Monday, December 11, 2017
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John Fleming's classical CD picks: Jan DeGaetani & Gilbert Kalish, Brooklyn Rider, Shai Wosner, Johannes Moser

Jan DeGaetani

Album: Jan DeGaetani & Gilbert Kalish in Concert (Bridge)

Why we care: This two-CD historic release documents one of the great American musical partnerships. Pianist Kalish is still going strong, but mezzo-soprano DeGaetani, who died at 56 in 1989, is in danger of being forgotten. She was a beautiful, expressive interpreter of vocal works by modern composers such as George Crumb, Peter Maxwell Davies and Jacob Druckman.

Why we like it: Mostly from a 1987 recital, DeGaetani and Kalish cover a wide range of music, including songs of Beethoven, Richard Strauss, Poulenc and Debussy, a Haydn cantata and works by Gershwin, Crumb, Kenneth Frazelle and Stanley Walden.

Reminds us of: Lorraine Hunt-Lieberson, another mezzo-soprano lost too soon.

Download these: Amoureuses, Night

Grade: B+

Brooklyn Rider

Album: Seven Steps (In a Circle Records)

Why we care: Something like a golden age of youthful string quartets is going on, and Brooklyn Rider is one of the most successful. Here, group members find inspiration in Beethoven's towering Op. 131 quartet — unusual in its seven-movement structure — to improvise their own work, Seven Steps. They also perform a mysterious new quartet (with AM radio) by Christopher Tignor, Together Into This Unknowable Night.

Why we like it: Yes, the Beethoven quartet is amazing, and the Brooklynites play it well, but there is no shortage of classic interpretations out there. Seven Steps is an interesting project, but the prize here is the Tignor quartet.

Reminds us of: Brucknerian blocks of sound.

Download this: Together Into This Unknowable Night

Grade: B

Shai Wosner

Album: Schubert: Piano Sonatas D840 & D850 (Onyx)

Why we care: It will be interesting to follow how the career of this young Israeli pianist develops. In his second CD for Onyx, Wosner brings an uncommonly thoughtful style to this recital of Schubert works that, he points out in well-written liner notes, had their origins in the composer's rare forays away from his hometown of Vienna.

Why we like it: Wosner combines great sound with an incisive grasp of musical architecture in pillars of the Schubert piano repertoire, the incomplete Sonata in C and the massive (40 minutes long) Sonata in D. He adds a pair of short pastoral works.

Reminds us of: The approach of another brainy piano virtuoso, Alfred Brendel.

Download these: Six German Dances, Sonata in D

Grade: A-

Johannes Moser

Album: Shostakovich and Britten Cello Concertos (Hanssler)

Why we care: This is a valuable coupling of two great 20th century cello concertos, Shostakovich's Cello Concerto No. 1 and Britten's Symphony for Cello and Orchestra. The composers were friends, and both wrote their concertos for Mstislav Rostropovich. Here Moser, a German-Canadian cellist, is the soloist with the WDR Symphony Orchestra Cologne, conducted by Pietari Inkinen.

Why we like it: Moser provides a fascinating primer on Shostakovich and Britten. For some listeners, the Britten concerto is more adventurous, but the Shostakovich is the more accessible, popular work.

Reminds us of: Unavoidably, the classic Rostropovich recordings of both concertos.

Download these: You have to hear both.

Grade: B+

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