Search This Blog

Monday, October 31, 2016

Lincoln Trio, Trios From Our Homelands, Rebecca Clarke, Arno Babajanian, Frank Martin

Today's album starts with a good idea and then goes places with it. The Lincoln Trio each chose a composer from their respective ancestral home, then selected an appropriate trio by that composer. The result is Trios from Our Homelands  (Cedille 90000 165), a highly worthwhile venture into relatively uncharted territory, with an exciting set of performances, highly expressive and edgy to suit the dynamic scores at hand.

We get English native Rebecca Clarke and her "Trio for Violin, violoncello and piano," Armenian Arno Babajanian's "Piano Trio in F-Sharp Minor," and Swiss national Frank Martin and his "Trio sur des melodies populaires irlandaises."

The resultant program gives us three relatively unknown works with the complexities and fullness of the best in modern chamber expression, with a post-romantic, neo-classical attention to structure and depth of feeling.

Based on this fine program I would say that the Lincoln Trio is among the elite of such outfits playing today, capable of extraordinary levels of nuance and detail, filled with admirable sympathy and devotion to the works here presented.

If you are looking for modern chamber music somewhat off the beaten path, played with care and spirit by a top-notch piano trio, you will be well-served by this volume.

Heartily recommended.

Friday, October 28, 2016

Granados, Liliana - Lyric Poem, Suite oriental, Elisenda, Barcelona Symphony Orchestra, Pablo Gonzalez

We consider today the third volume of Granados orchestral works by Pablo Gonzalez and the Barcelona Symphony Orchestra: Liliana - Lyric Poem, Suite Oriental and Elisenda (Naxos 8.573265). We are encountering works that are rather obscure, at least in the States. "Liliana" (as arranged by Pablo Casals) (1911/21) and "Suite oriental" (1888-89) are heard in their world premiere recordings. "Elisenda" (1912) is heard in its critical edition by Douglas Riva.

The melodic memorability, impressionist palette and Spanish folk touch are nicely present here in varying degrees. Not all of it is exactly "nationalist" but it is all well done. This is music to grow into, not something that will overawe on first hearing but with a pronounced Granada fingerprint for those who know his more familiar music, and filled with pleasurable, evocative strains for those who don't.

Gonzalez and the Barcelona Symphony give bright, effective readings.

Recommended for a better appreciation of Granados' oeuvre and for those who happily traverse the Spanish-Euro impressionist scene in the early years of last century.

Thursday, October 27, 2016

John Corigliano, Symphony No.1, Michael Torke, Bright Blue Music, Aaron Copland, Appalachian Spring Suite, National Orchestra Institute Philharmonic, David Alan Miller

We have at hand three brilliant orchestral works played with spirit by the National Orchestral Institute Philharmonic under David Alan Miller. All three works hail from last century and embrace a modern tonal approach but without anything formulaic about them.

Aaron Copland's "Appalachian Spring" (1945) Ballet Suite is a quintessentially inimitable treatment of the Shaker Hymn "Simple Gifts" along with fiddle tune harmonies and a beautiful lyrical demeanor. This is a very serviceable, cleanly direct reading of a work of huge appeal and very Coplandian treatment.

John Corigliano's breakthrough "First Symphony" (1989) combines lyrical appeal with briskly modern spiciness, all within a brilliantly orchestrated four movement structure.

Michael Torke's "Bright Blue Music" (1985) translates the personal color associations of the composer onto a dynamic musical canvas, bright and bubbling over with spirit.

The inclusion of three important modern scores well played gives this album an edge and satisfying fullness that should make of it a very attractive listen for those who would like something moving in the modern tonal zone. The orchestra and Miller give everything an excellent spin. You cannot go wrong at the Naxos price.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Michael Finnissy, Beat Generation Ballads, Phillip Thomas

I have been getting familiar of late with the music of Micheal Finnissy, and I am glad of it. His Beat Generation Ballads (Huddersfield Contemporary Records HCR 11) is a great example, with recent solo piano works played well by Phillip Thomas. High modernist scatter-splatter dynamics alternate with more ruminative balladry on the two suites represented on this album, "First Political Agenda" (1989-2006), and "Beat Generation Ballads" (2014).

As Phillip Thomas puts it in the liners, Michael's music is often directed towards social and political developments, especially surrounding those of the downtrodden, disadvantaged, and disenfranchised. A tendency toward non-traditional flows are often the case, as you can hear in some nicely jarring, abrupt quiet-to-intensively-dense transitions.

