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New and noteworthy

MUSIC | Reviews of four albums


New and noteworthy
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The Flutefancier’s Delight 

Acanthus Baroque, Magdalena Spielmann

With the exception of Handel, whose “Ah! mio cor!” and Sonata in F account for just under a third of the 66 minutes, and possibly “Anonymous,” none of this program’s Baroque-era composers are overrepresented in the current repertoire. And only one, James (aka Jacques) Paisible, is especially known for works featuring the instrument that Magdalena Spielmann, as accompanied by the top-billed violin-cello-harpsichord trio, makes sing: the recorder. Light, elegant, crisp, precise—and, for all 4:06 of Anonymous’ ineffably sorrowful “The Lost Heart,” moving in the extreme.


Tales From Sardinia: Music for Flute and Guitar

Cordas et Bentu Duo

How do the flutist Francesca Appedu and the guitarist Maria Luciani love Sardinia? Let us count the ways. First, all six of this album’s pieces have Sardinian themes (such as the uniquely Sardinian fairies known as the janas). Second, each piece is dedicated by its Sardinian or Sardinian-by-association composer to the duo. Third, “Cordas et Bentu Duo” means “strings and wind duo” in Sardinian. None of which would matter if the playing weren’t supernally lovely, yearning, and haunting by turns. It is.


Rhapsody in Blue

Béla Fleck

Rhapsody in Blue turns 100 this year. So, yes, prepare for more new recordings of Gershwin’s magnum opus than you’ll know what to do with, and, no, do not consign this one to the heap. If you do, you’ll miss the world’s preeminent (only?) progressive banjo player, Béla Fleck, coming at the piece from three different angles: bluegrass (with Justin Moses, Michael Cleveland, Brian Sutton, and Sierra Hull), banjo with 74-piece orchestra (the Virginia Symphony Orchestra to be precise), and blues (with Jerry Douglas, Sam Bush, and Victor Wooten). You could say that the other two Gershwin compositions totaling seven minutes break up the monotony. Only there isn’t any monotony to break up.


Sea Songs

Bryn Terfel

Operatic baritones singing pop tunes we don’t need, but with pop as old as these folk songs and shanties—well, that’s a different matter, particularly with fiddle, bagpipes, accordion, and whistle augmenting the acoustic guitar and double bass. And although the heartily joyful predominates (“Drunken Sailor,” “The Wellerman,” “Whisky, Johnny!”), the heartbreakingly elegiac makes itself known and, more importantly, felt (“Bold Riley,” “Leave Her, Johnny”).


Lara Downes

Lara Downes Photo by Rik Keller

Encore

An intellectual, goes an old joke, is someone who can hear Rossini’s William Tell Overture without thinking of the Lone Ranger. Nowadays, it’s also anyone who can hear Rhapsody in Blue without thinking of United Airlines. And if you haven’t yet reached that level of sophistication but would like to, consider immersing yourself in the classical pianist Lara Downes’ new digital-only Rhapsody in Blue Reimagined (Pentatone).

Featuring creative new interpolations by the Puerto Rican composer Edmar Colón as well as the playing of the percussionist John Santos and one orchestra apiece from San Francisco and China, the reimagining doubles the length of Arthur Fiedler’s original unabridged recording of 1935 en route to reflecting and putting a positive musical spin on America’s changing cultural landscape circa 2024. One caveat for the intellectuals: Downes’ accompanying commentary track, in which she uses the terms “melting pot” and “kaleidoscope” interchangeably, includes pro-open-borders dog whistles. —A.O.


Arsenio Orteza

Arsenio is a music reviewer for WORLD Magazine and one of its original contributors from 1986. Arsenio resides in China.

@ArsenioOrteza

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