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ClassicsOnline - Your Classical Music Source Highly Reviewed Newsletter
Sunday, March 25, 2012

Highlighting the latest highly reviewed recordings: Available at ClassicsOnline

United States Army Field Band (Jazz Ambassadors): The Legacy of Mary Lou Williams

United States Army Field Band (Jazz Ambassadors): The Legacy of Mary Lou Williams
Altissimo: 75442262102
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-- By Pierre Giroux, Audiophile Audition

Mary Lou Williams was one of those musicians who overcame a variety of impediments in her early life to become one of America's seminal composers and arrangers'. This disc reprises many her well-known compositions which are done with style and verve designed to reveal the meaning the composer intended.

While the song list is not necessarily in chronological order, it does lay out her writing and arranging starting with her earliest forays in the late 20s and early 30s. "Roll 'Em", "Messa Stomp" and "Walkin' and Swinging" are from that period and the band delivers accordingly in a boogie-woogie style with the rhythm section supporting the melodies with a typical 30s "chugga chugga" beat. Part of the challenge facing the Jazz Ambassadors is that they do not have a readily identifiable sound. But there are some first rate soloists such as pianist SFC Tim Young, who is clearly at the forefront... (read more)
 
BLOCH, E.: Hiver-Printemps / Proclamation / Poems of Autumn / Suite (Koch)

BLOCH, E.: Hiver-Printemps / Proclamation / Poems of Autumn / Suite (Koch)
Capriccio: C67076
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-- By David Hurwitz, ClassicsToday.com

9/9 Artistic and Sound Quality

Ernest Bloch's orchestral music is pretty wonderful, and this disc shows off his range with particular success. True, the Poèmes are largely slow and droopy, if very beautiful, but the other works are wholly satisfying. The Suite for Viola and Orchestra, in particular, is shockingly neglected. It's got to be one of the greatest works in the repertoire, full of gorgeous color and exotic instrumentation. Bloch, of course, is known primarily for his "Jewish" works, none of which is offered here, but the finale of the Suite may surprise you with its overtly Chinese flavor. Of course, that's Jewish too. My late grandmother, who made it to the ripe old age of 103, used to say "every room needs a touch of Chinese." That's proof enough for me of the affinity... (read more)
 
SCHWANTNER, J.: Percussion Concerto / Morning's Embrace / Chasing Light… (Lamb, Nashville Symphony, Guerrero)

SCHWANTNER, J.: Percussion Concerto / Morning's Embrace / Chasing Light… (Lamb, Nashville Symphony, Guerrero)
Naxos / American Classics: 8.559678
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-- By David Hurwitz, ClassicsToday.com

9/9 Artistic and Sound Quality

I saw New York Philharmonic percussionist Chris Lamb reveal Joseph Schwantner's Percussion Concerto at its premiere performance back in the 1990s. Lamb is an astounding artist, and he plays the living daylights out of the piece. I felt then, and still believe (despite being a percussionist, sort of) that the concept of a percussion concerto is all but impossible to pull off musically, and Schwantner, who really knows how to write for percussion instruments, comes as close as anyone ever has to succeeding. It's a fun work, full of color and, obviously, rhythm. Whether it has the necessary staying power to reward repetition is up to you.

The other two works here are tone poems that are based, like so much of Schwantner's work, on images of light and... (read more)
 
WEBER, C.M. von: Clarinet Concertos Nos. 1 and 2 / Clarinet Concertino / Horn Concertino (M. Collins, Stirling, City of London Sinfonia)

WEBER, C.M. von: Clarinet Concertos Nos. 1 and 2 / Clarinet Concertino / Horn Concertino (M. Collins, Stirling, City of London Sinfonia)
Chandos: CHAN10702
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-- By JJP, Classical Candor

Although the big draws here are the two clarinet concertos, British clarinetist Michael Collins begins the program with the little Concertino for Clarinet and Orchestra, Op. 26, J 109, which German pianist, conductor, and composer Carl Maria von Weber (1786-1826) wrote in 1811. It's a brief but varied piece of music, starting out rather darkly and then opening up to an agreeably light and lyrical set of melodies. Collins has a good time with its differing moods and gets a chance to demonstrate his virtuosity early on. The piece makes a nice curtain raiser.

Next, we get Weber's Concerto No. 1 for Clarinet and Orchestra, Op. 73, J 114, also from 1811. Of the two clarinet concertos Weber wrote that year, this one is the more dramatic (or melodramatic, depending on your point of view). Collins in a booklet note calls it "operatic." Whatever the case, it is decidedly heavy, at least until the clarinet enters and lifts one's spirits. Collins provides a sparkling touch, his clarinet sounding both... (read more)

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