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Notable CDs

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

Promenade

Style: Eight Baroque compositions and seven stylistically compatible improvised segues performed on a carefully restored 18th-century Baroque organ.

Worldview: That the musical glories in the wake of the Renaissance complement the visual glories of that period's paintings (seven of which are reproduced in the liner booklet) and vice versa.

Overall quality: By opening two sensory windows at once, Promenade makes accessible the realities of an all-too-remote past.

Divine Harmony

Style: Telemann's Sacred Cantatas, Trio for Two Flutes in D Major, and Der Geduldige Socrates-Scena 12, for contralto (Djerejian) and chamber orchestra.

Worldview: "Away with foods that create worldly lust in me! / The Easter Lamb that gave Himself for us / demands that by His sweetness we do not live / in the sourdough of evil" (English translation of "Wie Sollt' Ich Da").

Overall quality: A lively, magisterially crystalline performance.

Gustav Mahler/Dmitri Shostakovich

Style: Two meditations on imminent mortality: the "Adagio" from Mahler's unfinished Symphony No. 10 (1910); Shostakovich's Symphony No. 14, Op. 135 (1969).

Worldview: "All-powerful is death. / It keeps watch / even in the hour of happiness. / At moments of higher life it suffers within us, / awaits us."

Overall quality: A somber, rich, and deeply moving synthesis.

Gregory Partain, Vol. II

Style: Three Rachmaninoff preludes, three Scarlatti and one Beethoven sonatas, Brahms' Variations on an Original Theme, Op. 21, No. 1, and the premier of a 9/11-inspired Larry Barnes toccata.

Worldview: That scholarly divisions such as "Baroque," "Classical," "Romantic," and "contemporary" mask a time-defying unity of spirit.

Overall quality: Partain serves his diverse program with a masterly, arresting sensitivity to its many dynamic demands.

Rever en Couleurs

Style: Pieces by Bizet, Donjon, Fauré (two), Gaubert (two), Godard, Huë, Saint-Saëns, and Taffanel for solo flute (Santa) and piano (Sanchez).

Worldview: That the compositions of Paul Taffanel, his students at the Paris Conservatoire, and their predecessors exemplify the definitive musical expressions of that 19th-century epoch.

Overall quality: A virtuosic, fantasia-like evocation of the charm and elegance of French culture at its zenith.

Spotlight

Promenade: A Musical Procession Through Paintings at Memorial Art Gallery, Rochester, NY is a unique CD in more ways than one. The music comprises eight Baroque compositions by composers both legendary (Vivaldi, Bach) and obscure (Gregorio Strozzi, Bernardo Pasquini), performed by the organist and pedagogue Edoardo Bellotti on the 18th-century Italian Baroque organ currently housed in the art gallery mentioned in the album's title. The recording enables 21st-century listeners to hear the pieces performed on an instrument contemporaneous with their composition.

As the word paintings in the title implies, Promenade also provides listeners a chance to match the music with seven contemporaneous works of art, each of which is reproduced in full color and annotated in the 24-page liner booklet. Though small, the reproductions can have their grandeur partially restored when scanned into a computer and opened as enlarged digital images, whereupon one can experience a visual awe commensurate with the aural awe inspired by Bellotti's soundtrack.

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