MIAMI BASED ARTISTS GIVE STRIKING PERFORMANCES
ON NEW CD RELEASES
By Lawrence Budmen
Musicians who are Miami residents or are artistically based here are featured on a new group of CD releases and, without exception, their performances are memorable. The work of the New World Symphony's Michael Tilson Thomas always commands attention as he is now in his artistic prime. He continues his Mahler cycle on the San Francisco Symphony's new record label (available only through www. sfsymphony.org) with the "Symphony No. 1 in D Major." Like his previous recording of Mahler's Sixth Symphony, this release sets new standards for a venerable score. Instead of merely providing musical impressions of Austrian fields, streams, and peasant dances - as many conductors do in this score - Tilson Thomas finds the dark side behind the music. Beneath the charming melodies of the first movement, one hears an ominous undercurrent in this performance. The third movement funeral march is truly eerie with the klezmer band interjections striking an ironic tone. The finale sounds very modernistic in this conductor's hands - a reminder that Schoenberg's musical innovations lay straight ahead. The conductor's tempos and inflections take in the score's entire musical space, rather than a serious of disjointed episodes. The playing of the San Francisco orchestra is magnificent. The string rubatos and portamentos are remarkable. For Tilson Thomas fans and true blue Mahlerites this recording is a must!
One of the strongest impressions made by a conductor on a South Florida podium last season occurred when the Estonian-American maestro Paavo Jarvi led the New World musicians. Jarvi comes from a brilliantly gifted musical family.( In the past his father Neemi Jarvi has appeared here with the New World and his own Detroit Symphony. His brother Christian Jarvi recently conducted the American-Russian Young Artists' Chamber Orchestra here.) Two recent recordings on the Telarc label prove that Paavo Jarvi is the real thing - a conductor of tremendous authority who brings an insightful musical imagination to the scores he directs. His new CD of Sibelius's popular "Symphony No. 2 in D Major," Opus 43 presents the music in bold, striking colors. The tempos are taut. The musical discourse is intense. The high energy level in the finale leads to an eloquent catharsis in the work's coda. This performance makes one hear the music anew. It is coupled with Eduard Tubin's "Symphony No. 5 in B Minor." Tubin was Estonia's leading creative musical voice in the 20th century. This symphony is a real find. It combines the austerity of Sibelius with the grim humor and modernism of Shostakovich. The second movement Andante (based on an Estonian folk song) is deeply moving. The composer could not find a more persuasive advocate than Paavo Jarvi. The music of Hector Berlioz occupies this conductor's other new release. How wonderful it is to hear the "Symphonie Fantastique" played without melodramatic overkill. There is lyricism aplenty in the first movement, poignant reverie in the third. How delightful it is to hear the usually omitted cornet part in the second movement Valse, which really soars. In both CDs, the playing of the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra is tonally warm and expressive. Telarc's live sound is enhanced by the warm acoustical ambience of Cincinnati's Music Hall.
Boca Raton's enterprising Klavier Records offers "True Colors," a disc of mostly impressionistic music played by Chamber Music Palm Beach. Among the members of this group are Leonid Sigal, the new music director of the Miami Chamber Symphony and associate concertmaster of the Florida Philharmonic; Dwayne Dixon, associate principal horn of the Florida Philharmonic; Karen Fuller Dixon, former principal flutist of the New World Symphony, oboist Robert Weiner, University of Miami faculty member, and Susan Moyer, Florida Philharmonic cellist. The music on this disc is refreshingly off the beaten track. "Divertissement et Musette" by Gustave Samazeuilh (a pupil of Chausson, d'Indy, and Dukas) is music of another era - all elegance, clarity, and charm. There is biting wit and melodic joie de vive in Jacques Ibert's "Deux Mouvements" - a score that recalls the work of Darius Milhaud. "Ballade Carnavalesque" by the Paris based American Charles Martin Loeffler is a lively impressionistic view of a carnival with bracing instrumental writing that recalls Debussy and Roussel. This unpublished score was reconstructed for this recording by producer Clark McAlister, a former member of the Florida Philharmonic and a freelance arranger and conductor. Prokofiev's pungent "Quintet," Opus 39 provides a mildly dissonant interlude. The disc also features pleasant divertimentos by Bohuslav Martinu and Walter Piston. The performances are brilliant across the board. The excellent musicians are assisted by members of the Palm Beach Opera Orchestra.
Finally some discs for aficionados. For lovers of wind band music, Klavier has a beautiful new recording of Dvorak's lovely "Serenade in D Minor," Opus 44, coupled with charming new wind arrangements of the Bagatelles" and the "Czech Suite." The Virginia based National Chamber Players under Lowell Graham give light, airy, song filled performances. Chicago based Cedille Records offers "Divas of Mozart's Day," an album of arias written for 18th century soprano Nancy Storace and others by Mozart and his contemporaries Salieri, Martin y Soler, and Cimarosa. Soprano Patrice Michaels sings this engaging repertoire with dazzling coloratura, a velvet timbre, and tonal warmth. Ms. Michaels appears to be a talent on the level of Dawn Upshaw, a true vocal paragon. She is assisted stylishly by the Classical Arts Orchestra, a period instrument ensemble.
Cedille also offers a sonic blockbuster disc of "American Works for Organ and Orchestra" with organist David Schrader playing on the new organ in Chicago's Orchestra Hall. Brilliant showpieces by Samuel Barber, Walter Piston, and Leo Sowerby are coupled with the fascinating "Snow Walker" by Michael Colgrass. This score has its heart in classical, jazz, and New Age musical genres at once and the result delights the ear. Like FIU's Frederick Kaufman, Colgrass is a Woody Herman Band alumnus and a true musical chameleon. The brilliantly gifted Hungarian conductor Carlos Kalmar leads vibrant, beautifully detailed performances. The Pittsburgh Symphony's Curtain Call label has issued a CD of music by Russian composer Rodion Shchedrin. While not a great composer, Shchedrin writes music filled with wit, caustic irony, and formal rigor. His Albeniz arrangements and recent scores make intelligent listening, particularly as served up by conductor Mariss Jansons and his superlative Pittsburgh Symphony musicians. A splendid memento of a great conductor's tenure with a major American orchestra!