Both suites have substance and are not easy to play. Thomas has mastered them and brings us the full spectrum of tonal-to-atonal, pianissimo to fortissimo shifts.

This is the music of the high modern now, the present beyond the absence.

If you are a sensitive follower of the very new, I cannot but believe that you will respond to this one with interest and pleasure. Viva Michael Finnissy!

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Michael Nyman, The Man Who Mistook His Wife For A Hat, Nashville Opera, Trevino, Williamson, etc.

I first read neurologist Oliver Sacks' The Man Who Mistook His Wife For A Hat when I was working for Scientific American (Books) in the later '80s. Michael Nyman's opera in world premiere CD followed soon after and I was impressed with Michael's treatment. So-called minimalism in music reigned and Nyman managed to come up with his own version and simultaneously to move beyond it. His treatment of the Sacks case study captured the wonder and trauma of the man who had acute neurological impairments that gave him severe problems recognizing images--which in turn resulted in incredible mis-recognitions.

Time passes on and we now find ourselves with a new recording of the chamber opera by the Nashville Opera under Dean Williamson. The three principals Matthew Trevino, Rebecca Sjowall and Ryan MacPherson do a great job realizing the roles and the chamber orchestra fills out the score with zest and brio.

It is a milestone work in its first recording. The new Nashville Opera version virtually matches and even surpasses it at times.

Nyman fans should have both versions; others will find the Naxos release satisfying and moving. It is an opera of startling dimensions and superior musical content, as exciting as it is humane. It somehow captures what it is to be human by addressing a tragic lack.


Monday, October 24, 2016

Haskell Small, Book of Hours

What comes into your ears quiety and poetically? Haskell Small's modern piano music anthology, Book of Hours (MSR Classics 1601). Inspired by Aldous Huxley's thought: "All the things that are fundamental...all the things that are most profoundly significant, can only be experienced, not expressed. The rest is always and everywhere silence. After silence that which comes nearest to expressing the inexpressible is music..."

"A Journey in Silence: Reflections on the Book of Hours" (2015) takes that mystery and gives us 11 movements with excruciatingly beautiful mediations, quiet in a post-impressionist, post-Satiean, post-Messianesque way that is expressively becalmed in blissful originality. As with the entire anthology Haskell plays the piano parts himself and he gives us his world undiluted, ultra-pianistic. It is profound music.

"Lullaby of War" (2007) is for piano and two narrators. Select poetic texts by Hart Crane, Walt Whitman and others punctuate and are punctuated in turn by the piano response. It is as haunting as "Silence" but understandably contrasting in mood and tone.

This all is a testament to Haskell Small's musical poignancy, his brilliant demeanor, his modern expressivity. It is an album you should live with and plumb your depths with.

I recommend it gladly and happily.

Friday, October 21, 2016

Peter Maxwell Davies, Piano Works 1949-2009, Richard Casey

Peter Maxwell Davies is no longer with us. But he has left behind an extraordinarily distinguished and vital body of works spanning many years and a number of style shifts. The finality of his departure closes the book on anything truly new from him, of course, yet we have a treasure island's worth of wonderful music to explore while we still live ourselves, and of course for musical lovers in the ages to come.

Piano Works 1949-2009 (Prima Facie 017/018) gives us a broad and scintillating body of examples of his solo piano works, covering 60 years and a myriad of style sets and difficulty levels. Richard Casey does the honors and he certainly is the right artist for the job.

Two full CDs of music gives the listener a very broad swath of contrasting sounds and styles. There are difficult, very high modernist expressions along with tonal lyric miniatures for the relative beginner.

Throughout though there is a consistency of craftsmanship, inspiration and idiosyncratic originality which Casey tackles with enthusiastic precision. A short but illuminating discussion on the music between Maxwell Davies and the pianist closes out the set.

It is a worthwhile addition to your library for its pianism, its insights into the Maxwell Davies musical mind and its appreciable contribution to the modernist solo piano repertoire.

Nicely done! Quite recommended.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Georgy L'vovich Catoire, Complete Works for Violin and Piano, Laurence Kayaleh, Stephane Lemelin

If nothing else, and I imagine there is more to him, Russian composer Georgy L'vovich Catoire (1861-1926) wrote two strikingly beautiful sonatas for violin and piano. We hear them plus the brief "Elegy" on the recent Complete Works for Violin and Piano (Naxos 8.573345), nicely performed by Laurence Kayaleh on violin and Stephane Lemelin on piano.

