Latest Music Reviews

Big Boxes: An Argerich Treasure Trove, Live In Lugano

by Jed Distler

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Between 2002 and 2016 the Lugano Festival’s Progetto Martha Argerich presented the great pianist in chamber and concerto collaborations covering a wide range of repertoire, along with performances by young pianists under her mentorship. Fifteen annual “Martha Argerich and Friends” boxed sets ensued, totaling 45... Continue Reading

A Captivating Bernstein Birthday Bouquet

by David Hurwitz

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This may be scratching the bottom of the Bernstein legacy barrel, but evidently there’s still some good stuff to be found. Granted, the Mambo from West Side Story is here on account of its perfunctory concert ending, all two and a bit minutes of it,... Continue Reading

Buoyant Fancy Free from Alsop and OSESP

by David Hurwitz

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Marin Alsop plays Bernstein as well as Bernstein, and there can be no higher compliment than that. This version of the iconic ballet Fancy Free has all of the pizzazz that the composer himself brought to it, as well as that special, lyrical elegance that... Continue Reading

References Revisited: Bernstein’s Vienna Beethoven Cycle

by Jens F. Laurson

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Some performances age like 80s fashion. Case in point: Leonard Bernstein’s second cycle of the Beethoven Symphonies, recorded live with the Vienna Philharmonic in the late 70s and released to great fanfare and overwhelmingly positive responses in 1980, and which I loved on first exposure.... Continue Reading

Philip Glass for Solo Trumpet? And How!

by Jed Distler

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An hour-long all-Philip Glass solo trumpet recital? On paper, the idea sounds tantamount to slow torture. In reality, it’s quite mesmerizing, at least in the hands of the Chicago Symphony’s former principal trumpet wizard, Craig Morris. Originally scored for saxophone, Glass’ thirteen 1995 Melodies are... Continue Reading

Opera Transcriptions for Harp and Piano

by Jed Distler

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I first heard the harp/piano Duo Praxedis on their CD containing wonderful arrangements of Brahms’ Hungarian Dances. Their audacious and ingeniously-crafted transcription of Rimsky-Korsakov’s Scheherazade also impressed me. So does this two-disc set of operatic transcriptions, arrangements, and paraphrases by obscure 19th-century musicians. Most of... Continue Reading

Nice One for the Gipp(s)er

by David Hurwitz

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Ruth Gipps (1921-99) was a talented performing musician and educator. What she wasn’t was an especially interesting or original composer. The works here date from 1940 to 1972, but they all have a similar sound: conservatively tonal, kind of Vaughan Williams-ish (without the passion), neatly... Continue Reading

CD From Hell: Gergiev Should Leave Stravinsky Alone

by David Hurwitz

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This is a worthless disc: dull, sloppy, tired performances of music that these musicians should be able to play with proprietary gusto. Petrushka (1911 version) sounds like a reading rehearsal–and I know, because I’ve played it in reading rehearsals. The jagged string rhythms in the... Continue Reading

Zelenka Goodness From Stuttgart

by Jens F. Laurson

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Jan Dismas Zelenka is one of the most consistent sources of delight: A major late-baroque composer known well enough to be performed but still so unexploited as to bear constant surprises and discoveries. Case in point, this Missa Sancti Josephi, a Mass, like the Missa... Continue Reading

Septura’s Charismatic Brass Christmas

by David Vernier

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I’m reluctant to play into something that may be a stereotype, but–brass players just always seem to be having so much fun! Somewhere very close behind their performing is a clever smile, a knowing of something light-hearted yet perhaps a little raunchy, or just mischievous,... Continue Reading

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