Holiday Gifts of Past Glories

      RCA has been looking in their vaults and bringing out some wonderful CDs in a series titled reDiscovered. Leontyne Price, now retired, finished her studies at Julliard over half a century ago and is represented by her Carnegie Hall recital debut from February 28, 1965. These are well-produced CDs with text, translations and thirty selections by Ms. Price, including her spoken introductions. The selection includes the eight songs of Brahms' Zigeunerlieder, Op. 103, four songs by Poulenc, three by Barber and two by Lee Hoiby and four of her favorite spirituals. She opens with three selections by Handel and sings Summertime and three favorite arias as encores.

      Rediscovered is certainly an accurate title for me where Leontyne Price is concerned. She was my very first LP purchase of opera arias: Prima Donna with music by Barber, Purcell in English, Mozart, Verdi, Puccini and arias in French. The sound of the music and the language entranced me and set my direction in music. When I looked for more I found her songs by Barber and on and on. Oh, not to forget the Porgy and Bess of Gershwin and My Man's Gone Now.

      Also look for Jussi Björling reDiscovered Carnegie Hall Recital September 24, 1955 (RCA 82876-53231-2). Here we have almost 80 minutes of art songs and aria by one of the twentieth century's finest singers, who died in 1960. Most of this CD series has newly released material, but here only nine tracks are new: songs by Grieg, Sibelius and Tonerna by Carl Leopold Sjöberg. Two songs by Tosti stand out and Stephen Foster's Jeannie with the Light Brown Hair may melt your heart. You will also find songs by Beethoven, Schubert, Richard Strauss and Brahms and lots of favorite tenor arias.

Gifts from 2004

Janeanne Huston's Christmas Album

      In response to our review of a new CD So Much Beauty, Janeanne Huston, soprano, sent us a gift of her earlier CDs, So Great a Joy (2001) and Living Mysteries (2002) with Michael Kelly, a Virginia native at the piano and other instrumentalists to create a rich variety of settings. These are truly art songs for the Christmas season, with most texts in English (two are in Latin) by English and American composers. Britten's The Birds and Corpus Christi Carol, Gerald Finzi's Wonder and The Rapture, a Peter Warlock song, two by Ralph Vaughan Williams, Christmas Song by Alan Hovhaness with organ and flute-like voice, two by Randall Thompson, Ned Rorem, Norman Dello Gioio, William Bergsma and Samuel Barber make a varied program. Ms. Huston's honeyed soprano creates a soothing experience of reverence and joy in what can be a hectic, even frenetic time of the year.

      On Living Mysteries, chamber music for soprano, winds, strings and piano, her selections range from Bach, Haydn and Mozart to a song cycle, Three Nativity Songs by Don Locklair, a native of Charlotte, North Carolina. In addition there is Trois Chants de Noel by Swiss composer Frank Martin and Ralph Vaughan Williams' Three Vocalises for Soprano and Clarinet and one song each by Barber, Finzi and a glorious song by Morton Lauridsen who is chairman of the composition department at University of Southern California. Mr. Lauridsen's Magnum Mysterium is as wonderful a song as I'm likely to hear this Christmas season. These CDs can be purchased from http://dslweb.nwnexus.com/nwac/beauty/

William Anderson, Composer and Guitarist

      In our March issue we reviewed a Creo concert with William Anderson, guitarist. His gift of three CDs has offered us many hours of pleasure and challenge. Hausmusic, 20th Century Chamber Music for the Home offers Anderson's Guitar Variations played by the composer and also Danci by Milton Babbit which he played at the Creo concert. There is almost an hour of chamber pieces featuring Anderson's guitar. Details on ordering can be found at www.furiousartisans.com.

      Robert Martin: Diary of a Seducer (CRI CD 838) is a 43 minute piece in three movements: Solos, Duos and Trios. The rest of the CD is music by Charles Wourinen, Milton Babbitt and Elliot Carter for a total of 70 minutes.

      Cygnus Ensemble: Broken Consort (CRI CD 834) contains 71 minutes of contemporary chamber music for a variety of chamber combinations, most of which include two guitars. Anderson's piece is Far Conception for piano, violin, cello, flute, oboe and two guitars. These should be available at your usual record shop or on-line supplier. Happy exploring in the New Year!

Tanya Anisimova Plays Bach Cello Suites

     In the program notes for the second CD of J.S. Bach's Six Suites for Solo Cello, we learn that Ms. Anisimova was so moved by the music that she added two improvisations while recording Suite No. 2 in D minor. They have their own track numbers. The first is a slow stately opening which leads, without pause into the familiar Prelude and Cadenza. The courtly dance tunes of Bach's original set a mood of serious music-making and have a restrained joy of their own. After the fourth movement Sarabande, Ms. Anisimova's improvisation takes on a darker hue. At times the cello sound divides into two voices, one with a troubled energy, a twenty-first century accent.

      She writes "I consider the text of Anna Magdalena's manuscript to be the closest to Bach's original." The CD contains Suites No. 2, 4 and 6 and follows pitch and rhythm indications as they appear in that text. The playing is precise. The sound is crisp and clean, the pacing at times meditative. The recorded sound is natural and you hear the performer's breath as she spins out silver tones that gently move you through Bach's wonderful exploration of the voice of a cello.

      Suite No. 4 is performed in G Major, instead of the original E-flat. "The open strings of G Major create a clear resonance, while offering numerous possibilities for pedal point harmonies" write Ms. Anisimova.

      In a comparative listening to the same pieces by Yo-Yo Ma and Janos Starker, there are differences. Ms. Anisimova explains that her current exploration of the original manuscript took her away from the usual approach to these pieces. "This approach has led me to some minor and major deviations from the accepted version … It took me a while to feel comfortable playing these new sounds, but once I got used to them I've found I could not enjoy playing the old way any more because it sounds unconvincing, untrue to the spirit of the music."

      She performs Suite No. 6 in C Major rather than the original D Major because, as she writes, "I believe that it sounds deeper, less 'hyper', more beautiful." I hear her point! Certainly if you love these pieces, this new CD offers a valid exploration that I highly recommend. Information on ordering Ms. Anisimova's CD is available at http://www.tanyaanisimova.com/home.html

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