Catoire was influenced by Wagner and the French impressionists. In Russia he is remembered more for his music theory but the sonatas have a very fertile and loquaciously winding melodic-harmonic vocabulary that has advanced chromatic qualities to put the music on the lyrical edge of modernity.

There is a depth of expression that is as exploratory and flowing as the best of the late romantics and/or early impressionists but goes its own way with long form unfoldings as involved as they are steeped in an inward directed beauty.

In short Catoire is no slouch. Kayaleh and Lemelin do not fall into an overblown, heart-on-sleeve sort of interpretation, but rather keep a respect for the exceptional flowing trajectory of the music.

Thus though I have never heard these works previously, I feel the power of the duo's conviction and languish in the sensuous originality of what Catoire is about here.

The program will appeal to all those Russophiles seeking new and movingly interesting works from the dawn of our modern era. But even if you aren't quite a Russophile at this juncture, you will find music of depth and importance, worth your time surely.


Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Kim Kashkashian, Lera Auerbach, Dmitri Shostakovich, Arcanum

The viola, so says Lera Auerbach in the liner notes to the album up today for consideration, is the sound of mystery. I never thought of it that way, especially, particularly when I owned a cheap viola and attempted valiantly to coax sounds out of it. Of pain, frustration, lack of rosin, in my case, and the mystery was how long I was going to keep at it. But then I think of Walter Trampler as an example of a master and yes, I suppose I can hear that. Or Kim Kashkashian on the CD at hand with Lera, Arcanum (ECM New Series 2375), surely there is a mysterious ineffability.

But there is a full range of evocative sounds surrounding the mystery too, questioning, playful sarcasm, puckishness, sureness of assertion, I could go on. Kashkashian on viola and Auerbach on piano obtain a remarkable sensibility and a tremendous sort of panache as they perform Auerbach's reworking of Shostakovich's "24 Preludes, Op. 34" (1933), originally of course for solo piano, for the duo, then go on to Lera's "Arcanum, Sonata for Viola and Piano."

The two works come alive in the duo's hands, with the Shostakovitch taking on a fullness and communicative vibrancy new-found as Kim handles the singingly melodic parts with a pointed personal expressiveness and the logic of the piano part holds forth alongside with a sympathetic and harmonic exceptionality. It makes of the work something major, indeed.

Auerbach's "Arcanum" has the mysterioso viola in beautiful synchrony with an exploratory harmonic rhapsodic touch that anchors this as a paradigm for a new modernism attached to Auerbach in the best lineage of chamber intimacy.

The music is central and endlessly absorbing, the performances very personal and characteristic, poetic and well beyond what words can express.

I am put into a place of wonder and ecstatic appreciation as I hear the album once again. This is music of great value, performances of great presence.

A hearty and heartfelt recommendation I give for this one!

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Carolina Eyck, Fantasias for Theremin and String Quartet

The theremin was one of the very first purely electronic instruments. Science fiction flicks, the Beach Boys' "Good Vibrations," the sound of the instrument has been in our musical folkways for a long time, yet not as many new music works have featured the instrument as one might have expected. Part of that has to do with the genuine challenge that playing the instrument well poses.

Carolina Eyck is one of the present-day masters of the theremin. She also is a composer of talent. Put the two together and you have her Fantasias for Theremin and String Quartet (Butterscotch Records CD and LP BSR-015), joining her instrumental prowess with the American Contemporary Music Ensemble String Quartet for six postmodern-modern journeys into spacious realms of the new. Readers may recall Kalevi Aho's "Concerto for Theremin" recording that features Ms. Eyck in a prominent role. That was posted on here last September 24, 2014.

The string quartet on these compositions forms the all-important melodic and harmonically patterned backdrops over which Eyck's theremin soars. The fantasia form opens up the music to a wide set of contexts with the emphasis on expression and dreamy soundscapes.

Ms. Eyck triumphs both instrumentally and compositionally for some of the most important and engaging theremin music of our times.

Enthusiastically recommended.

Monday, October 17, 2016

Grand Piano Masters, Concertos By Beethoven & Ustvolskaya, Patricia Hase, Ensemble Galina, Peter Leipold

Piano phenom Patricia Hase teams up with Ensemble Galina under Peter Leipold for a most unusual but successful combination of piano concertos: Beethoven's "Piano Concerto No. 2 in B-flat Major, Op. 19" (1790-1801) and Galina Ustvolskaya's "Concerto for Piano, Strings and Timpani" (1946).

