Tuesday, December 09, 2014

Best CDs of 2014... Number 14

What a dolt I am! I forgot one. Not until I was rummaging around in my CDs (after HRH Olive the Pug knocked a few over) did I remember this recording that I planned to add to my list. I can't very well knock one off  the list after publishing it, so I will just do this supplement and add #14 to the list:

Darius Milhaud The Oresteia of Aeschylus: Agamemnon, Les choëphores, Les euménides
University of Michigan Percussion Ensemble, University of Michigan Symphony Orchestra, University of  Michigan Choral Union, Kenneth Kiesler, Conductor
Naxos 660349 3 discs

A long time ago, a strange LP of a strange sounding work "Les choëphores" caught my eye. Even though conducted by the New York Philharmonic and Leonard Bernstein, it was only available as a "Columbia Special Products" LP and thus really hard to get. My local record store tried and was told it did not exist. It finally made an appearance on CD a few years ago and I picked up a copy, but it soon disappeared from the catalog. I didn't know about the Markevitch version that was on DG occasionally. My curiosity was only partly satisfied, what about the rest of the trilogy? All the years of not being able to get it made me so damn curious about it.. you know what it is like when you can't have something.... it makes it all the more intriguing.

Finally, here it is in all its. Strange, percussive, fascinating, dramatic, violent and in-your-face glory. Great sound, great performances (the Markevitch "Les chöephores" is better than the Bernstein and in some ways better than this performance, if you want to explore them) and great fun. But good grief, NO TEXTS. What a shame, but still a landmark recording.

I should be shot for forgetting this!

Sunday, December 07, 2014

Baker's Dozen Best Recordings 2014

Well! Here we are again. It is time to reflect on the past 12 months, review the defining events of 2014, recall celebrities who have passed away and of course the best of this and that. I concentrate on the latter, leaving the obits and news analysis to the talking heads of the TV. So yes, the best recordings of 2014 list is here. As usual, since the list is mine, I make the rules. These are not always brand new recordings, sometimes they are ones I heard for the first time in 2014 or dusted off my shelf. No pop or jazz, since that is not really my thing, and I am sure I have missed some “blockbusters” because the artists or repertoire were not of interest to me. No “Dude” or Sir Simon Le Rat (sic) or other “big names” recording more Mahler or whatever they are into now. You are more likely to find recordings of Havergal Brian (none this year though) or Morton Feldman (one this time around) than Bach, Beethoven or Brahms. So with all that, here are my baker's dozen favorite recordings, as usual listed in no particular order.
Britten: Works for String Orchestra Camerata Nordica, Terje Tonnesen, Director
BIS 2060

Britten tuned 100 in 2013 and of course big box releases were plentiful. With all the big guns firing, this 2013 release escaped me until this year. I have been slow to appreciate all of Britten's works; the “War Requiem”, “Peter Grimes” and “Sinfonia da Requiem” are givens, but much of his work long has baffled or left me cold. But this charming, well performed and enlightening disc opened the string orchestra works to my enjoyment. There is nothing “simple” about the “Simple Symphony”, the Bridge Variations is a masterpiece and Lachrymae is simply beyond description. Get this disc.
Yevhen (Yeven or Evgeny) Stankovych (Stankovich): Symphonies 1, 2 and 4 Theodore Kuchar, Ukraine National Symphony Orchestra
Naxos 8555741

These are actually 1995 Marco Polo recordings re-released on Naxos. I enjoy exploring the vast unknown of 20th century Russian/Soviet Bloc music. A lot of junk was produced (even by the big names) but there are many, many jewels buried in the trash heap. Ukrainian Yevhen Stankovych (seemingly the preferred spelling) is prolific yet lyrical, dramatic and listenable. Unlike many, the ghost of Shostakovich and Prokofiev is not overwhelming, but still always there. One of the jewels hidden in the pile.

Brahms and Schumann Piano Quintets Joyce Yang, Piano/Alexander String Quartet
Foghorn Classics FCL2014

The talented Alexanders and brilliant Joyce Yang take on two towers of 19th century chamber music, the Brahms Piano Quintet in f Op 34 and the Schumann Piano Quintet in Eb op 44. Frankly any recording that elicits a positive comment about Brahms from me is worth noting. No stodgy, elegant (read dull and technical) readings here, these are gutsy, lively, exciting and maybe even a bit edgy performances. Excellent production, including concise yet informative notes.

