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December 13, 2004 - Have a Great Holiday
THE BEST CONTEMPORARY CLASSICAL CD's OF 2004
| William Bolcom: Songs of Innocence of Experience Leonard Slatkin, Naxos
Twenty-five years in the making and worth every minute of the wait. Bolcom turns William Blake's poems into a comprehensive survey of American musical style and, in the proces, creates a big, bold, unabashed masterpiece.
|Peter Maxswell Davis:
The first two of ten string quartets envisoned by Maxswell Davis and funded and to be recorded by the Naxos record company. If you think art and commerce can't coexist, this first sampling will convince you otherwise. These moody quartets are on a par with the best of Bartok and Shostokovitch.
|Steve Reich: Different Trains
David Robertson, Orchestre National de Lyon, Naive
This is a new version of Reich's haunting 1988 masterpiece (the original used four string quartets--both pre-recorded and live) prepared for 48 strings by the composer at the suggestion of the conductor David Robertson. The result further enhances the lyricism and emotional impact of this powerful piece,
|Sergei Rachmaninov Piano Concertos, Paganini Rhapsody Stephen Hough (piano), Dallas Symphony Orchestra, Andrew Litton, Hyperion
Rachmaninov romanticism has never sounded, well, bigger or more romantic. Littton is a Rocky Romantic Show specialist and it shows in the orchestra's splendid melding with Hough's oversized playing. Highly recommended, even if you already have them all.
|Luigi Dallapiccola: Ulisse
Dallapiccola's final masterpiece, the opera Ulisse, which premiered in Berlin in 1968, recounts the voyage both of Homer’s hero and of mankind's search for eternal truths. Recorded in 1975, a few months after the composer's death, this performance is the culmination of a lifetime of meditation and musical discipline by one of the great humanists of the 20th century arts.
|Lee Hyla: Trans
Gil Rose, Laura Frautschi, Tim Smith
New World Records
A rare opportunity to hear several of the major symphonic works of a true American original. Hyla happily mingles expressionistic, complex contemporary atonal idioms with elements of avant-garde jazz, and rock and garage band with results that cannot be anticipated.
|Sibelius, Khachaturian: Violin Concertos Sinfonia Varsovia, Emmanuel Krivine Naive (Naxos)
This 18-year-old Armenian wunderkind tosses off the Sibelius with a dazzling display of sheer virtuosity and delivers a much deeper, more sober reading of his fellow countryman's bouncy masterpiece than we are accustomed to hearing. Eye-opening performance and a performer to watch.
|Arnold Schoenberg: Die Jakobsleiter Kent Nagano Harmonia Mundi
One of many important large-scale fragments left uncompleted by Schoenberg at his death. He wrote the libretto between 1915 and 1917 based on the book of Genesis, overlaid with elements from Strindberg's drama Jacob Wrestles, and Balzac's novel Seraphita. He wrote a large of chunk of the music shortly after but was called to the army and never got around to finishing it. This is a brilliant, committed performance that captures a little-known masterpiece by one of the 20th century's greatest composers at the height of his creative powers.
Swales and Angels
Gary M. Schneider Rubio String Quartet,
Jessica Marsten soprano), et al.
New World Records
Beth Anderson's unabashedly romantic "swales" are as pure as a Kentucky mountain spring, frisky as a new-born colt rolling in bluegrass, and infectious as a third-grade measles outbreak. They are light, without being lightweight, and conquer the ear by their deceptively easygoing charm. If you like Paul Schoenfeld's brand of Americana, you'll like these pieces a lot.
Symphonies 5 & 6 London Symphony, Sir Colin Davis
Revelatory account of Sibelius' short but event filled 5th symphony and the 6th is almost as good. Ranks with Mariss Jansson's version of Mahler's 6th as "must have" disks in this extraordinary LSO Live series.
Two Piano Sonatas
Marc-André Hamelin (piano) Hyperion
The two best piano sonatas ever written by Americans played by the best piano player alive. Period. This is Hamelin's second recording of the Ives Concord Sonata, a piece he has played for over 20 years in performances that have often been regarded as definitive. Now, we have a new definitive recording.
|Philip Glass: The Concerto Project 1
Julian Lloyd Webber (cello), Evelyn Glennie (timpani), Jonathan Haas (timpani), Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra, Orange Mountain
This is major Glass. The Cello Concerto is a real beauty, played with real passion by Lloyd Webber and the RLP. The timpani concerto is great, too, once you get past the thought that maybe Phil borrowed the opening from Lalo Schifrin. This is the first of a series of four CDs that Philip Glass and Orange Mountain Music have planned entitled The Concerto Project, No. I-IV Each disc contains two concerti.
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