The Beethoven is happily heard in the chamber reorchestration by Vincenz Lachner in 1881, a first recording on CD.

The album, for the record, is entitled Grand Piano Masters, Concertos by Beethoven & Ustvolsakya (K&K Verlagsanstalt Kuk 123).

This is a live recording from the Hanover University of Music this past October, 2015. It has a beautiful ambiance and everyone, clearly, is inspired.

The string orchestra arrangement of the Beethoven gives the work an intimate sweetness and fire which is intensified by the sparkling brilliance of Patricia Hase, who sounds positively angelic in her performance.

The Galina Ustvolskaya (1919-2006) work further reminds us that her time has come. I covered a recording of her solo piano works earlier (see search box) and was tremendously impressed. The Concerto only confirms that initial encounter with a swell of original, majestic and unsettling luminescence that confirms her as no Shostakovich clone (whose pupil she was) but rather a Russian dynamo in her very own light. Hase and Ensemble Galina unfold the tremendous expressivity of the work so that we feel the enormous creative force unleashed by Ustvolskaya in no uncertain terms. The climax is riveting, unprecedented for the time, still packing an enormous catalytic punch.

The end result is one ear-opening album that affirms Patricia Hase as a lyrical marvel and expressive titan, with Ensemble Galina under Peter Leipold a youthful torrent of energy and sensitive passion. The Beethoven is revelatory, the Ustvolskaya even more so.

This music makes me smile!! I recommend it to you on multiple levels without the slightest hesitation.

Friday, October 14, 2016

Johann Simon Mayr, Overtures, Franz Hauk

Who is Johann Simon Mayr (1763-1845)? Naxos is providing the answer in a series of releases. We've covered an opera here (look it up) and today we have some of his Overtures (Naxos 8.573484) with Franz Hauk conducting the Bavarian Classical Players, Concerto de Bassus, or I Virtuosi Italiani.

Mayr was Bavarian born, did most of his composing in Italy, and for these overtures manages to synthesize Mozart and Beethoven with Rossini, in a most pleasant, well-crafted and even inspired way.

The music has a jaunty aura about it, firmly classical with a bit of the changing winds of Beethoven. Mayr shows us he is unworthy of the years of neglect that has been his lot.

These are well-played and charming. If you seek something ear opening and fun from the period, this fits the bill nicely.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Ken Thomson, Restless, Ashley Bathgate, Karl Larsen

Ken Thomson is a contemporary composer of great poise and expressivity. His new album releases October 28 on LP and download--and you can preorder at I am ahead of the game because the album so occupied my listening that I failed to note the street date, but consider this an early recommendation.

The album Restless (Uffda/Cantaloupe ) gives us two chamber composition that combine modern and less modern harmonic-melodic inventions that have depth of feeling and a natural restlessness that is mostly post-minimal. They are often motored with a zestful rhythmic or jagged sequentiality. They also sometimes give out with a post-rhapsodicity that can be somewhat dark and brooding but always directly communicative.

"Restless for Cello and Piano" (2014) gets insightful treatment from cellist Ashley Bathgate and pianist Karl Larsen. "Me Vs." is for solo piano. Both get and retain listener interest and fascination with admirable scoring and vital performative presence.

It's the sort of music you could wish you wrote yourself--to me the best recommendation I can give. It is music that shows an exceptional musical mind and heart at work. The performances impress with their sympathetic acumen.

Order a copy and immerse yourself in chamber profundity. It is something you will turn to and remember I hope for a long time to come. Bravo!

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Kevin Puts, Symphony No. 2, Marin Alsop, Peabody Symphony Orchestra

Kevin Puts (b. 1972) can paint musical imagery with the very best out there. His Symphony No. 2 with  Marin Alsop and the Peabody Symphony Orchestra (Naxos 8.559794) tells of the tragic morning of 9-11. Peaceful beginnings and lyrical ruminations give way to collective orchestral horror, then resolution.

His "Flute Concerto" with Adam Walker is a beautiful meditation on modern tonal possibilities, with the added expressivity of new music but a pronounced beauty, a pastoral sort of feeling of a sunny morning outdoors, not that he had that in his mind but the expression is tenderly sunny. There is less peace and a rhythmically vital middle movement, and a very notefull final movement. It's all good to hear.

"River's Rush" adds turbulence and natural passage with some impressive writing.

This is music to bring you to life, played marvelously by Alsop and Peabody.