Bartók And Kodály Complete String Quartets Alexander String Quartet
Foghorn Classics FCL2009 (3 discs)

While we have the excellent Alexanders in front of us, mention must be made of this always intelligent, intense, musical, satisfying and well recorded set. Add this to the list of recordings that challenge and maybe surpass the classic Julliard recording of the Bartók cycle. Combine the fine and less well known Kodály quartets and you have a special release indeed.

Troubadour Blue: Nils Bultmann Works for Viola. Nils Bultmann, Hank Dutt violas, Parry Karp cello, Stephen Kent, didjeridu.
Innova 851

Thanks to I Care if You Listen and my fellow contributor Jarrett Goodchild, I had the notion to listen to this disc of works by San Francisco based composer/violist Nils Bultmann. Bultmann is one of the rare composers who can open your ear while not assaulting it, his music is tonal but inventive, rhythmic and visceral. The works on this recordings will both challenge and please. One simply has to hear “From the Depths” an imaginative and strikingly beautiful set of duos for viola and didjeridu and the “10 Viola Duets” for 2 violas are as often amusing as they are fascinating.

Columbia-Princeton Electronic Music Center: Music by Babbit, Arel, Davidovsky, Luening, El-Dabh, Ussachevsky.
Columbia/Sony 3268 (Available as an ArchivMusic on demand CD)

I remember this recording, released in 1964, from my teen years as I explored classical music. I don't think I ever owned a copy, but heard it at the library where probably most of the copies ended up. But it, along with other trail blazing recordings, led me to daydream about being an electronic music composer, which of course did not come to pass. This disc was on the cutting edge of the avant garde in the 60's, but now we giggle at the almost absurd series of bleeps, buzzes, warbles and squeals that comprise the works' electronic elements. The big names of the early electronic era are here and the compositions are representative of their time.... 50 years ago... seems like yesterday. Nostalgia for the radicals out there.

American Masters: Violin Works by Mason Bates, John Corigliano and Samuel Barber. Anne Akiko Meyers, Violin, Leonard Slatkin London Symphony Orchestra
eOne 7791

Three works for violin and orchestra from three American masters who share much more than is obvious. Barber (Violin Concerto 1939) was a mentor to Corigliano (Lullaby for Natalie 2010) who was Mason Bates' (Concerto for Violin “Archeopteryx” 2012) teacher. I reviewed this disc for I Care if You Listen in November and frankly I think I was too hard on the Bates Concerto. Further listening reveals a finely crafted, tuneful work that fits and compliments the other two works. The Barber is an utter masterpiece so maybe the others pale in comparison, but in that case, so do many others. Fine, fine recording. A keeper for sure.

Stanislaw Skrowaczewski: The Complete Oehms Classics Recordings. Music of Bruckner Brahms, Beethoven, Berlioz, Schumann, Skrowaczewski and others.  Saarbrücken Radio Symphony Orchestra,  Bavarian Radio Chorus,  Saarbrücken Radio Philharmonic Orchestra, Oehms Classics 90

The great Stanislaw Skrowaczweski turned 90 in 2013 and Oehms released this wonderful set of his recordings for them late last year. Complete Beethoven, Brahms, and Bruckner and Schumann Symphonies plus some Bartok, Berlioz, the two Chopin Piano Concerti and some of Skrowaczewski's own excellent compositions. I first heard him when he was the Music Director at Minnesota and always find his performances suave, exciting and musical. My conducting god, I drove 4 hours one way to hear him do Bruckner 8 and would do it again in a heartbeat. Lucky the performance here is first rate so I can stay in tonight.

Organ Polychrome: The French School. Jan Kraybill, Organ. Casavant Organ, Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts, Kansas City, MO                                         Reference Recordings RR133

A hallmark of a great concert hall is a great organ. Not used every day, but when a work requires an organ it is nice to have one around. The Casavant here is a fine “symphonic” organ and blends well with the orchestra. As a solo it is a fine instrument, especially under the control of Jan Kraybill, who oversees it and two other wonderful organs in Kansas City. Great, idiomatic performances of many of the French masters, including Widor (thankfully not the overdone “Toccata”), Vierne, Gigout, Guilmant, Franck, Alain... et al. Lease breaking sonics to boot.

