CLASSICAL CDs , Pt. 2 of 2 -April 2002

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Continuing the ethnic music influences, but with guitars...

Georg Gulyas Plays Guitar Music from Latin America and Spain - Works of ALBENIZ, GRANADOS, FALLA, RODRIGO, BARRIOS & GINASTERA - Proprius PRCD 2008:

A recently-recorded recital of transcriptions and original works with several classical guitar favorites among them - all recorded with the crystalline sound heard on this label's audiophile LPs and continued on their CD series. Some of the "hits" here will be both movements from Albeniz' Suite española, and Falla's Danza from The Three-Cornered Hat ballet. The closing work is the four-movement Sonata for Guitar by Ginastera (his only work for the instrument) - inspired by the Argentine pampas and high plateau.

The Castellani-Andriaccio Guitar Duo, with the Israel Chamber Orchestra/Arie Lipsky - Fleur De Son Classics FDS 57952:

Not often does one find four two-guitar concertos on one CD, so even if these were just so-so performances it would be of interest to many collectors. But these are exciting and different versions of somewhat familiar music, with the very audiophile-oriented spatial display of the two soloists across the frontal soundstage. The four works are a double concerto "Homage to Liege" by Piazzolla, a Fantasia Corelliana - using themes of Corelli - by the modern composer Roberto Sierra, and Baroque concertos for two guitars by Marcello and Vivaldi. The latter two are transcriptions - the first having been for oboe and the Vivaldi for a pair of mandolins. The album was made in Tel-Aviv and the Sierra piece receives its world premiere recording.

- John Sunier

Bach and Grieg for solo piano on our next CDs...

J. S. BACH: English Suite No. 2 in A Minor, Partita No. 1 in B Flat, Partita No. 2 in C Minor, English Suite No. 3 in G Minor - Anne Marie McDermott, piano - GMN C0112:

I should say to start that aside from Glenn Gould I don't normally listen to Bach on the modern piano, preferring the harpsichord or clavichord the composer's keyboard music was written for. However, a truly fine pianist in Bach can get my attention, and McDermott is that. She has won several awards and recently garnered good reviews for an all-Prokofiev CD on the Arabesque label. Planning a Bach series of recordings, this is her first installment and for it she chose four of her very favorite Bach works. It is obvious she has spent much time with this music and it receives a loving but not too respectful treatment. I would have liked slightly more treble impact in the piano tone - it sounds more like a Baldwin than a Steinway - but that's a minor quibble. GMN stands for Global Music Network, and all of their CDs as well as thousands of others are sold on their web site at

GRIEG: 24 selected Lyric Pieces - Leif Ove Andsnes, piano - EMI Classics 5 57296:

Andsnes is Norwegian and is the first Norwegian pianist to have a major international reputation. He grew up with the 66 Lyric Pieces of Grieg and had long wanted to make a recording of some of them. Living in Bergen he had visited the Grieg home at Troldhaugen, now a museum, and knew of Grieg's 1892 Steinway that was still in the museum. Almost all of Grieg's music from Op. 43 onward was composed there on that piano. Arrangements were made for Andsnes to record this selection of 24 of the piano miniatures. The piano's tone is perfect for these intimate works, with its rich midrange and bell-clear treble end. It sounds better than recordings of many modern Steinways. Several of the pieces will stand out for the ears of former youthful piano students - March of the Trolls, Norwegian Melody, and of course the beautiful Wedding Day at Troldhaugen. Grieg became known as The Chopin of the North as result of these pieces, which were popular with parlor pianists in the home. Some of them also seem to presage Debussy's impressionist piano preludes. Others are very straightforward with lovely melodies. This collection gives the works a high place in piano literature while it provides most enjoyable low-key listening.

- John Sunier

Two Klezmer music CDs bring us the sound of celebration...

Doina Klezmer - Sorja Tanz - Proprius PRCD 2009:

Would you believe a Finnish klezmer band? Well, that's what we have here. It's not classical, but this Swedish label is identified with classical so it seems appropriate. The ensemble considers klezmer as much more than traditional community music of Eastern European Jews - it now can include classical, jazz, contemporary music, rock, and various world musics. Klezmer is fast becoming popular in Finland and this quartet of musicians surperbly combine the many different elements in unique ways. Finnish folk tradition and other Nordic influences are strong in this new musical mix. For example, the 10-string Finnish Kantele and Finnish overtone flutes are used in the band. Five of the eight tracks are traditional and the other three originals by the group's bassist. Sonics, keeping the label's high standing, are clean and impactful.

