’s Dozen — Matt

Matt Robertson, bass with Utah Chamber Artists, shares a few of his favorite pieces. Matt loves his job teaching music to elementary students at the Waterford School. He also loves all kinds of (good) music from all kinds of places, and this list is really just a taste.

Listen to Matt’s Spotify List HERE.

  1. A Change is Gonna Come – Sam CookeOne of the greatest voices in history, singing a song that resonates just as much today as it did when it was released in 1963.
  2. Piano Concerto #2, mvt 1 – Johannes BrahmsMight be my favorite piano concerto. A complex balance between solo and orchestra with a monster-beast piano part. The retransition into the recapitulation is one of the most sublime moments in all of music.
  3. La Soledad – Pink Martini with Pepe RaphaelThis song begins with Chopin and then melts into a beautiful Latin ballad. I was drawn first to the voice of Pepe Raphael He has a fascinating approach to vibrato, he vocalizes on consonants, and he has all kinds of other stylistic quirks, while also having such gorgeous resonance, pitch, line, and phrasing that I couldn’t stop listening!
  4. Four Last Songs, #3. Beim Schlafengehen – Richard StraussIf there is a heaven, Jessye Norman sings the soundtrack. One of the best experiences of my life is every single time I listen to her recording of this song (especially starting at about the 3 minute mark).
  5. Diamonds and Rust – Joan Baez
    Honestly, how did I not hear this until I was in my 40s? No matter the genre or style, I’m drawn to resonance, line, and phrase. Such beautiful work.
  6. Romeo and Juliet Suite #1, Op. 64b, mvt. 1. Montagues and Capulets – Sergei ProkofievAs a young teen, I attended a performance by l’Orchestre National de France, conducted by Lorin Maazel. They played this as an encore, and I sat there spellbound the entire time. I have never forgotten, and my love for Prokofiev has only grown.
  7. Libertango – Astor PiazzollaOne of the great Tango composers, Astor Piazzolla wrote this exceedingly catchy piece in 1974. At the time it marked a change as he moved away from “Classical Tango” and began to develop his own new Tango style. I love the layering effect he achieves throughout, and I find it impossible to listen to without moving. Yo-Yo Ma plays everything so well – no exception here.
  8. Requiem, Op. 48, Agnus Dei – Gabriel FauréFauré’s Requeim was the first piece of choral music I fell in love with. The Agnus Dei movement reminds me of Bach chorales like Wachet Auf and Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring in the way it layers a lilting instrumental line with a clean, slow-moving vocal line. It’s stunning.
  9. Lisa, Listen to Me – Blood, Sweat, & TearsAnother interesting and unusual voice, and another song that uses layering to achieve a tapestry-like effect. Blood, Sweat, and Tears was made up of some of the finest jazz studio musicians, and I still find them both fun and satisfying to listen to.
  10. Symphony #1, mvt. 3 – Gustav MahlerI heard Mahler’s first symphony played live by the Utah Symphony when I was a child, and I sat mesmerized through the whole thing (but especially the third movement). It starts with one of the few string bass solos in the orchestral repertoire and builds to several moments of over-the-top, happy dancing. (I found out later it depicts a mock funeral by forest animals for a deceased hunter).
  11. Dark Was the Night, Cold Was the Ground – Blind Willie JohnsonI learned about this song from an episode of the West Wing. Willie Johnson was blinded at age 7 by his stepmother who was trying to get back at Willie’s father for cheating on her. Willie learned to play guitar, grew to some success as a blues singer, and ultimately made a few recordings for which he received next-to-nothing. In 1945 he became ill from exposure while living in the burned-out ruin of his home, his clothing stuffed with wet newspapers. He died later that year after being denied medical care because of the color of his skin. But in 1977, this remarkable recording by Blind Willie Johnson was one of those chosen to represent humanity to whomever might find the Voyager satellites. It has now left the solar system. That’s pretty amazing to me.
  12. Violin Partita #2 in D minor, mvt. 1 – Johann Sebastian BachThe Bach Violin Partitas were my saving grace when I struggled with anxiety in my 20s. Listening to them, I could feel myself relax and center as the lines of the music drew breath. In this exceptional performance by Midori, you can feel the notes in each phrase moving as if by gravity, each toward its logical place as part of a greater whole.
  13. Sister Rosetta Goes Before Us – Robert Plant and Alison KraussEvery song on this album (Raising Sand) is a wonder. Who in the world decided Robert Plant (lead singer of Led Zeppelin) and Alison Krauss (a prolific and acclaimed bluegrass singer) should make an album together? Whoever it was, please thank them for me. This song honors Sister Rosetta Tharpe, the inventor of Rock & Roll. I honestly don’t even know how to describe it – just listen.
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