Morton Feldman String Quartet #1, Three Pieces for String Quartet, Structures for String Quartet. Flux String Quartet                                                                               Mode 269 3 discs and DVD

At a mere 90 minutes instead of the 6 hours required for String Quartet # 2, # 1 is a trifle. But what a trifle; serene, glowing, glacial, energetic, softly ringing.... one incredible sound after another. Feldman is an acquired taste, but like that of scotch, anchovies or whatever... it is worth it for those in the know. The recording perfectly captures all the subtle changes in dynamics and harmonics. The DVD allows you to hear the whole quartet without interruption. Three Pieces and Structures are also vintage Feldman and are much, much shorter. It is a cold, misty dark December evening as I write this... I think I will pull this disc out... it fits.

Miraculous Metamorphoses: Bartok, Miraculous Mandarin Suite, Prokofiev, Love for Three Oranges Suite, Hindemith, Symphonic Metamorphosis on Themes by Carl Maria von Weber. Kansas City Symphony, Michael Stern. 
Reference Recordings RR132

Performances that can stand with the best of them and sonics that sound fabulous even on my computer speakers combine for another Reference Recordings/Kansas City Symphony “hit”. One also has to give the Kansas City Symphony, Reference Recordings and all involved great credit for daring to record major standard repertoire pieces that often have some very heady competition.

Shostakovich Symphony # 14 (1969) Gal James, Soprano, Alexander Vinogradov Bass Vasily Petrenko Royal Liverpool Philharmonic                                                         Naxos 8.573132

Overall, an excellent performance but I still can not live without the Barshai led performances with Vishnevskaya/Reshetin or with Simoni/Vaneev in the Cologne recording. Barshai was there at the beginning and had the music in his veins. The Curtin/Estes Ormandy is a sentimental favorite, with some of the most impressively ghoulish cover art ever devised. I thought the Liverpool strings were a bit weak and James less impressive than Vinogradov, but other critics disagreed. Overall a fine addition to the Shostakovich canon.

Shostakovich Symphony # 13 “Babi Yar” Alexander Vinogradov, Bass, Royal Liverpool Philharmonic and Chorus                                                                               Naxos 8.573218 

If the 14th was a fine recording, then the powerful 13th was perfection. Vinogradov is dark, brooding, frightening and frightened with deep voice that is still clarion clear. The chorus is not as idiomatic as a fine Russian ensemble, but is clear and present, well blended with the other forces. This is also one recording that does not let down after the long and dramatic first movement, the other four are equal in their drama and pathos. Great performance and a fitting end to a fine cycle. Petrenko is just 38 so he may yet have an even finer cycle in store some day.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Terrain of the Heart, Song Cycles of Mark Abel

“Terrain of the Heart”
Song Cycles of Mark Abel

Jamie Chamberlin, Soprano
Ariel Pisturino, Soprano
Victoria Kirsch, Piano

Delos 3438

Look around the rock music world of New York City in the late 70's and you would likely run into a fellow named Mark Abel. He might be leading a group he created, making a record with another or maybe producing an album or two. Originally from Connecticut, Abel had studied music in California before heading back to the east coast. He returned to the Bay Area in 1983, not to produce music but to work in news journalism, eventually becoming Foreign Editor of the respected San Francisco Chronicle. Musically, during his two decades in journalism, Abel moved away from rock and pop and began to explore classical forms and concepts becoming especially focused on solo vocal music. Thus Abel melds his experience in classical, rock and song writing music into songs that are sophisticated, accessible, original and tuneful.

An accomplished writer, Abel often writes his own texts for his songs. “Terrain of the Heart” showcases three of Abel's song cycles, two of which are settings of his own text. “The Dark Eyed Chameleon” and “Rainbow Songs” use his own poetry. “Five Poems of Rainer Maria Rilke” obviously set poems by the Bohemian novelist-poet.

Musically, nothing in these three cycles would be out of place in a contemporary musical. Frequently tonally ambiguous, and contemporary in sound, they are nonetheless well crafted, emotionally complex and engaging lyric songs in the truest sense of the form.

At nearly a half hour, “ The Dark Eyed Chameleon” (2007) is the most substantial and most emotionally affecting of the three song cycles. The nearly half hour cycle tells the tale of the composer's painful break up of a long term relationship. Hints of past tragedy and loss, misunderstandings, longing, realizing the inevitable (“underneath us the ground is always shifting, unstable like our California”) and the final break (The fatal blow is struck by telephone..) permeate the lyrics to the five songs. Very theatrical in nature, “Chameleon” could be envisioned as a one actor play, but Abel's accompanying music, alternatively wistful, agonized and even confused, propels the story forward as much as the lyrics. Soprano Jamie Chamberlin, along with pianist Victoria Kirsch totally understand and are committed to the work. Chamberlin negotiates the many chromatic leaps and rapid changes of emotion and texture. Kirsch is a sensitive yet propulsive accompanist and a full partner in telling the story.

