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ISSUE:  Summer 1978

Opera buffa in the late 18th century was dominated by Domenico Cimarosa, “the Italian Mo/art,” as the standard texts have it, who wrote more than 50 such works. As this output has largely been forgotten, the recent revival of II Matrimonio Segreto (1792) is a pleasant surprise. Melodic invention was Cimarosa’s forte, and, around a suitably ridiculous libretto, he fashioned a series of glorious arias and duets that are given their due by an effective cast that includes Ryland Davies and Arleen Augér, whose secret marriage gives impetus to the tale. Daniel Barenboim leads the responsive English Chamber Orchestra, and the whole production is suffused with wit and charm (DG 2709 169).

Another of Barenboim’s forays into the recesses of the catalogue has yielded a recording of two neglected Debussy items (DG 2530 879). The wistful Printemps, one of the composer’s earliest of numerous depictions of the season, was designated for orchestra and wordless chorus, though it has been performed only in the 1913 Henri Busser version heard here.Le Martyre de Saint Sébastien, which began as incidental music for the d’Annunzio mystery play, also exists in alternate editions, including an “oratorio” version and the present colorful orchestration, attributed to Andrè Caplet. The atmospheric performances are by the Orchestre de Paris.

Legato playing and markedly slow tempos smooth the rough edges of Prokofiev’s angular Symphony No.5 in Eugene Ormandy’s version with the Philadelphia Orchestra (RCA ARL1—1869). Lingering too long, they lose tension, and the result, though lushly beautiful, lacks the Fifth’s requisite sense of urgency. This is particularly apparent when compared to RCA’s reissue of Koussevitzky’s classic 1946 recording with the Boston Symphony (Victrola AVM1—2021), a performance in which the balance of spirit, drive, and texture still seems just right.

As a follow-up to their successful recording of Virgil Thomson’s opera The Mother of Us All (NW 288/289), New World Records has issued a quartet of exceptional releases. Included is “Winds of Change” (NW 211), which documents the past quarter-century of American wind band music. Frederick Fennell shaped this period by establishing the fixed instrumentation known as the “sonority resource,” and, while the quality of wind compositions has declined of late, John Paynter’s Northwestern University players have attempted to maintain the high performance standards established by Fennell’s Eastman Wind Ensemble. Paynter’s wide-ranging collection begins with Vincent Persichetti’s colorful Pageant (1953) and peters out with Ross Lee Finney’s tedious Concerto, written four years ago.

Recent years have witnessed renewed interest in the Boston Group, those turn-of-the-century composers whose output was shaped by Harvard’s John Knowles Paine and nurtured by the cultural arbiter of the day, Isabella Stuart Gardner, in whose Fenway Court mansion one could have heard the premieres of the stylishly crafted Sonatas for Violin & Piano by Arthur Foote and Mrs. H. H. A. Beech found on New World disc NW 268. Chopin and Brahms are the obvious influences here, though the music of these two Bostonians is neither imitative nor mechanical, possessing instead an individuality of expression that is graceful and shows moments of real inventiveness. The performances are by Joseph Silverstein and Gilbert Kalish.

Prokofiev, Stokowski, and Monteux were among the musical luminaries who mourned the death in 1920 of 35-year-old Charles Tomlinson Griffes, whom they called “one of the most gifted of contemporary composers.” Griffes’s music continues to enjoy a small following, and with New World release NW 273 we can at last take in the sweep of his eclectic output.

Sherill Milnes heads the singers who bring life to Griffes’s Impressionistic and Romantic songs, while Seiji Ozawa leads the Boston Symphony players in the familiar The Pleasure-Dome of Kubla Khan. At the time of his death, Griffes was taken with absolute music and had just completed a work based on Native American melodies. All this in a period of but 13 years.

