BERNSTEIN: Overture to Candide; ALBENIZ: Suite espanola; MARK GLENTWORTH: Blues for Gilbert; ALLEN SHAWN: Three Dance Portraits, GERSHWIN: Rhapsody in Blue – Blue Chamber Quartet – Coviello Classics

BERNSTEIN: Overture to Candide; ALBENIZ: Suite espanola; MARK GLENTWORTH: Blues for Gilbert; ALLEN SHAWN: Three Dance Portraits, GERSHWIN: Rhapsody in Blue – Blue Chamber Quartet – Coviello Classics multichannel SACD COV 91510, 54:23 (Distr. by Naxos) *****:

(Julia Bartha, piano; Angelika Siman, harp; Holger Michalski, doublebass; Thomas Schindl, vibes)

This is the second SACD from the unusual classical quartet founded in 2005, and centers on works in which the connection is made between jazz and classical music. Not only are the four members superb performers, but their transcriptions of larger works for this unusally-constituted quartet are superb. Even the Bernstein Overture and the title tune of the album – Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue – sound wonderful in these pared-down versions, and I think I may almost prefer the Blue Quartet’s version of Rhapsody in Blue to the original.

Only four of the eight movements of the Suite espanola got transcribed, but they are a delight in the new tone colors of the Blue Chamber Quartet. Mark Glentworth is a British percussionist whose work here was written originall for vibes and piano, which has the harp and bass along for added kicks. It has a mournful blues demeanor. Allen Shawn’s three dances were originally written for piano four hands and are titled “Lilting,” “Grazioso” and “Hard-Edged.”

The instrumentation of Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue is very imaginative. The opening clarinet rise is given to the vibes, and the harp takes some of the string sections as harp solos. The piano often plays the part of the orchestra, as in two-piano transcriptions of the work. The excellent hi-res surround is just perfect for this classical quartet in such a variety of ear-opening music.

—John Sunier

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