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Notable CDs

Notable CDs | Five noteworthy new or recent classical CDs reviewed by Arsenio Orteza

Ballad for Edvard Grieg

Style: Edvard Grieg's Piano Concerto in A minor, Op. 16, Ballade in G minor, Op. 24, and Six Lyric Pieces performed by the pianist (and Grieg's fellow Norwegian) Andsnes.

Worldview: That "Grieg is to Norway what George Washington is to America and William Shakespeare is to England: his country's most celebrated human icon" (the notes).

Overall quality: Movingly embodies not only a national spirit but also its most universal elements.

End of the Matter

Style: Premieres of four contemporary pieces for trumpet and various percussion instruments and electronic effects.

Worldview: That between the Dionysian exuberance of early-20th-century European music and late-20th-century fusion jazz there exists a vast middle ground worth exploring and cultivating.

Overall quality: The unfamiliarity of the compositions and the secondary instrumentation gives the performances a freshness that avoids shortchanging their composers' traditional roots.

Tüür: Magma

Style: Four ambitious compositions by the 48-year-old rock and minimalist-influenced Estonian composer Erkki-Sven Tüür.

Worldview: "Tüür . . . is [a] Dionysian, . . . whose style evolves with each musical challenge he sets himself-an evolution which is documented by the four works on this CD" (the notes).

Overall quality: A large-scale integration of remote texts and styles; less an end in itself than a means to an apocalyptic end fleetingly glimpsed.

The Fenner Douglass Organ

Style: Four Bach and four Bach-influenced works as performed on a 1,902-pipe organ named after the influential scholar and organist Fenner Douglass.

Worldview: "[T]his CD celebrates . . . the music of Bach. . . . Mozart, Mendelssohn, Schumann, and Brahms played, studied, arranged, and admired Bach's music, and their works illustrate this admiration" (the notes).

Overall quality: Tradition lovingly burnished with reverence and virtuosity.

The Schubert Recordings

Style: Schubert's Sonata in B-flat major, Op. posth., D. 960 (the last of his three great piano sonatas); Allegretto in C minor, D. 915; and Six Moments Musicaux, Op. 94, D. 780 as performed by the diversely prolific Pierce.

Worldview: That the "breathtaking calm" of Schubert's "long lyric lines" belies the turbulence of his brief, hedonistic life.

Overall quality: A palpably traversable reconstruction of the bridge linking Beethoven and Mozart.

Spotlight

"Always begin with energy" was the poet David Wagoner's advice on assembling an oral program; by beginning End of the Matter: Premieres for Trumpet (MSR Classics) with James M. Stephenson's Stravinsky-influenced Vignettes for Trumpet and Percussion (giveaway title of the second vignette: "Chasing Igor"), Eric Berlin apparently concurs. Not that the energy flags during what follows-indeed, Stravinsky, although never mentioned in the eight pages of liner notes, haunts the album's entire 71 minutes. But the energy is redistributed, sometimes into futuristic effects (Charles Bestor's Concerto Piccolo for Trumpet and Electronics), sometimes into melodies, instrumentation, and moods requiring no Stravinsky familiarity whatsoever to apprehend (Robert J. Bradshaw's Sonata for Trumpet and Piano).

At the risk of succumbing to too much optimism, one can imagine the "spacey" feel of Berlin's performances' introducing progressive-rock fans arrested by the gimmick-laden but musically accomplished likes of Keith Emerson and Walter/Wendy Carlos to the deeper, wider worlds to which their more serious moments point.

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