MIAMI'S MUSIC SEASON PREVIEWED THROUGH NEW RELEASES
By Lawrence Budmen
A new group of recordings presents a preview of artists that loom on Miami's musical horizon during the 2003-2004 season. Three pianists who will be heard in recital on the Sunday Afternoons of Music series at the University of Miami Gusman Concert Hall are featured on solo cds. Richard Goode will perform on October 19. Goode has long been renowned as a distinguished interpreter of the music of Mozart, Beethoven, and Schubert. The keyboard works of J.S. Bach can now be added to Goode's discography. A new recording on the Nonesuch label (www.nonesuch.com) features stylish, highly musical accounts of the "Partitas Nos.1, 3, and 6." The clarity, rhythmic precision, subtlety, and sparkle that Goode brings to this music are hallmarks of his patrician artistry. Highly recommended!
When Russian pianist Sergei Babayan performed Prokofiev's "Piano Concerto No.2" on the closing night of Festival Miami 2002, he unleashed a musical tornado that swept all before it. (Babayan's recital is on November 16.) A beautiful new recording of 19 sonatas by Domenico Scarlatti on ProPiano Records (www.propiano.com) shows another side of Babayan's art. These charming, melodic works benefit from being played on a modern piano. Babayan brings a myriad variety of tonal coloration to these vignettes. His performances of these Italianate gems are filled with dance like Úlan. Babayan also finds lyricism and poignancy in Scarlatti's music - a surprising and interesting artist.
Ever since winning the 1969 Leventritt International Piano Competition, Joseph Kalichstein has loomed large both as a soloist and chamber musician. Kalichstein will play a recital on January 11, 2004. "The Romantic Piano," a recent release on the Miami based Audiofon label (www.audiofonrecords.com), features Kalichstein at his best. Charming variations by C.P.E. Bach are played with delicacy and refinement. The great "Sonata in A Major," Opus Posthumous by Franz Schubert sings with bittersweet lyricism. Mendelssohn's "Fantasy in F-sharp Minor," Opus 28 is a torrent of blazing virtuosity. With Kalichstein, technique is a given. Richly romantic Brahms piano music rounds out a superb recording. (This very live sounding cd was made at FIU's Wertheim Performing Arts Center.) Great performances by an artistic paragon!
One of last season's most impressive concerts was given by the touring Atlanta Symphony Orchestra under its brilliant conductor Robert Spano. Spano will return to conduct the New World Symphony in a program of Mozart and Strauss on December 19 and 20. Two recent Telarc releases (www.telarc.com) feature diverse examples of Spano's broad musical sympathies. On an all Rimsky-Korsakov disc, Spano leads his Atlanta players in a sensuous, colorful reading of "Scheherazade" and a vibrant performance of the "Russian Easter Overture."Spano makes warhorses sound freshly minted-the hallmark of a great conductor. An all American cd features a taut, dramatic performance of Samuel Barber's unjustly neglected "Symphony No.1," Opus 9. Spano brings vigor and restraint to Copland's "Appalachian Spring" suite. "Blue Cathedral" by Philadelphia composer Jennifer Higdon is a real find. Here is a gorgeous impressionistic tone poem. Spano revels in this work's lush wind and string textures. "Rainbow Body" by Christopher Theofanidis is a lovely piece of trance music. On both recordings the gorgeous playing of the Atlanta Symphony confirms that it is one of America's best orchestras.
On January 30 and 31, 2004 Michael Tilson Thomas will lead the New World players in the "Symphony No.5" of Gustav Mahler - part of a continuing cycle of that composer's symphonies. The San Francisco Symphony has issued a new Tilson Thomas recording of Mahler's "Symphony No.3" (www.sfsymphony.org). Again Tilson Thomas's deep affinity for this composer's music comes to the fore. All of the joy and struggle of this unique work is brilliantly delineated. Mezzo-soprano Michelle DeYoung contributes a dusky voiced solo. The children's choir sings the fifth movement with vigor. The clarity and precision of the San Francisco Symphony's playing is astonishing. As a bonus, DeYoung sings a deeply moving account of Mahler's "Kindertotenlieder"-a worthy release and a fine preview of future Mahler performances.
The Scottish conductor Donald Runnicles has been a frequent guest conductor with the NWS. New York's Orchestra of St. Luke's, of which Runnicles is principal conductor, has launched its new label with an exceptional Mozart cd (www.orchestraofstlukes.org). The "Symphony No.39 in E -flat Major," K.543 and "Symphony No.41 in C Major," K.551 ("Jupiter") are given eloquent, sparkling performances. Runnicles combines the best aspects of the early music movement with old fashioned great orchestral playing to produce performances that make one hear new instrumental subtleties in thrice familiar music. Here is great music making by an important contemporary conductor!
With the demise of the Florida Philharmonic, Naxos has released a cd of music by Leonard Bernstein recorded at the Broward Center in May, 2001 (www.naxos.com). James Judd seemed to have a natural affinity for the brash, jazzy character of Bernstein's music. The "Candide Overture" is delivered with brio and pizzazz. The Symphonic Dances from "West Side Story" crackle with jazz inflected brilliance. Both the dissonance and nostalgia of Bernstein's "Symphony No.2" ("Age of Anxiety") are given their full measure. Jean Louis Steuerman is the virtuoso piano soloist in the symphony. The rich toned string playing, lightness of the winds, and brilliant brass and percussion riffs captured on this disc are a testament to Judd's achievement with the orchestra - a worthy memento!
What recordings do best is freeze a musical moment in time. This new crop of releases brings remembrances of great things past and a tantalizing preview of exciting music making to come.