The WSCL Blog

News and information about WSCL's Classical Music Programming

Friday, September 21, 2012

Just Opened, Sept. 21, 2012

Just Opened begins and ends this week with selections from a very special CD.  The Cristofori Foundation uses music as a tool in healing and proceeds from their work go toward assistance in the health care of cancer patients.

pianists: Martin Berkofsky, Atakan Sari & Roberto Prosseda
Globalis Symphony Orch
Konstantin Krimets, cond. Cristofori CF-888  to order CD:

Piano virtuoso Martin Berkofsky (seen at the left piano) and his student and co-performer Atakan Sari (at right piano) have a strong committment to music being used to dissolve divisions and to heal.  This CD does not yet appear on their website.  It is their 2011 release of works by Beethoven, including a marvelous rendition of the rarely performed Choral Fantasy Op. 80 for piano, chorus and orchestra.
(Ironically this work was just aired on MPT in performance from Tangelwood in August.)  This large scale work seems to have been a "sketch" for Beethoven's 9th Symphony.  It begins with an extended piano solo, joined by orchestra, then the chorus comes in at the end with a moving and rousing chorus of the joy of living.   Undoubtedly the CD is available with their other CDs, by sending an email to them through their website.

Modern Mandolin Quartet
Dorian Solo Luminus 92157
ISBN# 0 53476 21572 7
Great "orchestral" works transcribed for Mandolin Quartet.  From Aaron Copland's "Hoedown" to Gershwin preludes, Philip Glass's "Mishima" and some traditional songs, this is thoughtful musical brilliance.  The real clicher is the revelatory transcription of Dvorak's "American Quartet."   If you WANT to think about it, you have to smile at how smart these musical selections are... if you just want to relax and enjoy them... simply turn it on... brings a smile to your face either way!

Celine Ricci, soprano
Daniel Lockert, piano
Dorian Solo Luminus 92149
ISBN# 0 53479 21492 8
Look under the Classical Chat section to hear Kara's explanation and demonstration of various vocal styles, to introduce this CD, and the specific style that this singer uses, French Baroque Opera:  "Yelling in the French Style."
This CD is my cup of tea. As a musician and as a performer, I love the concept of grouping all these works about animals, esp. song cycles about animals, along with some solo piano works on animal themes.  It's an elegant "package" even before you add the coup de grace of cover art that is reminiscent of Jean Cocteau's "Beauty and the Beast."  Musically, this may be a stretch for some.  The music is mostly early 1900s in that time when french music was flexing it's ability to ... become a different animal.  And then there is Ricci's singing style.  Clearly influcenced by legit French Baroque Opera style that was called "yelling in the French style" (even during it's own time)... and coming a bit toward the cabaret style of Jacques Brel... it is not the "clean" singing style that many Americans associate with fine singing.   For all the reasons above, I made this CD a special focus this week, taking time to explain (and even demonstrate) the difference in style, and then to let you hear and decide.  This is music that is not only fun and interesting, it is also thought provoking, and many serious singers may want to chew on this for quite a while.  Not for everyone, but such a total work of art, it's my Delight of the Week.

Simon Bolivar Symphony Orch.
Gustavo Dudamel, cond.
D.G. 16869
ISBN# 0 28947 90250 8
Handsome, dynamic Gustavo Dudamel may not be living up to his logical classical charismatic "fan-zine" predesessors like Leonard Bernstein & Zubin Mehta.  From the begginning of his tenure with the L.A. Phil, people inside the biz had to ask how much of Dudamel is flash over substance. (And it was hard to ignore that the L.A. Phil was trying to attract the growing hispanic population in the L.A., and equally hard to ignore that this may have been a ham-fisted, racial-publicity motivated hiring.  This is a tough, frank discussion that the larger musical community should be having out loud... instead of whispering about it in the back row.)  One kept hearing how much energy he has, but the musicians never said anything about his musicality....  The large scale publicity push on his recordings with the Simon Bolivar Symphony unfortunately add to these continuing questions.  While many of us love the heart-stirring backstory of the youth orchestra, and we're rooting for them, these recordings consistantly display an uneven-ness and oddity that can not be ascribed to artistic choice, but reflects either the lack of the orchestra itself in experience, or a lack of the conductor.  (see review link below)  These CDs are of high interest in part for these problems... it's a lesson in musical comparison and a good touchstone to listen to ... but I can't help wishing that Dudamel would make these recordings with the mature musical perfection of his "ugly, older step-sister" secondary orchestra... who are they again?  oh yes, that would be the L.A. Phil.
      Review of this CD program in performance from Europe:

Heinrich Unterhofer, cond.
Orchestra Cantelli
For a work devoted to the Holocaust, this piece is surprisingly filled with hope, and I can not help but think of either Beethoven's 9th or perhaps moreso, Fideleo, with the long imprisonment and moving release of the imprisoned.  Perhaps hard to reach for due to it's dark theme, it remains worth reaching for several times, esp. for fans of the similarly themed Beethoven works.

Tune in next week, for more new releases, Just Opened.
Kara Dahl Russell

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