While death is embraced as a musical subject by a growing number of contemporary composers, their interest is a far cry from the obsession shown from the 1860’s to the 1880’s by writers of popular and religious songs whose themes, as one writer sums up, were “dying children, decimated families . . .soldiers shot in battle with a whispered message for mother on their dying lips . . .and fresh graves in sunlit meadows.” What seems perverse to us today evidently brought solace to a generation inured to an early, often unpleasant demise.Angels’ Visits (New World NW 220) offers a representative sampling of the genre, all of which were sheet music items, making them accessible for spectral sing-alongs in the parlor.

E. J. Moeran, whose Symphony in G Minor was received favorably in these pages not long ago, is also represented by his 1944 Sinfonietta, played with care and attention to detail by the London Philharmonic, under Boult (HNH 4038). The fact that it foreshadowed Moeran’s movement toward abstract compositional forms—a movement that was cut short by his death in 1950—may help to explain its curious obliqueness. A pleasant enough piece of music, it never truly comes to life. What it may have led the composer to is uncertain, but what it lacks—freshness and melodic directness—is abundantly clear. Hoist’s lively Fugal Overture and Bax’s forgettable November Woods fill out the disc.

Another composer of the English lyrical school was Gerald Finzi (1901—1956), whose Concerto for Clarinet & Strings (1949) is a ruminative work with a welldeveloped solo part that soars melodically against an often dramatically dark-textured backdrop. Under Vernon Handley, the strings of the New Philharmonia Orchestra get the piece played very well indeed. Also heard here are the bombastic Grand Fantasia and Toccata for Piano if Orchestra, played with splashy bravura by Peter Katin, and a concerto fragment, the sentimental Eclogue (HNH 4031)!

Recordings of works in the basic repertory are among the best new releases. Preeminent among these is a masterful Brahms Violin Concerto, played with unfailing skill, conviction, and a true sense of the exultant, by Perlman, Giulini, and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra (Angel S-37286). With the same orchestra, James Levine has shaped a powerful interpretation of the Brahms Second Symphony which, once past some squalls from the strings in the opening pages, is impeccable in detail (RCA ARL1—2097). For those who don’t wish to acquire the boxed Colin Davis Sibelius symphonic cycle, the Symphony No.2 is available singly (Philips 9500 141), A conductor of rare Sibelian instinct, Davis’s Second has body without thickness, and surges emotionally without overreaching. Having recorded Tchaikovsky’s Symphony Pathetique numerous times, von Karajan knows this score very well indeed, as shown in his latest entry (DG 2530 774), an authoritative performance that eclipses his previous efforts as well as most of the competition. Among the piano concertos this quarter, DG brings us a glittering Brahms Second by Pollini, with Abbado conducting the Vienna Philharmonic (2530 790), while RCA has Artur Rubinstein’s instinctively musical reading of Beethoven’s Emperor, with Daniel Barenboim at the London Philharmonic podium (ARL1-1420).

Most often cited as a primary developer of melodrama, Bohemian composer Jiri Antonin Benda (1722—95) also wrote at least ten harpsichord concertos, three of which have been recorded for Supraphon’s Musica Antiqua Bohemica series by Josef Hála and a string quintet of Czech soloists (1 11 2138). The three span a decade of his most creative period, during the 1770’s, and are notable for their smoothly flowing dance rhythms, their compelling directness, and their attractive spontaneity. This is clearly music we should be more familiar with, and the performances here are first-rate.

For his new recording of Lucia di Lammermoor (Philips 6703 080), Spanish conductor Jesus L6pez-Cobos has made more than 100 changes in the text and score to conform to Donizetti’s original wishes. The most striking of these is the shifting of Lucia’s role, traditionally taken by a coloratura, to a range more suited to a lyrico-spinto soprano. This musicological sleuthing would be of greater moment had the resultant performance been more inspired. The New Philharmonia Orchestra plays steadily, but without distinction, and of the cast—Caballe fills the title slot-only Jos6 Carreras, as Edgardo, sings with conviction and finesse.