It is not out to be especially modern but it is fine music, finely detailed.

He is already well known.  A Pulitzer Prize in 2012 certainly garnered him attention but the music in itself does that wonderfully here. Catch up with him on this release. Recommended.

Monday, October 10, 2016

Francois Couperin, Antoine Forqueray, Pieces de violes

When you listen to the basse de viole in its period incarnation, properly played, it's not at first about the notes. It is first off the incredibly beautiful ambiance, the resonance of the instrument. Much different than a cello and to me deeply attractive.

All that is certainly going on for viole adept Nima Ben David and ensemble on Pieces de violes (Hopital Alpha 007). It is a consort with lead basse de viole plus the figured bass of another viole, theorbo or guitar, and harpsichord. WHAT notes are determined by a selection of gems by Francois Couperin (1668-1733) and Antoine Forqueray (1672-1745), both renowned exponents of the music in their day, the latter primarily a viole virtuoso, the former you probably already know, except perhaps not his viole music.

The ensemble gives off with a kind of depth of feeling, a timelessness in the slower passages that is uncanny. The more rapid movements have a pronounced momentum and spunk. The ensemble does a superb job giving us the enveloped, surging resonant sound and a singular feeling and then the composers' note choices hit you as ravishing throughout.

Nima Ben David is really first-rate among contemporary practitioners of the ancient sound and the ensemble is in perfect flowing symmetry.

I could listen to this music all day. It is a bright spot in my ear activities for the last week or so. You really should hear it! My highest recommendations on this one.

Friday, October 7, 2016

Stravinsky, The Soldier's Tale - Suite, Octet, Les noces, JoAnn Falletta

There are many post-Sacre Stravinsky masterpieces. Sometimes they seem to be underappreciated in the general swim of things. Here we have a wonderful coupling of three that well deserve continued acclaim--The Soldier's Tale (in Suite form), Octet, Les Noces (Naxos 8.573538). JoAnn Falletta does an excellent job directing the Virginia Symphony Orchestra Chorus and the Les Noces Percussion Ensemble (on Les Noces), the Virginia Arts Festival Chamber Players (for the other two  works) and Tianwa Yang as the solo violinist (on The Soldier's Tale).

The pairing of these seminal Stravinsky works was an inspired idea, for they are all essential in their own way. The Soldier's Tale in Suite form boils down the chamber parts to their very essence, for a beautifully concentric 26 minutes without the narration. Ultimately this is the version to start with and Falletta brings the interactive beauty of the parts to bear, pure thematic brilliance and a great performance by Yang in the violin role. If there is a folk Stravinsky (and of course there is) this 1920 work and the 1923 Les Noces are two of the most remarkable examples.

Falletta takes the latter at a stirring pace for a rousing reading of the final version for percussion and chorus. JoAnne has the knack of bringing out the genuinely salient elements in a work and she most certainly does that here.

The Octet (1952) is a composition that needs to be celebrated as one of the small chamber masterworks of the era and though I would give the laurel wreath to Stravinsky's stereo '60s performance, this one is close. It's all there and there is a fine balance of intricate parts to be heard.

So for the excellent selection of Stravinsky gems, for Falletta's dedicated and weighted treatment of them, and for the Naxos price, you cannot go wrong with this release. Anyone not familiar with these pieces would do well to get this one. Stravinsky advocates who have other versions of these will get a different reading of the three. Either way it's well worth your time! Very recommended.

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Satie, Complete Piano Music, Jeroen van Veen

We live in the post-Satie age. Who would have thought during his lifetime that he eventually would become as influential as, maybe, Wagner? We cast about today and we hear the quirky diatonicism, the high-low dissolve in a direct addressing of the vernacular music of our time, the deliberately banal, the repetition of minimal and post-minimal music, the idea of a radical tonality that he revealed to us without perhaps being aware of it all as a trend. John Cage championed Satie and was highly influenced. Others may not talk so much about it but his music is surely in our air now.

And in a flash we have Jeroen van Veen playing the Complete Piano Music (Brilliant 95350) on nine CDs. We had the Frank Glazer 3-LP Voxbox years ago, the Aldo Ciccolini Angel/EMI LPs that came in the end to around 7 disks (now available as five CDs) but this is by far the most complete and in the end, the most satisfying to my ears (but I would say that the other sets are good to have, too.)

