The WSCL Blog

News and information about WSCL's Classical Music Programming

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Just Opened, Friday August 19, 2011

This week we focus on American composers, conductors and performers.

Margot Dilmaghani, piano
(available online)
Margot Dilmaghani may not have had the brilliant international career of many of the musicians we frequently feature, but she is the kind of artist I like to highlight. Born with perfect pitch, she began studying piano at the age of 3. Later she transitioned to harp, and she plays both instruments beautifully. Success is defined by each artist, and aside from her degrees in music, Dilmaghani has used her gift within her Spiritual Guidance and Music Therapy work. The selections here are typical of a gifted, thinking musician (who also is a lecture speaker on female composers). Here we have a collection of works by Armenian-American female composers. This CD has tremendous variety, works that evoke tone poems and the great french romantic works, Argentine inspired works, challengin modern works, and the title piece Celebration and Lullabye, deeply personal works. I often feel that great musicians are working just around the corner, if we only knew where to look. Dilmaghani is one of these.

American Horn Quartet
MSR 1268
ISBN# 6 81585 12682 0
Fulbright scholar, musician & composer Kerry Turner and his brassy friends join forces on a marvelous, small collection of choice works for Horn Quartet. Thier pitch and tone places them in the top echelon of brass musicians, both appealing and critically acclaimed. The works here are mainly accessible and enchanting. The title work by american composer Eric Ewazen evokes the days of knights and fair maidens, using touchstone sounds reminiscent of early brass composers, pulled together with his own contemporary flourish. Kerry Turner's compositions are known for their wide-open sound of the american west, and his "3 Movements for 4 Horns" continues to remind us a bit of Copeland's feel for the American landscape, with a touch of nostaligia, and a large dose of american pride. The third work, by Kazimierz Machala is the most challenging to the average listener, but demonstrates a nice diversity of sound and technique within this program. Turner's arrangements of two traditional works finish off the bill, leaving us fully satisfied.

Dance Symphony, Short Symphony
and Organ Symphony
Saint Louis Symphony Orch.
Louis Slatkin, cond.
RCA 68292
ISBN# 0 9026 68292 2
.... and speaking of Copeland.... It's hard to put together any collection of America-inspired works without a nod to him. This is a nice collection of lesser known works by Copeland that fullfills both the desire for his regular, open prairie sound, as well as more unusual works on grander scale like his Sympohony for Organ and Orchestra. That work, with Simon Preston at the organ, is followed by his crowd pleasing Dance Symphony, Short Symphony, and Orchestral Variations.

Marian Ruhl Metson, organ
Raven OAR-190
Organ music is not everyone's first choice of easy listening, and it is not always mine, but this CD has been a favorite in my own CD collection for many years. When I saw this CD waiting to be "Just Opened" I pounced on it! Several things make this CD very special. Metson's musicianship is outstanding, and is displayed here in a great varitety of works for organ, sacred, secular, and popular. This CD was recorded on several historic organs in the area of Newbury, CT, and the booklet gives a bit of history of each church and the particular organ being featured, and because these are older organs, they have a distinct sweetness of sonority that can sometimes be lacking in the big "manificent" organs of today. But the selections here are what ultimately make this collection so special. They give other musicians ideas of transitioning these works to piano, harp, or other arrangements, and that is due to the timeless quality of the music, and the accesible romantic era that most of these are from. Multiple sets of variations display Metson's capacity, along with traditional "churchy" favorites like Carr's "Flute Voluntary," Harwood's "Communion," and Shearling's "Amazing Grace." My favorites are the Waltzes, Quicksteps, Polkas and Yon's "Humoresque for Primative Organ." It's melodic, upbeat, and a technical tour de force. This is my delight of the week.

D.G. B0001313
When asked about Anne-Sophie Mutter, Andre Previn said, "I don't know a better violinist or musician. She has immense immagination and her technique is flawless." The featured violin concerto on this CD was written by Previn for Mutter. It is both lyrical and exciting. The other work on this Cd is by Leonard Bernstein, "Serendade" after Plato's Symposium... he considers it a meditation on Eros, so it combines his combustible passion and surprising rhymicality with melody and the quirkiness you might expect from a work written for violin, string orchestra, harp and percussion.

Cabildo & Six Short Pieces
Lincoln Center Orchestra
Ransom Wilson, cond.
From the "Great Performances at Lincoln Center" series comes this exquisitly performed version of Amy Beach's rarely performed one-act opera. It is quite a handful: set at the turn of the 1900s, with flashbacks to the early 1800s, set in New Orleans, it has a carnival barker who narrates and moves the action. The music is the nostalgic, lovestruck music of the 1800s, breathlessly describing beauty and dancing and love. Christopher O'Riley plays the piano on this major work, as well as on the selections that form a "second act" of the works of Amy Beach. Her songs are unforgettable and luminous.

The American Boychoir
Fernando Malvar-Ruiz, cond.
Albemarle Records 1007
The American Boychoir lends their angelic voices to a diverse collection of world music. Standard choral repertoire like Faure's "Tantum Ergo", and arrangements of traditional spirituals are augmented with works like the Japanese song "Hotaru Koi," Korean folksong "Nodle Kangbyon," a medley of south African Songs, and many other joys for your ear!

Join me next week for more new CDs, "Just Opened."
Kara Dahl Russell

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