Columbia has recorded Donizetti’s delightful comedy L’Elisir d’amore (1832) with happier results. Individually and as an ensemble the cast is suberb, with Ileana Cotrubas and Placido Domingo spinning out the seemingly endless stock of melodies given to the fickle Adina and the heartsick Nemorino, while Sir Geraint Evans brings a fine sense of the absurd to Dulcamara, the itinerant seller of love potions. Under John Pritchard, the Orchestra & Chorus of the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, starts off strong and never loses momentum (M3—34585).

Anthologies are featured prominently among the new arrivals. Archive has a multidisc boxed set survey of dance music, from the Renaissance to the Biedermeier period, in authentic performances by the Ulsamer-Collegium and the Ensemble Eduard Melkus (2723 051). From Nonesuch comes a generous sampling of their excellent Americana catalogue, including works by Ives, Billings, Foster, and Joplin, in performances by Joan Morris, William Bolcom, Gilbert Kalish, and many others (H7—14). And vocal performances of historical importance have been collected by German EM I in a large set celebrating 100 years of the Bayreuth Festival. It’s imported by Capitol (1C 181—30 699/78M).

Also of historical importance are the recordings of the International Piano Archives, many of which are distributed by Desmar. A recent issue is Volume One of the “Landmarks of Recorded Pianism” series (IPA/Desmar 117), offering performances—all rare and many previously unreleased—by Debussy, Saint-Saëns, Paderewski, Godowsky, and nine others. The most remarkable entry is also the least audible: an 1889 cylinder recording of Brahms introducing and playing his Hungarian Dance No.1. Certainly the most appealing is the graceful performance of two Brahms Waltzes by Ilona Eibenschiitz, considered to be one of Europe’s best pianists from the late 1800’s to just after the turn of the century, when she married and abruptly abandoned her career.

Another abbreviated career was that of Rosita Renard, a Chilean whose early critical successes in New York, between 1917 and 1921, were followed by a period of uncertainty and premature retirement. Erich Kleiber orchestrated her return to the concert stage in 1945, though this second blossoming was cut short by Renard’s death, from sleeping sickness, in 1949. Recorded privately, her final Carnegie Hall recital, which came several months before her death, is now available on two IPA/ Desmar discs (120/121). Conventional is the word for her handling of the Mozart and Bach pieces, but most of the set consists of Chopin Etudes, and here the playing is exhilarating in its emotional intensity.

The long-standing need for a truly idiomatic recording of Honegger’s oratorio Joan of Arc at the Stake (1938) has been set to rights by the release, on the occasion of the work’s 40th anniversary, of a French/ Czech collaboration (Supraphon 1 12 1651/2). Honegger’s score is an effective blend of musical styles, from plainsong to jazz, in which the major roles, which are speaking parts, are set against the secondary roles, which are sung. The mostly French cast heard here is excellent, and in Nelly Borgeaud we have a Joan whose wide emotional swings are more than merely histrionic. The textural elegance of the Paul Claudel poem survives intact, and Serge Baudo’s conducting of the Czech Philharmonic is right on the mark.

Bruckner’s Symphony No. 7 occasionally receives the kind of glossily affectionate reading that obscures the fire that lies just beneath the surface, but such is not the case with two recent recordings. The von Karajan/Berlin Philharmonic issue (DC 2707 102) is, in many ways, a revelation, bringing to the fore an inner strength and depth of emotion that previous versions have missed. Its balance of lyric line and dramatic impact is nearly matched in the trenchant interpretation by Kurt Masur and the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra (Eurodisc 27913 XGK). Masur, like Karajan, never loses certainty with the score, and both sets are recommended. The DG issue comes with Wagner’s Siegfried Idyll, while the German News Company import features a fluent reading of Bruckner’s Fourth.

Masur is apparently recording all of the Bruckner symphonies, as his Ninth (Eurodisc SQ27 914 KK) has arrived in time to be compared with a version from Giulini and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra (Angel S-37287). The CSO clearly plays with more heft than the Leipzig group, yet Giulini’s approach to the music is so calculated in its effect that while there are plenty of big moments, there is little sense of spontaneity or momentum. Of the two, it is Masur who projects a cleaner sense of the Ninth’s total architecture.

