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John Fleming's CD picks: 'Mendelssohn: Piano Trios,' 'Andriessen: La Passione,' 'Prokofiev: The Sonatas for Piano' and 'Robert Helps: Orchestra Works'


Album: Mendelssohn: Piano Trios (Sony)

In stores: Now

Why we care: It doesn't get any starrier than the lineup here: Yo-Yo Ma, Itzhak Perlman and Emanuel Ax in two of the genial masterpieces of classical music. This is the first time the three have made a recording together. They'll play the Mendelssohn trios on PBS on May 5.

Why we like it: As you would expect from these great musicians, their account of Mendelssohn is relaxed, confident, romantic. It would be a nice introduction to chamber music and Mendelssohn, the Mozart of his age in the godlike perfection of his music.

Reminds us of: The Mendelssohn Octet, one of the greatest pieces of chamber music, and he was only 16 when he wrote it.

Download this: Piano Trio No. 1 in D Minor

Grade: A-

Louis Andriessen

Album: Andriessen: La Passione (BMOP)

In stores: Now

Why we care: Here's an excellent primer on Dutch composer Louis Andriessen, featured at this year's Robert Helps Festival at the University of South Florida. Gil Rose conducts the Boston Modern Orchestra Project with mezzo-soprano Cristina Zavalloni and violinist Monica Germino.

Why we like it: I did not know Andriessen's music beyond a CD of his opera Writing to Vermeer, and I was knocked out by hearing the fantastic Passeggiata in Tram in America e Ritorno (A Trolley Ride to America and Back) live at USF and then on this recording.

Reminds us of: Stravinsky, Arvo Part (at least Bells for Haarlem does), Poul Ruders

Download this: Passeggiata in Tram in America e Ritorno

Grade: B+


Album: Prokofiev: The Sonatas for Piano (Bridge)

In stores: Now

Why we care: Anne-Marie McDermott plays all nine Prokofiev piano sonatas plus his Sarcasms in a three-CD set. She originally made the recordings for Arabesque, but they were out of print until Bridge reissued them.

Why we like it: Prokofiev's piano sonatas are like the Shostakovich string quartets, an intimate portrait of the composer's development over a lifetime. Sonata No. 8 is the richest, Nos. 3 and 4 were composed in Russia's revolutionary year 1917, and No. 7 is an explosive onslaught on the piano.

Reminds us of: Prokofiev recordings by Martha Argerich, Sviatoslav Richter and Emil Gilels

Download this: The Precipitato (third movement) of Sonata No. 7

Grade: A

Robert Helps

Album: Robert Helps: Orchestra Works (Albany)

In stores: Now

Why we care: Robert Helps (1928-2001) was the Tampa Bay area's most distinguished composer when he taught at USF. Conductor William Wiedrich and the school's symphony orchestra pay homage with a live recording of Helps' two symphonies, his Quintet and Gossamer Noons with soprano Joanna Curtis.

Why we like it: Helps would have loved hearing his music played by his students. The performance is heartfelt and plenty respectable for a student orchestra, but wouldn't it be great to hear it on a CD by the Florida Orchestra (which premiered Symphony No. 2)?

Reminds us of: French impressionist composer Charles Koechlin

Download this: Symphony No. 2

Grade: B+

John Fleming's CD picks: 'Mendelssohn: Piano Trios,' 'Andriessen: La Passione,' 'Prokofiev: The Sonatas for Piano' and 'Robert Helps: Orchestra Works' 03/09/10 [Last modified: Tuesday, March 9, 2010 6:47pm]
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