An Arbitrary Selection of 1994 Releases
My access to new classsical releases is constrained by my checkbook,
though periodically my fundamental insanity breaks through. I'll
certainly give others' suggestions a fair shake.
In no particular order:
- Gillian Weir: Messiaen Organ Works
- Performance by the organist who Olivier Messiaen chose to
convey his complete oeuvre. Weir's playing is lyrical,
declamatory, or fluid as the music demands. Buyers beware
of the unusual 7-CD case; apparently the packing machines
routinely break the inner supporting teeth, making the jewel
- Paul Lansky: More Than Idle Chatter
- Lansky persists with his exploration of the continuum between
speech and song, as well as varying levels of sonic entropy.
This disc demonstrates the aural range offered by digital
techniques, guided by the discipline of classical composition
not to lose sight of its organic roots. In 1995, look for the
first digital release of Lansky's groundbreaking 1978 computer
composition, Six Fantasies on a Poem of Thomas Campion.
- Balanescu String Quartet: Kevin Volans String Quartets
- The "Hunter-Gatherer" quartet, which uses Zulu rhythms and
melodies, astounds me with the way the string quartet
sonorities and textures are idiomatically employed in a
- Rachel Barton: Homage to Sarasate
- Fine, secure violin technique with lipid, sweet phrasing that
would make Sarasate smile. A welcome change from the guts 'n'
gore fiddlers and repertoire that are so common these days.
- Choir of Trinity College, Cambridge: Miserere
- Extremely fine choral music in the Anglican tradition, with
sensitive phrasing and absolute control. Highlight: the choral
version of Samuel Barber's "Adagio for Strings" is sculpted out to
nearly 9 1/2 minutes, which many string ensembles could not
- Pierre Hantaïaut;: Goldberg Variations (J. S. Bach)
- Marvelous, tuneful sonorities that I've never before heard
from a harpsichord, with a well-honed global sense of pace.
- Dallas Symphony Orchestra with Jean Guillou:
Jongen Symphonie Concertante and Saint-Saëaut;ns Symphony No. 3
Part of the beginning of a stream of fine organ/symphonic works
that will be coming out of Meyerson Symphonic Center in Dallas,
arguably the best venue for such literature on the planet,
not to mention a treat for die hard audiophiles. A fitting
tribute as one of the last releases for the late Maestro
Eduardo Mata, who built up the Dallas Symphony Orchestra and
made Meyerson possible.
- Sonos Handbell Ensemble
- From a standpoint of sonics and execution, one of the best
handbell performances available in this rather limited field,
from a group based in the East Bay. The chromatic runs in
Khachaturian's "Sabre Dance" should boggle the mind of
anyone who's ever tried ringing a handbell.
- Mary Chapin Carpenter: Stones in the Road
- What MCC does best is to depict the numinousness of everyday
people and places with unquestionable integrity. It gives me
great hope for the music industry and the public at large that
such songs and artists can still succeed commercially. One
highlight: "John Doe No. 24", with Branford Marsalis lending a
soprano sax obbligato line.
- Nanci Griffith: Flyer
- Like Mary Chapin Carpenter, Griffith is good at extracting some
poignant particles of memory; her literary and poetic lyrics yield
layer upon layer of meaning. It's still fun to mine her songs, though
the production polishes away some of the immediacy and charm of her