A minor gem of the German Romantic is the First Violin Concerto of Karl Goldmark (1830—1915), whom we know chiefly for his charmingly homespun Rustic Wedding Symphony. As worthy of performance as many of its more familiar lyrical-dramatic counterparts, the First was recently taken on as part of the concert repertoire of Itzhak Perlman, whose heartfelt recording— in which the orchestral work is splendidly delivered by Previn and the Pittsburgh—is a recent Angel issue (S-37445).

While they scale the heights in the Goldmark disc, Previn and the Pittsburgh players are considerably more earthbound in their prosaic reading of the Sibelius Second Symphony (Angel S-37444). Seiji Ozawa is similarly afflicted by literalism in his perfunctory handling, with the BSO, of Falla’s enchanting ballet The Three-Cornered Hat (DG 2530 823). For the affinity for the Spanish idiom that is so notably lacking in the Ozawa disc, we regularly turn to performers such as Victoria de Los Angeles, whose latest recording is a collection of songs by Falla and Granados (Angel S-37425). Add to this small group of specialists the name Michel Bloch, a young French pianist whose communicative playing of Albèniz’s Iberia (Connoisseur CS 2120/22) is second only to Alicia de Larrocha’s.

Vanguard has acquired the American rights to the 1967 EM I recording of Elgar’s The Music Makers, in an excellent performance by Janet Baker, with Sir Adrian Boult conducting the London Philharmonic Orchestra & Choir (VSD-71225). Written in 1912, the work takes for its emotional base an apotheosis of Victorian sentiment by poet Arthur O’Shaughnessy. It’s the stuff of low-order inspiration, though the score is an agreeable one, suffused with the familiar Elgarian blend of the lyrical and the mystical.

Another English work making its first appearance in a domestic pressing is Benjamin Britten’s delightful cantata Saint Nicholas (1948), in an inspired performance by Robert Tear, the King’s College Choir, and the Academy of St. Martin-in-the-Fields, all under David Willcocks (Seraphim S-60296). We know Nicholas, 4th-century Bishop of Myra, chiefly as the inspiration for Santa Claus, though the legends surrounding him are far more varied. Eric Crozier’s libretto includes, for example, the tale in which Nicholas brings back to life three little boys who have been pickled in brine as food for the poor. The score is a pleasant mixture of wit, merriment, and solemnity, and the inventive orchestration includes cracking whips, cymbals, a gong, and a piano duet.

The bandstands that dot the greens and commons of our small towns are a reminder of the post-Civil War years when musical America’s favorite activity was the outdoor band concert, around which developed a body of works designed to test the pyrotechnical abilities of celebrated performers like Arthur Pryor, whose playing prompted an Omaha critic to gush that it “set the prairies afire . . .and killed the gold fishes and canaries all the way to the packing plant.” It was the golden age of band music, and it’s celebrated on Cousins (Nonesuch H-71341), a collection of dazzling entertainments performed in like manner by Gerald Schwarz, cornet, Ronald Barron, trombone, and Kenneth Cooper, piano.

We have become used to hearing works from the standard repertory manipulated in unusual ways, as with Tomita’s latest electronic outing (RCA ARL1—2616), but the New Koto Ensemble of Tokyo’s version of Vivaldi’s The Four Seasons (Angel S-37450) is truly an odd endeavor. As the koto, second cousin to the zither, is a plucked instrument, and Vivaldi’s work was scored for bowed instruments, the transcription process alone must have been a mighty undertaking. And it would be untruthful to suggest that the playing here is anything but astonishingly virtuosic. But who would want to listen to this record more than once?

Unfamiliar transcriptions also appear on Tashi’s collection of Stravinsky chamber works, though here the source was the composer himself, For his close friend Werner Reinhart, Stravinsky reduced L’Histoire du Soldat to a trio of violin, clarinet, and piano, with the latter—pointedly played here by Peter Serkin—providing the rhythmic punctuation usually supplied by the drum. Also included on the disc are the Suite Italienne, reworked for cello and piano, and the serene Pastorale, which is given a magical reading by Serkin and violinist Ida Kavafian, who takes the part originally scored for wordless soprano (RCA ARL1—2449).

