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John Fleming's CD picks: Anne Akiko Meyers, Boston Symphony, Morton Feldman, Tom Brantley

Anne Akiko Meyers

Album: Smile (Koch)

In stores: Now

Why we care: Meyers is a favorite soloist with the Florida Orchestra. She may be the most elegant violinist of her generation, with impeccable technique and a sweet, singing tone on her 1730 Stradivarius.

Why we like it: This highly personal program ranges widely from popular songs such as Somewhere Over the Rainbow and Smile (composed by Charlie Chaplin for Modern Times) to pieces by Messiaen and Arvo Part to the obligatory Piazzolla to a pair of Japanese folk songs. Best of all may be the classic Schubert Fantasy in C major, with fine support from pianist Akira Eguchi.

Reminds us of: Heifetz encores

Download these: Fantasy (Schubert), Spiegel Im Spiegel (Part)

Grade: A

Boston Symphony

Album: Daphnis et Chloe (BSO Classics)

In stores: Now at

Why we care: The Boston Symphony has always been a great Ravel orchestra. Its 1955 RCA recording of Daphnis et Chloe under Charles Munch was a landmark. This is the orchestra's first live recording on its own label under music director James Levine. It's a marvelous return to form in French music.

Why we like it: Ravel's ballet is mainly known for its two orchestral suites, but it really needs to be heard in its entirety, which here includes the splendid Tanglewood Festival Chorus.

Reminds us of: Well, in some ways, of the classic BSO/Munch recording, with ravishing solos (concertmaster Malcolm Lowe and principal flute Elizabeth Rowe) throughout.

Download these: Scene 3 (tracks 17-23)

Grade: A

Morton Feldman

Album: For Christian Wolff (Bridge)

In stores: Now

Why we care: Here's a walk on the avant-garde wild side in one of the last major pieces by Feldman (1926-1987), whose music is often compared to paintings by Mark Rothko and Willem de Kooning. This three-CD opus is performed by the California E.A.R Unit, featuring flutist Dorothy Stone.

Why we like it: Call it hypnotic, or call it soporific. Feldman's homage to a fellow composer is sublimely simple, consisting of random notes on flute, piano and celesta, but over almost three hours, it definitely grows on you.

Reminds us of: New Yorker music critic Alex Ross, whose The Rest Is Noise: Listening to the 20th Century, makes the case for Feldman.

Download these: Take your pick; it all sounds much the same.

Grade: B

Tom Brantley

Album: Boneyard (Summit)

In stores: Now

Why we care: Brantley is a terrific trombonist who teaches at the University of South Florida and is a member of Rhythm & Brass. Here he is featured in newly commissioned jazz works and new arrangements of standards with some of the Tampa Bay area's best players, including guitarist LaRue Nickelson, bass Mark Neuenschwander and composer/tenor sax Jack Wilkins.

Why we like it: Brantley is a wonderfully nimble trombonist. The title piece (composed by Wilkins) was inspired by Ybor City and has a raucous yet virtuosic New Orleans groove. Chris Rottmayer adds funky Hammond B3 organ on everything from Duke Ellington's In a Mellotone to the adagio from Saint-Saens' Organ Symphony. Brantley's soulful chops are on display in Stardust and Body and Soul.

Reminds us of: Big band trombone

Download these: Boneyard, Body and Soul

Grade: B+

John Fleming's CD picks: Anne Akiko Meyers, Boston Symphony, Morton Feldman, Tom Brantley 03/21/09 [Last modified: Saturday, March 21, 2009 4:30am]
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