Suggestions for a good classical CD

  • Article by: LARRY FUCHSBERG , Special to the Star Tribune
  • Updated: December 11, 2010 - 2:55 PM

A handful of discs that caught my attention in the past year.

Far from a comprehensive compilation, this list is an arbitrary one -- a handful of discs that caught my attention in the past year.

STEVE REICH: Double Sextet and "2x5." eighth blackbird (in Double Sextet) and Bang on a Can (in "2x5.") Nonesuch CD

Is there life in minimalism still? If you're Steve Reich, the answer is yes. His Double Sextet, written for eighth blackbird, won the 2009 Pulitzer Prize; the Pulitzer committee praised it for channeling "an initial burst of energy into a large-scale musical event." Reich's devotees will probably prefer "Music for 18 Musicians" (1974-76), but this latest CD, which also offers the rock-infused "2x5," engages the mind. Polished performances, illuminating notes.

ASAKO HIRABAYASHI: "The Harpsichord in the New Millennium." With Gina DiBello, violin, and Gail Olszewski, fortepiano. Albany CD

The year's sleeper comes from Twin Cities harpsichordist and composer Asako Hirabayashi, who makes a strong case for her instrument's third-millennium credentials. A deft mimic, conjuring and sometimes combining a striking range of styles, she also has a voice of her own, whimsical and touching. And she plays (as do her excellent partners) with the rhythmic suppleness characteristic of the best harpsichordists. A delight!

HAYDN: Piano Sonatas 47, 53 and 60; other works. Yevgeny Sudbin, piano. BIS CD

I've had reservations about Yevgeny Sudbin's accounts of Beethoven's piano concertos with the Minnesota Orchestra, but the young Russian's generous new disc of Haydn sonatas and other solo piano pieces (including a three-minute "pianistic impression" of the "Lark" Quartet's finale) is an unmitigated pleasure. Sudbin seems preternaturally attuned to the quirkiness and wit of this underplayed repertoire. Why not record it all?

Gidon Kremer, Kremerata Baltica: "De Profundis" (music by Schubert, Schumann, Sibelius, Shostakovich, Schnittke and seven others). Nonesuch CD

A cry from the depths, this CD is dedicated "to all those who refuse to be silenced." Kremer, one of the world's foremost violinists, has recorded a dozen short pieces that rattle our common cage, and has clearly devoted much care to their selection and sequence. (The potent title track is by Raminta Serksnyté, a young Lithuanian.) Kremerata Baltica plays from the heart; the disc is a salve for the spirit in a chilly time.

"BACH & FRIENDS." Michael Lawrence Films, two DVDs. (Available from mlfilms.com)

This two-hour potpourri of interviews and performances, featuring the likes of Bobby McFerrin and Joshua Bell, has its share of weaknesses. It's star-struck and sometimes gushy; it lacks a seasoned documentarian's guiding hand; it ignores Bach's sacred music. But as a partial survey of 21st-century Bach reception, it has much to offer. For someone new to Bach, or to the Bach literature, it may be just the ticket.

Larry Fuchsberg writes regularly about music.

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