Summer has ended, and a new music season is swinging into action. Here are a few hints of what’s to come, gleaned from recent recordings by musicians slated to visit Boston this fall.
Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestra/Susanna Mälkki: Bartok: The Wooden Prince and The Miraculous Mandarin Suite (BIS)
There are many excellent recordings of Bartok’s “The Miraculous Mandarin,” and Mälkki’s account of the Suite is a fine addition to the collection: lyrically inclined though somewhat short on intensity. But the real find here is a sensuously played account of the composer’s “The Wooden Prince,” an earlier stage work that, unlike “Mandarin,” rarely finds its way onto orchestra programs today. Awash in color, the score shows the depth of Bartok’s debt to late Romanticism — the opening conjures the prelude to Wagner’s “Das Rheingold,” and other moments evoke the sound world of Debussy and Strauss. Underneath all that gorgeous sound, though, one hears hints of the rhythmic energy and astringent force that would shortly become a hallmark of the composer’s music. Mälkki knits all of this together with a firm grasp of the narrative unfolding amid the sonic splendor.
Susanna Mälkki conducts the Boston Symphony Orchestra in music of Fauré, Dieter Amman, Messiaen, and Debussy, Oct. 24-26. www.bso.org
Jerusalem Quartet: The Yiddish Cabaret (Harmonia Mundi)
The title of this superb release is something of a misnomer, as the only Yiddish music per se is a selection of five Polish songs from the prewar era. The arrangements (by Leonid Desyatnikov) and the renditions (by the quartet and soprano Hila Baggio) are ideally balanced between sweetness and sarcasm. The rest of the CD is devoted to works by two Jewish composers, whose relative neglect today is undeserved. Erich Korngold’s Second String Quartet is light and buoyant, its sunniness undercut by an unsettling slow movement. Erwin Schulhoff (who died in a concentration camp in 1942) is represented by his Five Pieces for String Quartet, in which dance rhythms collide with an expressionistic tonal language reminiscent of Schoenberg. The Jerusalem gives passionate and committed performances of both.
The Jerusalem Quartet performs music of Haydn, Bartok, and Brahms in the Celebrity Series of Boston on Oct. 26. www.celebrityseries.org
Attacca Quartet: Caroline Shaw: Orange (New Amsterdam/Nonesuch)
In the liner notes to this recording, Shaw, who was the youngest composer ever to win the Pulitzer Prize for Music (in 2013), uses a gardening metaphor to describe the contents. “Hints of past years’ growth remain in the soil,” she writes, “and so the new growth has been partially shaped by the old.” That is an apt portrayal of the music here, which has clear roots in the chamber music tradition yet just as clearly treats them as starting points for innovation. The Classical minuet and trio form is refashioned in surprising ways in “Entr’acte,” and there are affectionate nods to Mozart and Ravel in “Plan & Elevation.” Most impressive is an immense transformation of refrain form in “Ritornello 2.sq.2.j.a.” Regardless of the music’s historical sourcing (or lack thereof), Shaw’s chief achievement as a composer is to make everything she tries sound spontaneous, exhilarating, and free, something evident in the confident musicianship the Attacca brings to these pieces.
The Attacca Quartet performs music of Haydn, Verdi, Billy Childs, and Shaw at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum on Oct. 6. www.gardnermuseum.org
Masaaki Suzuki: Bach: English Suites (BIS)
Best known as the founder and conductor of the Bach Collegium Japan, Suzuki is also a superb harpsichordist, something he’s demonstrated through a series of recordings of the same composer’s keyboard works. In the English Suites, his phrasing and articulation are crisp without becoming mechanical. He navigates the Suites’ faster movements with virtuosic ease, even at quick (occasionally breathless) tempos. The slow movements are mesmerizing: In the Allemande from the A-major Suite and the Sarabande from the F-major, Suzuki seems almost to suspend time, letting the music float without losing a grasp of its underlying dance rhythms. Accomplishing this is challenging on the harpsichord, and Suzuki is helped by an instrument with an uncommonly rich sound.
Masaaki Suzuki conducts the Handel and Haydn Society in Handel’s “Messiah” on Nov. 29 and 30 and Dec. 1. www.handelandhaydn.org