WRTI's Mark Pinto, host of the Classical New Releases show, fills you in on the latest and the greatest classical music CDs every Saturday at 5 pm. Here are five recordings to pay special attention to.
Jonas Kaufmann: You Mean The World To Me. Jonas Kaufmann and the Berlin Radio Symphony recreate the songs made famous by the tenor stars of 1920s and '30s Berlin in this delightful collection of songs from operettas and early film "talkies." The highly charismatic and versatile German tenor pours on the charm in German and English renditions of songs by Franz Lehar, Robert Stolz, Emmerich Kalman, Erich Wolfgang Korngold and others. From frothy love songs to heart-melting ballads, Kaufmann croons with an earnestness and directness of expression no doubt enhanced by the live studio audience present for the recording session. The songs are presented in either their original versions or in arrangements that convincingly evoke the era.
Gustavo Dudamel: Music from the soundtrack for The Liberator. Meet Gustavo Dudamel...the composer! The story goes that the Venezuelan-born conductor originally signed on as musical advisor for this biopic about the early 19th-century Venezuelan military hero and political leader. Sometime into the project, Dudamel came up with a melody he thought would work for the beginning of the film. He ended up composing the entire soundtrack - his first - and his first composition to be released worldwide. Consulting with master film composer John Williams, Dudamel produced his own epic score, one tinged with wistful melancholy and full of exotic South American flavor and color. The score makes effective use of a wordless chorus, native flutes, and folk-like material. Dudamel conducts his Simon Bolivar Symphony in a work likely to lead to further compositional projects for this musician of seemingly unlimited potential.
Joshua Bell: Bach with Academy of St. Martin in the Fields. in his program notes to the disc, Joshua Bell refers to "my beloved Academy of St. Martin in the Fields". Bell's love affair with the ensemble he has directed for the past three years is much evident in this recording that boasts some of the closest-knit solo violin with orchestra playing you're likely to encounter on disc.
In chamber music fashion, Bell's solos gently emerge from and recede into the orchestral fabric. This is also some of the dreamiest Bach playing you're likely to hear, with Bell softening his vibrato and portamento and downplaying virtuosity to blend seamlessly into the smooth and tight ensemble playing of the ASMF. This is Bach without hard edges, up close and very personal.
Since its inception in 2002, the Seattle-based American String Project has sought to expand the audience for the great string quartets and quintets of the repertoire by performing them in chamber orchestra-size arrangements. Their efforts have been quite convincing, due principally to the seamless arrangements by double bassist Barry Lieberman which significantly enhance the music's dramatic intensity and impact, and to the ensemble's extraordinary level of musicianship. Its 15 players include current and former members of the Philadelphia Orchestra, Los Angeles Philharmonic, Detroit Symphony, Minnesota Orchestra, Pittsburgh Symphony, Seattle Symphony, and prestigious educational institutions. Embarking on a new educational phase this year, the American String Project has released this recording from their final concerts of May, 2011. The ensemble pinpoints and underscores the rhythmic and major-minor tensions of Haydn's Quartet, Op. 76, #2 "Fifths," and the emotional strain and lamentation expressed in Tchaikovsky's Quartet #3.
Canadian Concert0 Project - Volume One. Here's a great opportunity to explore some very accessible and fascinating new music from our neighbor to the north, featuring two internationally renowned Canadian musicians and frequent collaborators -- trumpeter Guy Few and bassoonist and Curtis Institute grad Nadina Mackie Jackson. Expanding the repertoire of concertos for their often-overlooked instruments, here they perform works recently written just for them by Mathieu Lussier, Michael Occhipinti, and Glenn Buhr. The three works by Lussier -- who himself has played Baroque bassoon with Tafelmusik and made numerous solo recordings -- are written in a neo-Baroque style with tuneful and long-singing lines. Occhipinti's pieces emphasize dance rhythms, syncopation, and jazz improvisation, as befits a respected jazz and R&B arranger/composer whose jazz orchestra has played the Montreal Jazz Festival. The disc is the first volume in the "Canadian Concerto Project" series and was nominated for a 2014 Juno award (Canada's version of the Grammys). I, for one, eagerly await Volume Two.