1994 Records To Die For Page 3

Carl Baugher

LEROY JENKINS: The Legend of Ai Glatson
Leroy Jenkins, violin; Anthony Davis, piano; Andrew Cyrille, drums
Black Saint BSR 0022 (LP), 120022-2 (CD). Giacomo Pellicciotti, Walter Prati, prods.; "Michel" Carlo Assalini, Carlo Martenet, engs. AAA/AAD. TT: 37:27

This 1978 gem is one of the boldest, most innovative jazz releases of the past 20 years. Jenkins, the most important improvising violinist after 1960, plays with passion and intelligence, while acclaimed pianist Davis and drummer-great Cyrille anticipate his every move. The compositions are as forward-looking as the solos. While many of today's jazz practitioners yearn for the "good old days," Jenkins courageously looks toward the future. This recording gets everything right. The LP is smoother, warmer, and more acoustically honest, but the CD suffers little by comparison.

LUTOSLAWSKI: Piano Concerto Chain 3, Novelette
Krystian Zimerman, piano; Witold Lutoslawski, BBC SO
DG 431 664-2 (CD only). Dr. Steven Paul, Wolfgang Stengel, Christian Gansch, prods.; Helmut Burk, Gernot von Schultzendorff, Rainer Hebborn, engs. DDD. TT: 55:17

Lutoslawski's Piano Concerto (1987) may prove to be one of this century's towering works for keyboard and orchestra. With the composer himself conducting, Zimerman plays with alternating heat and delicacy. The brilliant yet warmly detailed recording presents a forward piano with the strings providing a cushion of luxurious support. The lesser, but by no means trifling, readings of Chain 3 and Novelette add to the disc's vitality and appeal. This music's broad dynamic range and emotional depth are at times overwhelming. Thrilling.

Robert E. Benson

Liszt: Hungarian Rhapsody 2. Enesco: Romanian Rhapsody 1. Smetana: The Moldau, The Bartered Bride Overture. Wagner: Overture & Venusberg Music from Tannhäuser, Prelude to Act III from Tristan und Isolde
Leopold Stokowski, RCA Victor SO/Symphony of the Air
RCA Victor 61530-2 (CD only). Peter Delheim, John Pfeiffer, prods.; Robert Simpson, Lewis Layton, engs. ADD. TT: 75:29

Stokowski's prowess is apparent in this superb collection of some of his finest recordings of the early '60s. He managed to make a pick-up orchestra (with superlative players) sound like one of the world's greatest ensembles. Interpretively, the Tannhäuser excerpts do not erase Stokowski's unique 1937 Philadelphia recording, but they're still magnificent, and no one brings more luxurious textures to the Liszt and Enesco Rhapsodies than Stokowski. These recordings, made in the Manhattan Center, are sonically stunning and easily superior to most recent digital recordings made in the same venue.

BANTOCK: Celtic Symphony, The Witch of Atlas, The Sea Reivers, A Hebridean Symphony
Vernon Handley, Royal PO
Hyperion CDA66450 (CD only). Martin Compton, prod.; Tony Faulkner, eng. DDD. TT: 73:30

The music of Sir Granville Bantock (1868-1946) has been unjustly overshadowed by the works of such of his contemporaries as Strauss, Debussy, and Sibelius. Hyperion is correcting this situation, partly with this utterly magnificent recording of Bantock's masterpiece, A Hebridean Symphony, along with the Celtic Symphony (scored for six harps and strings) and two short tonepoems. Bantock's orchestration is equal to that of R. Strauss---replete with rich textures, and vividly captured by the engineers. Hebridean Symphony's scherzo and storm sequences have spectacular French horn sound and should become famous as demonstration recordings. (XVI-2)

Les Berkley
I noticed, on going through previous R2D4s, that some nameless members of this staff have cheated (I tremble at the thought) by including performances that fail to truly qualify, usually on the basis of sound. I, of course, would never commit such an abhorrent act, so I am emphatically not including Loreena McKennitt's The Visit (Warner Bros. 26880-2)---even though I've listened to it about 50 times this year and cannot get it out of my head---because the sonics really don't make it (or even come close). I am, as the Bard says, the very paramour of virtue.

Truth is, this whole concept is a bit silly---I wouldn't die for some dumb LP or CD, but if I do shuffle off for some nobler cause---like the abolition of vinyl siding, for example---I will know I'm in Heaven if I hear the voice of Emma Kirkby.

DOWLAND: The English Orpheus
Emma Kirkby, soprano; Anthony Rooley, lute, orpharion
Virgin VC 7 90768-2 (CD only). Nicholas Parker, prod.; Tim Handley, eng. DDD. TT: 57:39

I've said it often enough: this is the best Dowland recital on record---all of that late-Elizabethan melancholy sung to glorious perfection by the divine Emma. I doubt they would play this Down Below, but if they did, Lucifer might weep. The sound is the finest I've heard yet from the peripatetic Forde Abbey. (XVI-6)

JOHN RENBOURN: Ship of Fools
Flying Fish FF 466 (LP), FF 70466 (CD; not heard). Mitch Greenhill, prod.; Ian Dent, David Edwards, engs. AAA.

Possibly the best of Renbourn's post-Pentangle efforts, certainly the best-sounding of his releases. A fine collaboration with Maggie Boyle and Steve Tilson (whose talents I have previously discussed), along with flautist Tony Roberts. The sound ain't purist, but it is clean and transparent.