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IVAN FISCHER/Dvorak Slavonic Dances: I can understand economics being what they are but Universal should be ashamed of themselves for not keeping this 2002 session in print under their own logo. Their loss. Channel Classics gives the set a super audio treatment with multi channel SACD surround 5.0 that puts you right in the middle of the music. Fischer and Budapest Festival Orchestra are a team to beat that can't be beaten. The two works on display here, Op. 46 and Op. 72 may be too populist for moldy fig tastes but it's the kind of stuff to bring classical tourists into the tent and get them to stay for more. A light work that isn't treated lightly, this is atavistic classical music that will remind you of being back on the floor in your parent's living room when they played stuff like this on the hi-fi and you didn't want to admit you liked it. Well done.

ANONYMOUS 4/The Cherry Tree: There's been some sassy, new Christmas albums coming out this holiday season but this is the first one we've gotten that does the middle period justice. Hymns, carols and ballads from the 15th Century fill out the program by this well respected vocal unit who knows how to perform in a way that really makes you feel like a grown up. This is what a traditional, family Christmas should sound like as Santa's zero hour approaches. Well done.

ARCANTO QUARTET/Quatours a Cordes: In which we are reminded that august composers like Debussy, Ravel and Dutilleuz knew that string quartets were not the province of French composers and tackled the form only once each. This set collects their efforts and with the miracle of imagination, vision and chops, the quartet knows how to interpret the works in such a way that it would seem this Germanic form came naturally to he French. Busy, bold and engaging in ways you don't normally find in the main of chamber music, string fans looking for a most righteous up market listening session will enjoy this to the max. Expertly and lovingly performed by players who know their stuff and want to break new ground as well.

DAVE FRANK/Portrait of New York: In acting, you seem to hear more about these behind the scenes cats that drive home the way to do things than you do in music. The recent deconstruction of everything has given instructors and teachers more of a platform to seep into our consciousness. Frank is a grand Big Apple improv pro/educator that amply shows he knows how to practice what he teaches. A snappy solo piano set whose shoestring budget is as in evidence as it's charms and merits, Frank is a whole lot of piano players rolled up in one. Up close and personal, like a Keith Jarrett solo record without the production values (as it were) (and without the blasted humming running through it like a scratch), Frank shows why he is a headliner that you never heard of, until now. Hot stuff that's hard to pigeon hole but easy to enjoy.

I WANNA PLAY/various: So Mike Huckabee and Jim Stroud get together to do a benefit record to raise funds to put musical instruments in the hands of every kid that wants one. Then they round up country stars from George Jones to Neil Sedaka (ha ha) to set up a set that is a serious record that doesn't follow any rules or live by any management notes and makes a nice way to do good for a good cause. Earthier than the usual fund raiser, it's a well done effort throughout that ought to grab your ear and raise a few bucks in the process, deservedly so.

SUSAN GRAHAM-MICHAEL TILSON THOMAS SFO/Mahler Songs with Orchestra: This comes dangerously close to being arts council music but the talents on board never let it drift that far. In foreign tongues, the Mahler songs are pleasant, if you got the translations, this stuff is way too heavy--and then it really would run into an arts council ditch. Sounding like the up market recital it is, it remains serious classical music for the serious classical music fan.

ALONDRA DE LA PARRA/Mi Alma Mexicana: Just when you thought the Mexican bicentennial would be celebrated with endless renditions of "La Cucaracha" along comes a 30 year old, lady conductor that leads the Philharmonic Orchestra of the Americas through a double cd of Mexican symphonic and classical music you don't need any previous exposure to at any level to have your jaw drop in response it all. Simply an amazing debut by an amazing talent. This must be what it felt like to be one of the first people not named Comden or Green to hear Leonard Bernstein. Classical and classical crossover fans have got to get on board.

JASWHO?/Nudroid Musik: Contemporary sound mash up by a producer that been running around behind the San Francisco scenes for the last decade. A contemporary soft edged urban date that reflects the current sound of the streets, he's as much a product of the times that shaped him as he is the future he's predicting. And who can resist the opening track homage to Stacey Q? Hey, Michael Crawford, this is the music of the night.

Volume 33/Number 355
October 23, 2010
830 W. Route 22 #144
Lake Zurich, IL., 60047
CHRIS SPECTOR, Editor and Publisher
Copyright 2010 Midwest Record

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