What do you get in the truly complete van Veen version? You get the primarily lyrical works such as the "Gnoissiennes" (7) and "Gymnopedies" played with an achingly beautiful slowness, the ballets that exist in piano reductions, "Cinema" and other orchestral works played in two or four-hand versions (the latter with Sandra van Veen), the music hall ditties, all of them, a full disk of "Vexations" (and a link to around 23 more hours of it if you cannot get enough), some downright obscure pieces such as "The Dreamy Fish," a piano version of Debussy's orchestral treatment of two of the "Gymnopedies," and more besides.

In this low-price Brilliant box there is EVERYTHING and in pristinely clear, beautifully worked out van Veen versions.

When you listen through you never get the feeling (or I didn't) that there is too much or that there is filler. It is all hypnotically vibrant Satie. Even something seemingly thrown off casually reveals that hidden depth of humor, irony or sparkling beauty.

In short this is a godsend for Satie lovers but also an ear opener for those who have not yet explored him fully.

Van Veen is the person to pull all of this off with care, wit, crisp clarity and verve. A Satie milestone is this. I cannot recommend it more highly.

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Prokofiev, Music for Violin and Piano, Jameson Cooper & Ketevan Badridze

The year 2016 marks Prokofiev's 125th birth anniversary. There are good things coming out to mark the occasion. One of the best is also the inaugural release of a new label, Afinat (1601). It is violinist Jameson Cooper and pianist Ketevan Badridze playing Music for Violin and Piano, which includes Prokofiev's two Violin Sonatas plus the somewhat more rare "Five Melodies, Op. 35bis."

The sonatas comprise landmark classics in modern repertoire, with some stiff competition in recordings from the likes of Isaac Stern and Joseph Szigeti. Both works are marvels of Prokofiev's bitter-sweet melodic and harmonic singularity, unforgettable and briskly challenging works. Cooper and Badridze give us impassioned readings that fall somewhere between the brusque Szigeti reading and more rhapsodic ones. Cooper is a member of the notable Euclid Quartet;  Badridze is part of the Toradze Piano Studio. This is their first venture together and it is a most auspicious beginning.

They bring an intimate ease and dedicated familiarity to the sonatas that show a lively talent, surely. The passage of time between the premiere of these long ago and the contemporary world we are now in gives us the feeling of meeting again a few old friends, more seasoned with time but as engaging as ever. By now this music and its poignant density is very much a part of what has "been in the air" to the point that Cooper and Badridze make the music flow with a natural flourish that 75 years ago seemed perhaps next-to-impossible. Cooper sings and Badridze gives the music drive in what are indeed two wonderful readings, among the very best.

The addition of the "Five Melodies" is very welcome. These are a fresh and worthy prelude to the sonatas, quite lovely and very well played.

So begins the existence of Afinat Records and the Cooper-Badridze duo. This is essential listening for any Prokofiev-modern aficionado. It is one of the most moving and accomplished performances of the Sonatas and in the end really quite thrilling!

Monday, October 3, 2016

Simple Gifts, The Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center at Shaker Village

Shaker Elder Joseph Brackett wrote the beautiful hymn "Simple Gifts" in 1848. I and many of my music-loving brethren were first exposed to the melody as adapted by Aaron Copland in his iconic "Appalachian Spring." The Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center recently did a concert in Kentucky's Shaker Village, in an old barn originally used to store tobacco, featuring a program of vintage Americana and most notably "Appalachian Spring" in a version for chamber orchestra.

The concert is just coming out as a CD: Simple Gifts, The Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center at Shaker Village (CMS Live) and it is a beauty.

The version of the Suite from "Appalachian Spring" is simply stunning, one of the very best, no doubt inspired by the setting. But the concert as a whole is inspired as well! We get to hear Gottschalk's "The Union Concert Paraphrase," a rousing piano piece that quotes the National Anthem and other familiar American flag-wavers with typical Gottschalkian panache. Dvorak's "Sonatina in G major for Violin and Piano" is another worthy item. You can hear him quoting or otherwise alluding to Afro-American and other American folk music.

Barber's piano 4-hands "Souvenirs" has a rustic-modern charm that fits in well with the program and provides depth. O'Connor's "FCs Jig" for violin and viola adds roots, as does the pretty obscure but fascinating Stephen Foster "Selections from The Social Orchestra for Ensemble."

But it is "Appalachian Spring" that gets an especially heartwarming and focused reading, as we can readily understand. It gives one a shudder of pleasure, the chills, it is so poignantly done.

And so this is a landmark recording! The ensemble sounds ravishing, they ring the rafters and the production is thrilling, truly.

Highly recommended!