SID ROBINOVITCH: Klezmer Suite; Concerto for Saxophone Quartet and Orchestra; Camptown - Concerto for Banjo and Orchestra - Finjan klezmer band/Saxology Canada/Daniel Koulack, banjo/ Winnipeg Symphony/Bramwell Tovey - CBC Records SMCD 5212:

Klezmer placed in a more classical environment is the gist of Robinovitch's Suite for Klezmer Band and Orchestra. The five-movement work is written out, but with a few sections for the band to improvise their festive music. One movement is a tango and another is titled Tzigane. Another tango movement appears as the center one in the unusual Concerto for Sax Quartet and Orchestra. This work attempts to give a picture of periods in the history of the saxophone. So the first movement is in a French classical style reflected the instrument's origin in that country in the 1840s, the second movement has a smoky nightclub American jazz flavor, and the last movement gets into the New Music area. Camptown Concerto is a shorter work, a fantasy on the famous Stephen Foster tune.

- John Sunier

An American Classic and a British Classic from Naxos...

HENRY HADLEY: Symphony No. 4 in D Minor; The Ocean, The Culprit Fay - National Sym. Orch. Of Ukraine/John McLaughlin Williams - Naxos American Classics 8.559064:

Hadley, who lived from 1871 to 1937, wrote in late Romantic style and had great popularity on symphony programs during his lifetime. In 1933 a music magazine called him "probably the most important composer in the contemporary American musical scene." Hadley composed prolifically in every genre. The four movements of the symphony are named for the four points of the compass and the four areas of the U.S. The final movement (West) has an epic, positive and spacious feeling. The tone poem on the Ocean comes from about 1920 and is inspired by a poem, Ocean Ode. Now that there's no onus on concert music that actually has melodies and accessible harmonies, we should be hearing more Hadley and others of his ilk on the air and at symphony concerts.

PHILIP LANE: Orchestral Music - London Salute, Diversions on a Theme of Paganini, Cotswold Dances, Divertissement for clarinet/harp/strings, Three Christmas Pictures, A Maritime Overture, Three Nautical Miniatures for strings, Prestbury Park - Royal Ballet Sinfonia/Gavin Sutherland - Marco Polo 8.225185:

Lane has composed music for commercials, films and television for many years, as well as transcribing classic film music by others for which the music has been lost and the only source is the soundtrack of a film. He has specialized in lighter orchestral music and this is a selection of some of his varied work. The Paganini variations is quite a bit more informal than Rachmaninoff's or others. Cotswold Dances is Lane's earliest work and recalls scenes of the countryside where he was brought up. All are enjoyable, extremely tune-filled selections, well worth hearing when you want to relax your ears and mind from the rigors of more serious music.

- John Sunier

BACH: The Art Of The Fugue - Les Violon Du Roy/Bernard Labadie - Dorian xCD-90297:

This CD and the following were both nominated for Grammys. Labadie is a leading Quebec-based conductor who founded this group and has been acclaimed for previous recordings on Dorian, including his own recent transcription for string orchestra of Bach's Goldberg Variations. The Art of the Fugue was also written for keyboard, but has been arranged for a variety of forces, even including a saxophone quartet. This one, using Baroq ue instruments and techniques, seems to be more historically to the point, just as performing Bach's keyboard works on the harpsichord is more accurate than on the modern piano. But the variety of sonorities with the strings expands greatly what can be communicated with only the harpsichord. This is a very serious work without many changes of pace or mood but the strings give it more color than a single piano or harpsichord could. Dorian's distortion free sonics contribute to the experience - nothing can grate the sensitive ear more than Baroque violin sound suffering from digital distortions.

BORODIN: The String Quartets - No. 1 in A Major; No. 2 in D Major - St. Petersburg String Quartet - Dorian DOR-90307:

If a newcomer to the classics would like to try his ear at quartet literature, I wouldn't hesitate to suggest starting with these two super tuneful and semi-exotic string quartets. The second is the most popular, full of great melodies and dance-like themes. It's final movement takes on the most exotic Asian character. The earlier quartet looks even more to the East, with Tartar folk melodies and a sort of unbridled wildness. Who better to lovingly deliver this brilliant pair of quartets than one of the top Russian string quartets? They recorded at Dorian's primary venue, the Troy Concert Hall, during a tour of the U.S. If you don't yet have these works in your chamber music collection, this is the version to get.

- John Sunier

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