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Top 10 Classical Albums, March 2014

by Seth Colter Walls

Top 10 Classical Albums, March 2014


Like we tend to do, your Classical Desk has put together a monthly playlist that covers several centuries' worth of style. We kick off March's mix with a stunning track from vocalist Erin Gee's new album on the Col Legno label. The composer's own vocal technique -- built out of precision-murmuring, avant-garde lullaby tones and the odd finger-in-and-out-of-mouth pop -- is the first thing you'll notice on a track like ["Mouthpiece IX part 1."] But don't forget to pay attention to Gee's dramatic writing for the Vienna Radio Symphony Orchestra players. It's so good, you'll probably go devour the whole album. (That's OK; just come back here when you're done.)

We've got old-school vocal skills, too, as you'll hear on the Mozart concert aria that kicks off Olga Peretyatko's album on Sony. Then, for some powerhouse choral action, we turn to "Who Rips His Flesh Down the Seams," from John Adams' latest religiously inspired oratorio, The Gospel According to the Other Mary. (That "other" Mary would be The Magdalene.) And though multiple sopranos turn in stirring performances in the course of that massive work, for gender balance, we've spotlighted a tenor in our playlist, too. The aria "For the Grave Cannot Praise Thee" is a rip-roaring track -- one that features Gustavo Dudamel's ace conducting of the L.A. Philharmonic almost as much as Russell Thomas, who sings the role of the rising Lazarus. (Seriously, don't miss that track.)

From there, we mix it up with two recent releases from the Boston Modern Orchestra Project: one devoted to early-modernist master George Antheil, and another focused on the late atonalist extraordinaire Milton Babbitt. (This version of Babbitt's "All Set," a piece intended for a jazz-like group, bests prior versions and makes a nice pairing with Antheil's "A Jazz Symphony.") Harder to excerpt is composer David T. Little's massively impressive Haunt of Last Nightfall, a piece for Third Coast Percussion (plus heavy metal guitarists). But the closing track will provide you with a taste of what's on offer in the rest of the long-form work. With that as well as Erich Wolfgang Korngold's lush Piano Trio No. 1, a touch of early music, and a brief bit of John Cage's chance-based radio work, the attached playlist is ready to surprise you. Check out the composer track list below while you listen -- so you'll know who wrote which piece -- and then catch up with us again, next month.

Track 1: Erin Gee, "Mouthpiece IX part 1"

Track 2: Mozart, "Ah se in ciel, benigne stelle"

Track 3: John Adams, "Who Rips His Flesh Down the Seams"

Track 4: Heinrich Isaac, "Fammi una gratia, amore"

Track 5: George Antheil, "A Jazz Symphony"

Track 6: David T. Little, "Postlude: The Girl on La Cruz"

Tracks 7-10: Erich Wolfgang Korngold, Piano Trio in D Major

Track 11: John Cage, Imaginary Landscape No. 5

Track 12: Claudin de Sermisy, "Tant que vivray"

Track 13: Adams, "For the Grave Cannot Praise Thee"

Track 14: Gee, "Mouthpiece - Segment of the 3rd Letter"

Track 15: Mozart, "Deh vieni, non tardar"

Track 16: Chris Campbell, "Lord Byron"

Track 17: Milton Babbitt, "All Set"

Track 18: Antheil, Ballet pour instruments mécaniques et percussion (original version, 1924)

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