by: Hobert Taylor
Simone Dinnerstein - Broadway-Lafayette (Ravel-Lasser-Gershwin) - (Sony Classical)
Performing here with the MDR Leipzig Radio Symphony Orchestra conducted by Kristjan Jarvi, pianist Dinnerstein is a rising star in the post generic world of virtuoso performers whose tastes are broad and minds are open. Famous for her reinventions of Bach ("Strange Beauty", "Bach: Inventions & Sinfonias") as well as for her collaboration with singer-songwriter Tift Merritt, ("Night"), Dinnerstein brings her clear and distinctive voice to two early 20th century Jazz /Classical hybrids, the Gershwin war horse "Rhapsody in Blue" and Ravel's answer, "Piano Concerto in G major". Bridging these is a commissioned work by Franco-American composer Philip Lasser.
Dinnerstein plays all of these with an authority and assuredness one would associate with an Old Master, not a Young Turk. Passionate and brilliant at once, she has found a wonderful pairing with the Leipzing MDR Radio Symphony Orchestra, conducted by another rising star, Kristjan Jarvi who has been at L.A. Phil as an assistant conductor. The orchestra is crisp and tightly reined and expressive and fluid in turns.
The Ravel balances between his emblematic romanticism and the harder edge blues infused influences that came from his time spent in America. The Gershwin alternates between a faithful re-creation of the Paul Whiteman/Gershwin arrangement full of small ensemble delicacy in the midst of orchestral lushness with post modern cadenzas snuck in between. Between these on the disc these is a new piece by Philip Lasser, "The Circle and the Child". Here gorgeous melodies gently ebb and flow like neap tide on a Normandy beach.
Jonathon Biss - Beethoven Piano Sonatas Vol. 4 Nos. 1,6,19, & 23 – Appassionata - (Self Released)
A protege of Leon Fleisher and instructor at the renowned Curtis Institute, Biss is noted for immersing himself in the works of one composer. He is currently recording all of Beethoven's 32 piano sonatas. These performances are masterful and dynamic My favorite moments on the disc occur during Sonata No. 1, the third movement (Prestissimo).
Kondonassis/Vieaux - Together - (Azica)
Harpist Yolanda Kondonassis and guitarist Jason Vieaux focus on 20th century compositions by Alan Hovhaness, Xavier Montsalvatge, Maximo Diego Pujol, and two commissioned works by Gary Shocker and Keith Fitch. The conversation between the two instruments is so intimate and harmonious that while it is easy to distinguish between the timbre of the instruments, it is difficult to distinguish between their emotional resonances. Whether on the flamenco influenced melodic arabesques or during the percussive and staccato passages, these musicians argue that on plus one does not equal two; one plus one equal a greater one.
Anna Shelest - Spirit and Romance - (Sorel Classics)
With a program of Bach, Liszt, Schubert, Wagner, and Schumann, this disc displays this pianists range of talents. I particularly like the Chaconne from Partita No. 2 in D minor by Bach, (originally for solo violin but arranged for piano by Busoni). Imagine icicles melting on the first day of spring.