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Notable CDs

Notable CDs | Four new or recent classical releases reviewed by Arsenio Orteza

Issue: "The rise of localism," March 12, 2011

Chamber Music, Vol. 2, 1974-2010

This 67-minute CD opens with a 1997 recording of "Intrada on a Hymn Tune of Ralph Vaughan Williams," in which churchgoers of a certain generation will have no trouble identifying "All Creatures of Our God and King" as the hymn tune in question. Then things get really interesting: a jubilant four-minute wedding song for string quartet, a three-minute piece for woodwind quintet that sows the wind without reaping the whirlwind, and "Elegy for Terri," an appropriately somber, nine-minute viola and piano meditation on the death of Terri Schiavo.

Lighthouse

Anyone on the lookout for the most beautiful song of the 21st century so far should cue up "Tomorrow Come What May," Track 2 on this follow-up to Krampl's 2009 album Innocent Wasteland, then admit that Track 4, "In Better Days," isn't far behind. To the extent that this melancholy music for piano and synthesized strings sounds like the soundtrack to a film that hasn't been made yet, it's nothing new. That the film it suggests sounds like a masterpiece a la Bergman, it's something special nevertheless.

Zorba's Dance: Greek Music for Solo Piano

Mastroyiannis has been called the "musical ambassador of Greece," and these 23 compositions (63 if you itemize the "44 Miniatures on Original Greek Folk-Tunes" that comprise the album's first 18 minutes) by eminent 20th-century Greek composers makes it easy to see why. Whether you know a little, a lot, or nothing at all about these deceptively simple works by Hadjidakis, Kalomiris, Konstantindis, Psathas, and Theodorakis, you'll come away with the distinct impression that they are to Greece what Edward MacDowell's Woodland Sketches were, and are, to 19th-century America.

The Difference Engine: A Triple Concerto

Listeners needing a key to unlock the musical mysteries that Reynolds propounds then perpends on this triple concerto for violin, cello, and piano should listen for the mutated "Three Blind Mice" melody that appears midway through "The Difference Engine: II. Ada." For all his seriousness, Reynolds also knows how to play, as demonstrated by his enlistment of A-list re-mixers (DJ Spooky, the Octopus Project) to add drums, echo, and other effects to the concerto's five sections and thus stretch what would otherwise be an EP to 41 minutes.

Spotlight

As if the music itself weren't proof enough, the liner notes to Chamber Music, Vol. 2: 1974-2010 (Enharmonic), the latest CD by the Bloomington, Indiana-based composer David DeBoor Canfield, are a reminder that, like Edison's, his genius is 99 percent perspiration. "In early 2010," read the notes at one point, "he looked carefully through Sighs and Sorrows to see if it might be salvageable. Deciding that it was, he commenced rewriting the work from beginning to end." And the fine print reveals other stories of similar, if not always as extensive, revisions.

Some of the accounts even have punch lines. "In approximately 1981, Canfield rewrote portions of the [Woodwind Quintet], excising . . . an unexpected fortissimo stroke on an off-stage tam-tam that served primarily to send the audience at the premiere into near cardiac arrest." Others, however, are deadly serious: The three movements of the aforementioned Sighs and Sorrows chronicle an abortion and its aftermath in wrenching musical detail.

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