Rossini, Riley And Remixes: New Classical CDs From sensuous-sounding Chopin to a radical remix of Terry Riley's IN C, NPR Music's Tom Huizenga and All Things Considered host Guy Raz spin a wide assortment of new classical CDs.

Rossini, Riley And Remixes: New Classical CDs

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(Soundbite of song, "La Perra Mora")

GUY RAZ, host:

We're hearing "La Perra Mora," or in English, "The Moorish Dog." It's a track off the new album by Norwegian lute player Rolf Lislevand, and it's a new pick by NPR's classical music producer Tom Huizenga. Tom is here in the studio with me.

And Tom, you've brought some new music with you. Welcome to the show.

TOM HUIZENGA: Thanks. Hello, Guy.

RAZ: This is a beautiful piece, but it's really sort of jazzy, especially for classical music.

HUIZENGA: I think what's surprising is that it's got an incredibly hip groove for something that was written in the 16th century.

RAZ: Very hip for 16th century.

HUIZENGA: I think what's cool about it is that the arranger and the lute player, Rolf Lislevand, has arranged these old tunes, and this one in particular, in a jazzy way, where each instrumentalist actually gets a chance to step out and take a solo.

(Soundbite of song, "La Perra Mora")

HUIZENGA: This solo is from this low-pitched lute instrument called the Colascione.

RAZ: Who thought they did jazz solos in the Renaissance Period?

HUIZENGA: I don't know. It sounds great to me.

RAZ: Okay, Tom, next up, there's a new recording you brought for us, a new recording of Chopin.

(Soundbite of song, "Waltz in B Minor")

HUIZENGA: This is by the Argentine pianist Ingrid Fliter. And one critic about a year ago said she's the best pianist you've never heard of. That's not entirely true, as piano freaks have known about her since she won the Gilmore Award in 2006. This is now her second Chopin CD, and she's really a great Chopin player.

RAZ: Help me understand what - I mean, this is an absolutely gorgeous version of this piece, "Waltz in B Minor," but there have been many versions of this recording made. What makes this different or better?

HUIZENGA: Right, hundreds of versions, I'm sure. I think for me, at least personally, a lot of what makes Chopin great is it's all about the rubato, and that is just a fancy term for the elasticity of the line, of the phrasing, and so some pianists can stretch the line out too far, and then it can become slow and maudlin, and it can collapse under its own weight. Other pianists don't employ enough rubato, and then the sound is kind of cool and antiseptic and mechanical, and I think Ingrid Fliter is just right, and this idea of rubato is lingering on notes, how you stretch it out.

Actually, let's just racket back up to the top. Let's just go back to the top, and from the very first note, listen to how the first note relates to the second note.

(Soundbite of song, "Waltz in B Minor")

HUIZENGA: Hear how she just lingered on that first note?

RAZ: She sort of lets it stretch out.


RAZ: Exactly as you described.

HUIZENGA: That's where all the color and emotion comes in, I think.

RAZ: That's nice.

Tom, there is a piece of music you brought for us that might have some cross-generational appeal, I hope it does. I mean, talk about electronica meets classical here.

(Soundbite of song, "Terrycloth Troposphere Masonic")

HUIZENGA: I just love this new record. It just came in Tuesday of last week, so I just opened it up. And it's a good example of classical music in the age of Web 2.0.

This is the Grand Valley State University New Music Ensemble.

RAZ: This is in Michigan.

HUIZENGA: Right, out in the cornfields of Allendale, Michigan. And a couple of years ago, they performed and recorded Steve Reich's "Music for 18 Musicians," another seminal piece of minimalist music. They made a couple of YouTube videos about it, which to date have had about 500,000 hits, created all this buzz. Now, what they've done is they've recorded Terry Riley's "IN C," which some people think of as the very first piece of minimalist music, and then they have asked some guest artists to come and remix what they did.

RAZ: So these are not actually composers that we're hearing, they're people who've remixed music.

HUIZENGA: Well, that's the nice thing. Some are composers. They straddle this world of classical and kind of alt-classical. Some are composers, but there are also DJs, like Mason Bates, who is a gentleman who has a career as a DJ, but he is also now going to be the composer-in-residence for the Chicago Symphony Orchestra.

RAZ: And what we're hearing is a remix by Mason Bates. It's called "Terrycloth Troposphere Masonic." And Tom, you brought the unadulterated, original version of this, and I want to hear it for a moment.

(Soundbite of song, "IN C")

HUIZENGA: So this is a little of what Mason Bates and some of the other artists who remixed this music got to work with. It's also on this two-CD set. So you get the remixes, and you get this straight version of Terry Riley's "IN C."

RAZ: I've got to hear the remix of this again.

(Soundbite of song, "Terrycloth Troposphere Masonic")

HUIZENGA: It's kind of this eerie, string sound floating in mid-air above all these kind of nervous rumblings, and then it slips into a major groove.

RAZ: How he took that and turned it into this, I do not know. It's really amazing. It's really nice.

(Soundbite of song, "D'Amor Al Dolce Impero")

RAZ: Okay, Tom, before we let you go, you brought us some opera.

HUIZENGA: Absolutely.

RAZ: And this is a cut by an American singer. Her name is Joyce DiDonato.

(Soundbite of song, "D'Amor Al Dolce Impero")

Ms. JOYCE DiDONATO (Singer): (Singing in foreign language)

HUIZENGA: I just love Joyce DiDonato. Last year, she put out a Handel CD, and it was one of my favorites, and about four years ago, I saw her sing in Paris, when hardly anybody knew about her, and I thought wow. Where has this woman been all my life?

And now, she has a second CD out that's all music of Rossini. And what you should listen to in her voice is there's nothing studied about it. There's no strain, no pinched notes, no aspirates, that is no extra breath coming out with the notes. And just the tambour and color of her voice, a great combination of cream and brushed silver. And listen to what she does in the single word. In this section, she's talking about how love is everywhere. Even the wild creatures, there's love in the wild, and even the plants are made fecund by love, and this word feconde, she goes up and down and colors it just beautifully.

(Soundbite of song, "D'Amor Al Dolce Impero")

Ms. DiDONATO: (Singing in foreign language).

RAZ: And Tom, before we started this conversation, you actually suggested that I check out her personal blog, which I did. And she's like this totally down-to-earth kind of informal, very un-opera-like´┐Ż

HUIZENGA: She calls herself the Yankee Diva, and she's a trooper, too. And last July, she broke her leg on stage at the beginning of Rossini's "Barber of Seville," and she didn't really know how bad she had injured herself. And she kept on it for three hours through the rest of the opera, and then went to the hospital afterward.

RAZ: Unbelievable. That's Tom Huizenga. He is the classical music producer for NPR Music. That's our online music discovery site.

Tom, thanks for bringing us these picks.

HUIZENGA: Thank you, Guy.

(Soundbite of song, "D'Amor Al Dolce Impero")

Ms. DiDONATO: (Singing in foreign language).

RAZ: You can hear all the pieces we played in their entirety and discover a lot more classical music at our Web site,

(Soundbite of song, "D'Amor Al Dolce Impero")

Ms. DiDONATO: (Singing in foreign language).

RAZ: And for Sunday, that's ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Guy Raz. I'll be off next week for the holiday, but my colleague Robert Smith will be here. Until then, happy Thanksgiving to all of you.

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