A recent composition by Peter Maxwell Davies is Dark Angels, for soprano and guitar. A programmatic work relating to the death of children, it presents an unrelievedly bleak musical landscape that has its haunting moments but is mainly just depressing. Jan deGaetani and Oscar Ghiglia perform (Nonesuch H-71342). Works marking the major steps of Bart6k’s artistic development are his six String Quartets, which present a formidable challenge to listener and performer alike. The Julliard Quartet’s complete set has long dominated the catalogue, a situation unlikely to change with the release of the Guarneri Quartet’s issue, which is played sloppily and without apparent sympathy (RCA ARL3—2412).

New versions of Harold in Italy are those by Leonard Bernstein, with the Orchestre National de France (Angel S-37413), and Daniel Barenboim, with the Orchestre de Paris (Columbia M-34541). Bernstein and his soloist, Donald Mclnnes, take the more romantic view of Berlioz’s score for a reading of dramatic depth and passionate conviction. In contrast, the Barenboim interpretation, in which the violist is Pinchas Zuckerman, is incisively sharp-edged in its attack, more poised, and less volatile in its emotional expression. The Bernstein effort receives a warm recorded sound from the EM I engineers, while Columbia’s soundmen provide a crisp, detailed recording that emphasizes Barenboim’s more refined aesthetic. Two intriguing views.

Quintessence, a budget label specializing in older performances, has established an impressive catalogue of cutouts and special pressings that heretofore were available only through subscription series. An RCA deletion that is a pleasure to have once again is Morton Gould’s rousing version of Vaughan Williams’s English Folk Song Suite, coupled with Eric Coates’s London Suite (PMC 7049). The hypnotic Bolero is given a passionate reading by Jean Martinon and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra in a Ravel collection (PMC 7017) that rivals in excitement even Solti’s similar outing with the CSO. And for confidence and poise, the interpretation to have of Bizet’s Symphony in C is that of the Royal Philharmonic, under Charles Munch (PMC 7048).

From the turn of the century come two Slavic vocal works inspired by Czech romantic poets, Josef Suk’s Under the Apple-Tree utilizes a variety of folk-like melodies to capture something of the essence of the Julius Zeyer “dramatic legend” upon which it is based. Scored for relatively stringent forces. Leos Janacek’s spiritual cantata Amarus is an uneven blend of the murky and the florid. Neither work is particularly moving, though the performances by the Ostrava Janáek Philharmonic are earnest. Otakar Trhlik conducts (Supraphon 1 12 1678’).

Released some time ago, but new to us, is Arthur Ozolins’s recording of Latvian composer Janis Medins’s Dainas (Kaibala 60F02), a set of 24 piano preludes composed between 1921 and 1963, The word “daina” is Latvian for folk song, and the preludes heard here are suggestive of the idiom, though they contain relatively few direct quotations, They are melodic, technically inventive, and varied; ingratiating, but never merely blandly pleasant, The performances are excellent.

Filling a gap in the catalogue is RCA’s new recording of Offenbach’s La Perichole (1868), an operetta involving the broadly drawn romantic misadventures of an 18th-century Peruvian political official and the lovely street singer for whom the work is named. It’s a slender libretto, but the spirited score, which includes the famous “Letter Song,” could have compensated for that had not the whole affair been deadened by protracted narration, which fragments the action and hinders momentum even in this energetic production by Alain Lombard and the Strasbourg Philharmonic. Alain Vanzo and Jules Bastin admirably handle the male leads, though Re’gine Crespin, as Pèrichole, is one-dimensional (FRL2—5994).

