Recordings: The Twelve Tones of Christmas

Most record companies fill their preholiday releases with seasonal sounds: Christmas carols, a Handel oratorio or two. This fall the sounds from Columbia seem to be designed for Christmas 2067. In one batch last month, on its three constituent labels, the company issued as its entire "classical" release no fewer than 17 recordings of contemporary music, most of it on the farthest fringes of the far-out.

The list is admirable in its division of attention between the gurus of the contemporary styles and their still-emerging disciples. It includes such cornerstone composers as...

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