For the “Five Poems of Rainer Maria Rilke” (2004) Ariel Pisturino, soprano, takes over the vocal duties. Pisturino is gifted with a big, but clear and slightly bright voice that perfectly suits the darkly expressive poetry. Her's is a voice tailor made for art song. Of the three cycles, “Five Poems” is the most “classical” influenced, more adventurous and flexible in tempi and dynamics, befitting the more hauntingly symbolic nature of the lyrics. “In this town the last house stands” is shaded and ultimately enigmatic, the vocal lines lyrical but unsettled at the same time. The longest of the five songs, “All of you undisturbed cities” is punctuated with relentless ostinati over which Pisturino weaves the jagged melodic line, laced with impending doom. In the remaining songs,“My life is not this steeply sloping hour”,“You darkness, that I come from” and “I live my life in growing orbits”, Abel's stark and expressionistic music works in tandem with the often mysterious poetry to deliver a most satisfying yet challenging musical experience. “Five Poems” is certainly a fine addition to the song repertoire and worth repeated hearings in recordings and in recitals or concerts.

Chamberlin returns with her lighter voice (should I say less “operatic” and more “Broadway” voice and start that whole argument??) in the final four “Rainbow Songs”. More light hearted and fanciful than the other cycles, “Rainbow” could be dismissed as fluff and nothing new but for the colorful and atmospheric “La Sonnambula”, depicting a woman wandering through desolate streets looking for her lover, but doomed to never find him. “La Sonnambula” is a touch more sophisticated than many of the other songs, growing in drama, dynamics and lyrical intensity from a shadowy figure in the piano. To my ears, it is the single most effective song on the disc.

Abel's music in each of the cycles is highly chromatic and linear, the linearity and incessant forward motion showing the formidable influences of the composer's rock music roots. While appropriate to the lyrics, which, with the exception of the Rilke songs, are also rock influenced and linear in nature, the chromatic and declamatory sound world can lead to a numbing sameness if one listens to the whole 73 minute CD in one sitting. Probably best to get into this music by listening to one cycle at a time.

Delos' notes and bios are of their usual high standard as is the stellar sound engineering. There is frequently a lot going on in the songs, lyrically and musically, so the close and somewhat dry sound works well to keep everything clear. Mark Abel's website (www.markabelmusic.com) has perusal scores for all the songs for those wanting to follow along.

Perhaps this music is more influenced by Sondheim than Schubert, but that was not the composer's intention. Put all that aside, and listen to some fine, easily approachable and frequently satisfying songs.

Friday, June 06, 2014

Kansas City Symphony Verdi Requiem

The May 30 through June 1 performances of the Verdi Requiem could be summarized as “redemptive”, not just for the departed soul but for the Kansas City Symphony and Chorus, led by Music Director Michael Stern. The symphony's last performance of Verdi's 1874 masterpiece in May 2008 was problematic to be kind; the main culprits being the chorus and the totally unenthusiastic soloists. The performance was leaden, loud rather than powerful and overall disappointing. This time around in the much friendlier and spacious Helzberg Hall, a rejuvenated chorus, a seasoned orchestra and more committed soloists combined for a powerful, expressive performance.

The chorus has, in my experience, never made a more subtly expressive entrance than that of the opening, practically whispered “Requiem”. Clear, perfectly balanced, quietly powerful with excellent diction, it set the tone for the rest of the work. Most impressive was their brisk and precisely executed “Sanctus” a wickedly complex eight part fugue for double chorus. Diction was excellent throughout, despite the sheer size of the chorus, something that is not always the case. One could easily make out the Latin and if anyone was not clear of the meaning, the translations were available on a screen high above the stage.

The solo quartet was 1000% (sic) better than those in the 2008 performances. Tenor Dimitri Pittas was strong and lyrical (giving a very fine reading of the “Ingemisco” section of the “Dies Irae”) but a bit strained at times and not always able to float above the fray. Bass Jordan Bisch possessed a dark but slightly unwieldy voice and seemed a bit tentative at times. Tamara Mumford, mezzo-soprano, was quite fine with a clear yet burnished tone. The star of the quartet, soprano Amber Wagner dug into her many long solos with gusto and with resigned sweetness when needed. She alone could consistently float over the huge forces. Mumford and Wagner were superb in the “Agnus Dei” (in my opinion the most moving and sublime of all the sections of the work), sweetly blended and perfectly together, the chorus equally well integrated with the solo lines.

