Amid reports of insolvent symphony orchestras, lackluster box-office receipts and sagging CD sales, classical music is still very much alive. Classical blogs, social-media sites and listservs are only a few of the many resources fans are using to share and discover new and old music. And, despite declarations that the classical recording industry is stagnating, the flow and variety of appealing CDs remains strong — a few dozen discs cross my desk each week. Below is a sample of the many recent, intriguing classical releases.
Rossini, Riley And Remixes: New Classical CDs
La Perra Mora (El Cancionero de Medinaceli)
La Perra Mora
Song: La Perra Mora (El Cancionero de Medinaceli)
by Rolf Lislevand
This anonymous tune from Spain packs a surprisingly hip groove, given that it's about 450 years old. Lutenist Rolf Lislevand arranges the piece in a jazzy way, with fellow musicians taking solos as if they were playing in a jazz combo. Listen for the funky solo (about 30 seconds in) by Bjorn Kjellemyr on the Colascione, a low-pitched member of the lute family. The organ follows along, note by note, in a higher register.
Waltzes (2) for piano, Op. 69, CT. 215-216 [No. 2 in B minor]
Waltz in B minor, Op. 69
Song: Waltzes (2) for piano, Op. 69, CT. 215-216 [No. 2 in B minor]
from Chopin: Complete Waltzes
by Ingrid Fliter
This young Argentine pianist has been slowly acquiring fans -- and a modicum of fame -- since winning the Gilmore Artist Award in 2006. Chopin, for me, is all about rubato -- how pianists stretch or shrink notes and phrases. Too much rubato and the music collapses under its own weight. Too little, and it becomes mechanical and lifeless. Fliter's rubato brings out the poet in Chopin.
The "Yankee Diva," as she calls herself on her blog, got a lot of press last summer when she soldiered on for three hours after breaking her leg in the first act of The Barber of Seville in London. But with her excellent Handel album last year, and now this all-Rossini disc, DiDonato is finally getting the worldwide recognition she deserves, for her voice -- a natural-sounding instrument of cream and brushed silver. Listen to what she can do with a single word, like "feconde" in this aria from Armida.
If it weren't for YouTube, far fewer people would know about the GVSU New Music Ensemble, quietly ensconced amid the cornfields of western Michigan at Grand Valley State University. The group's videos have attracted more than 500,000 views. This new 2-CD set features a "straight" version of Terry Riley's minimalist classic IN C, plus 18 remixes of the music by such classical genre-straddlers as Nico Muhly and Mason Bates.