Recordings of French orchestral and chamber works are also new releases. Louis Frèmaux whips up the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra in Jacques Ibert’s show-stopping Bacchanale and the Symphonie Marine, a kind of concerto da camera on sea themes (EMI/Capitol ASD-3176). On a CRD import (1016), Thomas Igloi and Clifford Benson turn out lifeless readings of the Faufe Sonatas for Cello & Piano. More successful is Aviva Einhorn’s leading of the ECO in a collection that includes the only current listing of Roussel’s propulsive Sinfonietta (HNH 4027). Chausson’s animated Symphony in B-Flat is performed with real panache by the Orchestre du Capitole de Toulouse, Michel Plasson conducting (EMI/Capitol 2C 069-14089). The new Peters label has a Grand Prix du Disque winner in Jean-Pierre Wallez’s seductive reading of the Concerto Russe for Violin b Orchestra, an out-of-the-way Lalo item (PLE 005). And Isaac Stern has the measure of the Saint-Saens Third Violin Concerto, with Barenboim leading the Orchestre de Paris (Columbia M-34550).

Documentation of the life of lyric soprano Dame Maggie Teyte is found on an EMI/Capitol import entitled L’Exquise (RLS 716). Despite early critical successes, Teyte’s career foundered when the French repertory, which she had taken as her specialty, fell from favor after the First World War. Fortunately, there were recordings, most of which were made for HMV in her native England between 1936 and 1948. Though hers was not a powerful instrument, she used it skillfully to convey the exact emotional sense of what she sang; and what she sang—mainly melodies by Ravel, Chausson, and Debussy— showed her at her very best. Alfred Cortot and Gerald Moore are the accompanists.

The new releases include three performances of Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No.3, including Lazar Berman’s, with Claudio Abbado leading the London Symphony Orchestra (Columbia XM-34540). As a demonstration of how quickly Berman’s fingers can gobble up the notes of the Third, the disc is a tremendous success, though this kind of aggressiveness sounds ungainly atop the long sinuous line Abbado extracts from the LSO, and the result is cluttered and unattractive. With the same orchestra, Tamàs Vàsàry and conductor Yuri Ahronovitch turn out a much smoother, more highly integrated reading (DG 2530 859), but for sheer dazzle, it is difficult to beat the delightfully extravagant Earl Wild/Jascha Horenstein collaboration, which is fleet, but without Berman’s brand of jumpiness (Quintessence PMC 7030).

Edgar (1889), Puccini’s second opera, is a hopelessly inept amalgam of sentimentality and nonsense, with a score that exudes a sense of melodiousness without actually providing a single memorable musical moment. Its well-deserved dormancy was inexplicably broken last year by a revival at Carnegie Hall, the live performance of which now forms the work’s first complete recording (Columbia M2-34584). The Opera Orchestra of New York, under Eve Queler, and an expert cast, led by Carlo Bergonzi, work hard but in vain to put it over.

Antal Dorati continues his Haydn opera cycle with Orlando Paladino (1782), a work combining heroic, comedic, and supernatural elements in a manner intriguingly similar to that of Don Glovannl. Possessed of the kind of dramatic substance and tunefulness that previous of the cycle’s entries lacked, Orlando is a delight in every way, and eminently suited for revival. The Orchestre de Chambre de Lausanne performs with distinction, and the superb cast includes Ameling, Ahnsjo, Luxon, and Augér (Philips 6707 029).

An HNH set (4003/4) offers what is apparently Dorati’s first recorded treatment of a major work by Mahler. Under his direction, the Stockholm Philharmonic gives a solid reading to the Fifth Symphony, though the overall approach here is too measured and too careful to be competitive. On the other hand, the balance of the set is given over to the conductor’s deft orchestrations for eight of Allan Petterson’s 24 Barefoot Songs, which are sung with dramatic feeling and complete assurance by baritone Eric Saeden.

Dorati’s skill as a composer is shown in his 1977 Cello Concerto. Intelligent, challenging, and well worked out in detail, it is also one of the most winningly lyrical contemporary works to appear in years, Janos Starker, who helped edit the piece, ably negotiates the delightful Hungarian-flavored folk motives, while Jorge Mester rallies the Louisville Orchestra in a buoyant world premiere recording (Louisville LS 759).