Stern kept the performance moving, critical in the long, episodic Dies Irae section. He viewed the work not as “Verdi's greatest opera” but as a powerful statement of the awe and fear present in the liturgy of the requiem mass. The orchestra sometimes plays second fiddle to the vocalists, but in every moment the excellent ensemble work, singing tone and steady rhythm of the orchestra provided a firm foundation for the text and drama. The stunning bass drum blows in the “Dies Irae” were powerful and resonant, whereas they can often be a muddy thud.

Much of this season has been devoted to encore performances of past seasons' favorites, re-imagined for the new concert hall. If a work ever needed a second chance it was the Verdi Requiem. It got that chance, and we were richly rewarded for it.

Friday, May 30, 2014

newEar Distant Travels


My latest review on I Care if you Listen.

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

A "Tasty" Flute Recital by Luisa Sello

The contemporary music gurus Larry and Arlene Dunn saw the program for this concert and declared it "tasty". Indeed the April 28th concert, part of the University of Missouri-Kansas City Conservatory Performance Series was quite a full meal. Italian flutist Luisa Sello's guest artist recital included four US premieres of compositions written for her, two charming turn of the twentieth century works by Casella and Chaminade and sonatas for flute and keyboard by J.S. Bach.

Sello opened the program with a fluid and elegant performance of Bach's "Sonata for Flute and Obbligato Keyboard" BWV 1030 with Karen Kushner on the piano. Purists would cringe at the modern flute and piano, but this was a crisp, clear and light performance devoid of any romantic mannerisms, yet never starkly dry either. Sello, in her remarks, compared the sonata to the languages Bach would hear in his contacts with other musicians.  The opening Andante was formal, economical German, the following Andante, Sello noted, was infused with the melodic sensuality of Spain. In the concluding Presto, Sello heard and vividly communicated the hard, chewy consonants of English invoking the rhythm of a gigue.

The Bach was a fitting opener since the next piece, Kansas City based composer Mara Gibson's "Flone", is based on Bach, specifically the "Partita for Flute" BWV 1013. Atavistic fluttering and the pizzicato of tapped keys evoke earth sounds as the theme from the Allemande of the Partita emerges and takes flight. The theme is embellished by a myriad of effects and vocalizations from Sello until it climaxes and deconstructs into fragments, returning to the earth music of the opening. A most compelling and fascinating work, with undoubtedly the best and most clever title for a piece in my memory.

Like "Flone", "Erbarme dich"  (2005) by German composer Rainer Bischof is also based on Bach;  the work's subtitle is Sicilliano on Bach's Matthaus-Passion. In this case, Bischof deconstructs the Bach fragment from its whole, returning it to nature sounds and elements of dance whereas Gibson's "Flone" has Bach emerge from the elements. "Flone" works best in this case, the Bichoff, no doubt definitively performed, sounding as if the flute is just superimposing sound effects over the Bach tune.

The charming "Barcarolla e Scherzo" for flute and piano (1903) was a revelation. Alfredo Casella (1883-1947) was a contemporary of Respighi and once as highly regarded. He was conductor of the Boston Pops for a period in the late 1920's and was instrumental in re-introducing Vivaldi to audiences. His Third Symphony (1939) was written for the Chicago Symphony and well received. But Casella thereafter returned enthusiastically to Fascist Italy and soon his reputation all but vanished. Sello's performance of this seldom heard impressionistic fantasy was liquid and flowing, the flute and piano in perfect communication. Cécile Chaminade's  Concertino, op 107 was heard in its arrangement for flute and piano. A lovely, romantic work, exquisitely performed but paling in comparison to the more adventurous and sensuous Casella.

If the Casella was a musical rocking of a little barque, Narong Prangcharoen's 2014 compostion "Lom" (Thai for "wind") provided the wind and the waves. The breathy flute evoked bamboo flutes, storms, breezes and the atmospheric sounds of nature in the work's short span. Provocative and elementally melodic, as is all the music I have heard from this fine composer who is also on the UMKC faculty.

