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Top 10 Classical Albums, May 2014

by Seth Colter Walls

Top 10 Classical Albums, May 2014


We always strive to bring you music from a wide range of composers in our monthly classical roundups, but this month's collection of sound is especially eclectic. That's in part because the Kronos Quartet alone sampled from musical traditions of 14 different countries in their latest release, A Thousand Thoughts. The whole album is worth a listen, but in our playlist, we've chosen two pieces to spotlight: composer-trombonist Jacob Garchik's arrangement of Syrian vocalist (and legend) Omar Souleyman's uptempo tune "La Sidounak Sayyada," plus Terry Riley's "Cry of a Lady," written for the quartet and including the iconic voices of the Le Mystère des Voix Bulgares group.

Click play on our mix, and you'll hear those pieces -- as well as Magdalena Kozená singing Bach, conductor Yannick Nezet-Seguin leading the Chamber Orchestra of Europe through Schumann's underrated Symphony No. 3, and Maurizio Pollini's imposing new recording of Brahms' second piano concerto.

Solo keyboard music -- from across the centuries -- makes up a significant portion of this month's mix, too. We've got harpsichordist Mahan Esfahani taking on William Byrd, Bach and Gyorgy Ligeti. (The latter's "Hungarian Rock" actually sounds, for the first time, like a groover, at least in Esfahani's hands.) Robert Satterlee tackles some recent piano pieces by Frederic Rzewski, including a powerhouse reading of the composer's setting of Oscar Wilde's De Profundis. And Jerome Lowenthal brings a madcap range of styles to some midcareer music by George Rochberg. (The composer's five Carnival Music pieces, written in 1971, contain a wealth of textures, including atonal marches, bluesy harmonies and some pensive movements. Find them in track positions 5-9 in our playlist.)

Moving through the mix, you'll also encounter Stravinsky's Apollon musagète ballet, new quasi-pop/quasi-postminimalist compositions from Jacob Cooper, and some fanciful interpretations of old tunes by Henry Purcell. You're bound to discover a new obsession or two. Consult the composer tracklist below in order to keep straight who wrote what, and enjoy!

Track 1: Omar Souleyman (arranged by Jacob Garchik), "La Sidounak Sayyada"
Track 2: Henry Purcell, "Strike the Viol"
Track 3: Bach, "Kommt, Seelen, dieser Tag" BWV 479
Track 4: Jacob Cooper, "Antique Windfall"
Tracks 5-9: George Rochberg, Carnival Music
Tracks 10-14: Schumann, Symphony No. 3
Track 15: Terry Riley, "Cry of a Lady"
Tracks 16-18: Gyorgy Ligeti, works for harpsichord
Track 19: Bach, "Die gulde Sonne" BWV 451
Track 20: Cooper, "Wefted Histories"
Track 21: Purcell, "O let me weep"
Tracks 22-31: Stravinsky, Apollon musagète
Tracks 32-33: William Byrd, Pavan and Galliard No. 2 in C minor
Track 34: Frederic Rzewski, De Profundis
Tracks 35-38: Brahms, Piano Concerto No. 2

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