Johann Sebastian Bach
This recording by American pianist Simone Dinnerstein deserves to be heard by even the most fervent fan of the ubiquitous Glenn Gould. fan. While I would characterize her conception as modern rather than scholarly, Ms. Dinnerstein'sGoldbergs strike me as having a more consistent flow, with more organically organized tempos and phrasing, than either of Gould's sui generis recordings. And it is a pleasure to hear the lovely sound of her Hamburg Steinway, captured in clean, ungimmicked two-channel sound.
I will always return from time to time for Gould's unique insights into — and revolutionary ideas about — Bach's keyboard music in general and the Goldbergs in particular. But Dinnerstein has definitely earned space on my Bach shelf. — Wayne Donnelly
No recent CD has brought me more listening pleasure than this one. The young Lisa Batiashvili performs both concertos with a combination of passion, virtuosity, and interpretive wisdom that suggests she'll be around for a long time to come. Her Sibelius is vibrant and intense. The Violin Concerto by Magnus Lindberg was written for Batiashivili, who owns it completely. In her hands, it sounds like a major addition to the repertory. Like-minded support from Saraki Oramo and the Finnish orchestra, and spacious, detailed sound add to the appeal of this CD. It's a winner all the way. — Max Westler
The success of Fancy Free in 1942 launched Bernstein's career, and established him as a composer to be reckoned with. The premiere of Dybbuk took place thirty years later at a time when Bernstein's reputation as a composer was suffering. Dybbuk didn't provide Bernstein with the great popular success he hungered for, and it remains his most woefully neglected composition. This is both sad and unjust, for Dybbuk is one of Bernstein's most revealing scores, and it contains some of the most remarkable and compelling music he ever wrote.
I can think of several good reasons to purchase this disc, not least the very low price. Also, Naxos gives us both ballets complete, 74 minutes plus of music. But the best reasons to get this disc are the stunning performances by Andrew Mogriela and his Nashville players. Their playing in both scores is precise, spirited, and thoroughly idiomatic. Mogriela represents both the athleticism of Fancy Free and the bristling tension of Dybbuk with equal success.
Jim Mancuso's engineering projects a large and convincing soundstage that's transparent on the top, exact in the midrange, and rock-solid on the bottom. The clear delineation of inner voices and the overall sense of detail here are thrilling, and offer ample testimony to Bernstein's genius as an orchestrator. In brief, a disc for both those who want to know more about Bernstein and those who think they already know him. — Max Westler
Leon Kirchner In Honor of His Eightieth Birthday
for Soprano and Chamber Orchestra Diana Hoagland, soprano; Leon Kirchner,
conductor, pianist and taped speaker; Columbia Chamber Soloists Piano Concerto
Kirchner, piano; Dimitri Mitropoulos conducting the New York Philharmonic Piano
Sonata Leon Fleisher, piano Sonata Concertante for violin and piano Eudice
Shapiro, violin; Kirchner, piano String Quartet No. 1 American Art Quartet
String Quartet No. 2 Lenox String Quartet String Quartet No. 3, with Electronic
Tape Beaux Arts Quartet Trio No. 1 for piano, violin and cello Kirchner, piano;
Nathan Rubin, violin; George Neikrug, cello
This historical two-disc set remains a great pleasure to revisit. Leon Kirchner's music is for the most part complex and thorny, but full of energy and passion, and in the early LP era he was blessed with committed interpreters and an appreciative record label, Columbia/Epic Records. Here we have Leon Fleisher, no less, playing the Piano Sonata, Dimitri Mitropoulos leading the New York Philharmonic and Kirchner himself in his Piano Concerto, the bizarre but fascinating Lily for soprano and mixed ensemble (including the composer's own taped voice), and a good deal of chamber music: over 2.5-hours of exciting music altogether. The three string quartets (the third with electronic-music accompaniment) are especially engaging.
None of these pieces yields all of its secrets easily, but the performers are so engaged with the music that the listener is led on though some dazzling soundscapes. Music & Arts has done a superb job of transferring Columbia/Epic's mono and stereo recordings to CD. — Joe Milicia
Transformations: Sounds of Silk Road Chicago
Fans of Yo-Yo Ma's Silk Road Ensemble and of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra should get a great deal of pleasure out of this recent collaboration, featuring brilliant sound from the CSO's own label. The CSO alone performs Prokofiev's "barbaric," kaleidoscopic Scythian Suite in a glittering performance under Alan Gilbert that rivals the orchestra's own 1970s recording under Claudio Abaddo. The Silk Road Ensemble alone — except for the CSO's trombone section — plays the Mongolian Legend of Herlen by ByambasurenSharav, featuring a plaintive Mongolian "long singer" and Ma playing on an instrument called a morinkhuur. Another Silk Road Ensemble member, Wu Man, plays a charming Concerto for Pipa (a Chinese lute) and the strings of the CSO by the American Lou Harrison. And Ma and the CSO unite for Ernest Bloch's powerful symphonic portrait of King Solomon, Schelomo. My only disappointment with this CD is Miguel Harth-Bedoya's somewhat lackluster conducting in Schelomo; Ma is as compellingly soulful as one would expect from this great artist. But Harth-Bedoya gives a lively reading of the Pipa Concerto, catching both its playful and elegiac moods. — Joe Milicia