We know the music of Tomaso Albinoni chiefly for his ubiquitous Adagio heard most recently on Columbia’s successful Greatest Hits of 1720 (XM-34544). Far different works comprise the op.7 Concerti a Cinque, sprightly pieces for oboe, strings, and continuo, played energetically by the Berlin Chamber Orchestra, under Vittorio Negri (Philips’6747 138). An urbane reading of Haydn’s “Paris” Symphonies Nos.82 if 84 is that by Yehudi Menuhin and his Festival Orchestra (EM I/Capitol ASD-3136), though the same clear sense of line and aristocratic finesse characterize Barenboim’s interpretations, with the ECO, of all the “Paris” Symphonies, conveniently boxed by EM I/Capitol as SLS-5065. On two other recommended discs, the Melos Quartet plays with a superb sense of ensemble in Mozart’s Quartet in E-Flat Major (K.428) and the K.458 “Hunt” Quartet (DG 2530 800), while Stokowski, in one of his last recordings, conducts the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra in distinctly personal interpretations of the Vaughan Williams Tallis Fantasia and Dvorak’s Serenade in E for Strings (Desmar DSM 1011).

Claudio Arrau’s 75th birthday was celebrated at Philips with the release of his recording of Liszt’s 12 Transcendental Etudes (6747 412), which he plays intensely, with lots of accent, sharp definition, and utter technical security. Less suited to his extroverted technique are Schumann’s Kinderszenen and Romanzen (Philips 6500 395), though Schumann’s piano music has a remarkably responsive exponent in the young Murray Perahia, whose eloquent interpretations of the Symphonic Etudes contain equal measures of poetry and fire (Columbia M-34539). Another unqualified success is a new Horowitz recording of Liszt’s Sonata in B Minor (RCA ARL1—2548).

Improvisational piano playing at the very highest level of invention is found in the two- and three-part suites that comprise Staircase (ECM 2—1090), the latest solo effort from Keith Jarrett, whose turf is that relatively unexplored middle ground between jazz and concert music.

Another performer whose music often defies strict classification is young Norwegian guitarist Terje Rypdal, whose sequel to the haunting solo album After the Rain (ECM 1—1083) is “Waves” (ECM 1—1110), in which he is joined by a trio of players whose instruments range from trumpet to ringmodulator. Ethereal and often rhythmic, Rypdal’s music is consistently of interest.

The familiar names appearing among the new jazz releases include three top guitarists: Herb Ellis and Barney Kessel, paired for “Poor Butterfly” (Concord Jazz CJ-34), and Kenny Burrell, whose “Tin Tin Deo” is also on Concord Jazz (CJ-45). Both discs are blends of standards and newer items by the principals. Veteran Art Farmer’s flugelhorn and Yusef Lateef’s tenor sax are a compatible duo set against David Matthews’s spacious big band arrangements on a CTI disc (7080). And ageless fiddler Joe Venuti is joined by pianist Dave McKenna in a nostalgic programme entitled “Alone at the Palace” (Chiaroscuro CR-160).

DG has a fine new recording of Gershwin’s An American in Paris, with Ozawa conducting the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra (2530 788). Theirs is an easygoing approach that gives full measure to that loose, jazzy feeling that many other orchestras just can’t muster. From Michael Tilson Thomas and the Buffalo Philharmonic come six efficiently performed Gershwin Broadway overtures (Columbia M-34542). And from RCA comes one of the best collections of its type ever. These Charming People (ARL1—2491) celebrates the “smart shows” of the American stage between the World Wars. The names associated with this marvelous music include both Gershwins, Jerome Kern, Rogers & Hart, and Otto Harbach, in shows ranging from Oh, Boy! (1917) to On Your Toes (1936). Max Morath—in a welcome change from his ragtime duties—Joan Morris, and William Bolcom are the performers, and they couldn’t be better.


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