One can always count on the prolific James Mobberly to provide a challenging and frequently humorous work for a contemporary music recital. "Respiri", (2014) also making its US premiere, was a barnstorming tour-de-force, chock full of his trademark bursts of energy, startling contrasts of tempo and volume and every musical trick in the book. Sello was inspired to doff her heels in preparation for the action. Breathing and vocalizations from the flutist plus rock-inspired key tapping take primacy over traditional melody or pitches. Sello was in total command of the flute, even ending the exhilarating piece with a little dance. One has to hand it to Mobberly, his works leave you with a satisfied smile all while challenging the ear and mind.

Karen Kushner returned to accompany Sello in the closing bookend; a charming and graceful performance of the Andante from the Bach "Sonata for Flute and Continuo" BWV 1034.

A star-studded evening for contemporary music with Gibson, Prangcharoen and Mobberly in attendance along with renowned composers Chen Yi and Zhou Long listening along in the White Recital Hall at the James C. Olsen Performing Arts Center on the UMKC campus.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Road Trip Music from The Alexander String Quartet

The road between my current home and my home town is not the most exciting in the world. Vast stretches of fertile farmland are punctuated by a few trees here and there that usually indicate the location of a small stream or a town. The winter bleakness can be starkly picturesque, the summer corn an endless wave of green, but after traversing it for as long as I have, the bloom is off the rose.

Thus faced with a trip home that would involve some late night driving, I grabbed some CDs to keep my mind alert and my bleary eyes open. One of my selections this time was a new disc sent for my perusal by the Alexander String Quartet. Readers will know I have been exploring some of their recent releases on their Foghorn Classics label and have been highly impressed by their musicality and repertoire selections. This is a bit of a different animal from the Brahms and Bartók cycles of late, a single disc released late summer 2013 of arrangements for string quartet of songs by Jerome Kern and George Gershwin. Clarinet Joan Enric Lluna joins the quartet in the Gershwin "Porgy and Bess" selections.

Usually this is not my type of thing. I prefer to hear Gershwin, Kern, Rodgers, et. al., as originally written, voice and piano preferably. I half expected the usual schmaltzy, overblown and stiff results that all to often characterize classical music's forays into "pop" idioms. But leave it to the Alexanders to find and so superbly record picture perfect arrangements of these miniature masterpieces.

Carl Davis’ (noted composer and arranger, working frequently in TV and film) arrangement of Porgy and Bess selections for clarinet and string quartet is nothing less than suave, sophisticated and totally enjoyable. Davis started with Heifetz’s arrangement of these selections for violin and piano with the clarinet taking the solo violin parts and then linking the song via brief cadenzas. Lluna is fully in tune with the sound and rhythms of Gershwin, classically elegant in "Bess You is my Woman Now", just a touch bluesy and sentimental in "Summertime" and brash and sassy in "A Woman is a Sometime Thing" and "It ain't Necessarily So". The quartet does not take a back seat to the clarinet solo but is an equal partner in stating the lush melodies and setting the moods. They also swing and sass while at the same time exhibiting their usual tight and taught ensemble.

The Kern selections have a similar pedigree. Kern's assistant Charles Miller transcribed the six songs selected and arranged by Kern for string quartet in 1942. They were first recorded on 78's in 1948 and likely are making their CD debut on this recording.

The songs ("All the Things You Are", "The Way You Look Tonight", "Bill", "The Song Is You", "Smoke Gets in Your Eyes" and "Once in a Blue Moon") are well known to anyone familiar with American song. As with the Gershwin, these are sophisticated, classical inspired arrangements, suggesting comparisons to Schubert and Schumann rather than to the "easy listening" channel or Muzak. The Alexanders capture the pathos, longing, and sadness in "Smoke.." and "Bill", the tenderness in "The Way.." and the elegance and economy of scale in each of these classic works.  The lyrics are rarely missed or, for that matter, needed.

The disc ends with the only work originally written for quartet, the charming and familiar "Lullaby" by Gershwin. Frequently heard in a full string orchestra arrangement, the original presented here is just fine, thank you, basking in lazy and languid light.

This disc, (an all too short 48 minutes, but each one a jewel) was not the sleepy elevator music so often made from these fine examples of the song writers art, but engaging enough to entertain and delight while negotiating the mind numbing Interstate Highway. Fine production and the usual complete notes too.

Gershwin and Kern
Alexander String Quartet
Joan Enric Lluna Clarinet
Foghorn Classics  CD 2008