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Classical notes | David Weininger

From Philip Glass to folk-inspired violin, sounds for the summer

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As the summer music season gets underway in earnest, here are reviews of recent recordings by local ensembles and artists, as well as some who will be performing in the area in the coming weeks.


Circles: Piano Concertos by Bach + Glass (Orange Mountain Music)

One of the new-music highlights of the previous season was the premiere of Philip Glass’s Piano Concerto No. 3 by the Jamaica Plain-based chamber orchestra A Far Cry and pianist Simone Dinnerstein. Opening with a series of quietly rippling piano chords and delicate accompaniment from the strings, the concerto, heard here in its debut recording, offers lucid evidence of the influence of Romanticism in Glass’s recent music. It’s there in the music’s chromatically inflected harmony as well as its almost Chopinesque sense of tempo rubato. The final movement, dedicated to composer Arvo Pärt, is cyclical and static in a way that’s closer to Glass’s earlier work, yet the mood is so perfectly sustained by Dinnerstein and the orchestra over 13 minutes that the music still seems to retain its wandering spirit. The recording pairs the new work with Bach’s Keyboard Concerto No. 7, in which the intimacy of the musicians’ partnership is clear.

A Far Cry performs at the Rockport Chamber Music Festival on July 7 (www.rockportmusic.org) and the Newport Music Festival on July 8 (www.newportmusic.org).



Peter Child: Shanti (BMOP/sound)

The three works by Peter Child on this new release demonstrate the MIT composer’s remarkable stylistic diversity. Billed as a concert overture, “Jubal” packs the material of a four-movement symphony into a 15-minute span, filled with whirlwind motivic development, dense harmonies, and orchestra writing of Mahlerian exuberance. “Adirondack Voices” takes as its starting point three folk songs from the Adirondack Region of New York; these give the music strong tonal roots and a spaciousness reminiscent of Copland, though there are intimations of danger in the final movement, “The Jam on Gerry’s Rock.” The title work, “Shanti,” is an eight-movement suite based on scales and modes from Indian music, with each movement illustrating one of the core concepts (or “rasas”) of Indian music. Here Child’s music reaches its greatest expressive breadth, from quiet trance to blazing outbursts that distantly recall Messiaen’s ecstatic visions. Whatever echoes of past composers are audible, Child’s voice is abundantly evident. BMOP’s performances live up to their usual high standard, and the brass playing is outstanding.



Four Strings Around the World
(Sono Luminus)

It was Irina Muresanu’s difficulty in playing “The Cricket Dance” — an Americana-flavored violin piece by Mark O’Connor of no more than intermediate difficulty — that led to this illuminating release. The problem wasn’t technical, for a player of Muresanu’s abilities; it was instead, she decided, an unfamiliarity with the work’s idiom. Curiosity about styles from different parts of the world led to this collection of solo violin music, from a variety of countries. Familiar works, such as Paganini’s Caprice No. 24 or Bach’s Chaconne, here seem like lesser attractions; the real revelations come in works that reframe and transform national traditions, such as the pulsing Irish dance rhythms and droning double stops of “Tar Éis an Caoineadh’” by Dave Flynn, or the bent notes and grinding dissonances of “Calligraphy No. 5” by Iranian composer Reza Vali. Muresanu plays each work with fidelity to its distinctive character. When “The Cricket Dance” arrives at the end, it bounces along effortlessly, just as O’Connor must have intended.


Irina Muresanu performs “Four Strings Around the World” at the Newport Music Festival on July 17 (www.newportmusic.org).


Haydn: Piano Sonatas Nos. 32, 40, 49 50 (Harmonia Mundi)

Sometimes great performances are less about experiencing musical works in a wholly novel way than about hearing a performer make discerning, unerringly tasteful judgments. Such is the case with these renditions of four Haydn piano sonatas by Paul Lewis, a matchless interpreter of the classical repertoire from Haydn to Brahms. In each of them, Lewis knows exactly what side of this complex composer to bring out. While many musicians key in to Haydn’s wit, Lewis is also attuned to this music’s moments of easy lyricism, and he can also lend it a boldness that foreshadows early Beethoven. Some of these sonatas end in elegant simplicity rather than any grand statement, and Lewis, to his credit, never tries to make more of the music than what’s there. A quiet display of impeccable musicianship.

Paul Lewis launches a multi-year survey at Tanglewood of piano works by Haydn, Beethoven, and Brahms on Aug. 2 (www.tanglewood.org).

David Weininger can be reached at globeclassicalnotes@gmail.com. Follow him on Twitter @davidgweininger.