Music: Sounds for the Solstice

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Franz Schubert: Winterreise (Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau with Daniel Barenboim, piano; Deutsche Grammophon, two LPs). Schubert described his Winter Journey as a "cycle of gruesome songs." Early listeners must have thought so too. The work's simplicity and repeated tone of personal lament must have struck many as self-indulgent and morose. Schubert took his text from Wilhelm Müller, a poet torn between romanticism and corroding irony. Fortunately Schubert's music transcends maudlin sentiment. Fischer-Dieskau moves from mood to mood with his customary agility and brilliance.

Elliot Carter: Symphony of Three Orchestras (New York Philharmonic, Pierre Boulez, conductor), A Mirror on Which to Dwell, Six Poems of Elizabeth Bishop (Speculum Musicae; Richard Fitz, conductor; Susan Davenny Wyner, soprano; Columbia Master Works). Carter's symphony was written for the U.S. Bicentennial under a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts. John Philip Sousa would have been flabbergasted at the dissonances and Carter's restless harmonies that reach out like the tendrils of live undersea flowers. In A Mirror on Which to Dwell, the composer set six Elizabeth Bishop poems within an unmelodic structure. The song cycle requires exacting breath control to keep each line from slipping into eccentricity. Soprano Davenny Wyner keeps a tight line.

Luigi Boccherini (The Sequoia String Quartet, Yoko Matsuda, violin; Miwako Watanabe, violin; James Dunham, viola; Robert Martin, cello; Allan Vogel, oboe; Nonesuch). Although they never met, Haydn and Boccherini formed a mutual admiration society through the uncertain mails of 18th century Europe. Mozart thought enough of Boccherini's work to model his Violin Concerto in D after one of the Italian's compositions. Today Boccherini is still known mainly for his Cello Concerto in B Flat, but his hearty melodies and agile rhythms can be found in the Sequoia's splendid performance of these less frequently heard pieces.

A Different Kind of Blues: An Album of Jazz Composed by André Previn (Itzhak Perlman, André Previn, Shelly Manne, Jim Hall, Red Mitchell; Angel, Digital). Pittsburgh Symphony Conductor Previn and Jazzmen Mitchell and Manne have met before. The three teamed up in 1957 for Contemporary to play the great tunes from Pal Joey. Echoes of those sophisticated pulsations are heard in Previn's extracurricular activities. The pieces carry such titles as Chocolate Apricot, Make Up Your Mind and Who Reads Reviews. The surprise guest is Violinist Perlman, making his jazz debut for the record. His superb classical technique may not be appreciated by fans of the late pop fiddler Joe Venuti, but Perlman's adventuresome musical spirit is undeniable.


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