February 29, 2024


Richard Strauss: Sonata for Violin and Piano; Franz Waxman: Tristan and Isolde—Love Music; Erich Wolfgang Korngold: Marietta’s Lied from “Der Tote Stadt”; Four Pieces for Shakespeare’s “Much Ado about Nothing”; Fritz Kreisler: Alt-Wiener Tanzweisen; Wagner/Leopold Auer: “Träume” from Wesendonck-Lieder. Svetlin Roussev, violin; Yeol Eum Son, piano. Naïve. $16.99.

Sergei Bortkiewicz: Violin Sonata, Op. 26; Viktor Kosenko: Violin Sonata, Op. 18; Myroslav Skoryk: Violin Sonata No. 2. Solomiya Ivakhiv, violin; Steven Beck, piano. Naxos. $13.99.

     A curious collation of substantial music with encore-like material, a new Naïve CD featuring Svetlin Roussev and Yeol Eum Son seems to have no right to come across as well as it does. The material it offers is simply too different, coming from composers of widely varying strengths at widely varying times in their careers. Making it all fit together appears, at best, highly unlikely. But Roussev and Son bring the whole thing off remarkably successfully, transforming what could have been a mishmash of marginally related material into a solid, well-performed collection of pieces that turn out to have a great deal in common both emotionally and musically. The most significant work on the disc is the violin sonata in E-flat by the young Richard Strauss, who composed the piece in 1887, when he was 23. It is a very Brahmsian piece, and it would be exaggerating to say that Strauss already asserts his own voice in it. But it is a substantial and highly emotional sonata, well-structured and very deeply Romantic – as well as small-r romantic, having been written to express the composer’s love for his soon-to-be wife. The central Andante cantabile is simply gorgeous, a love song in every sense of the term, and Roussev and Son play it with great sensitivity and understanding. This is neither the first work presented on the disc nor the last, however – although its emotional heft certainly ties it into a release bearing the overall title of “Love Music.” The opening and concluding pieces on the CD both draw on music by Richard Wagner. The first work is essentially a lovely meditation on Wagner’s Liebestod from Tristan und Isolde, written for Jascha Heifetz by Franz Waxman (1906-1967). It is almost achingly beautiful and is played here for all it is worth. The CD’s other bookend, appearing at the end, is a Leopold Auer arrangement for violin and piano of one of Wagner’s Wesendonck-Lieder – specifically Träume, which actually quotes Tristan and which Roussev and Son play in A-flat, the same key used by Waxman (Auer’s version is in A). Like other elements of this CD, this transposition is a chancy undertaking that could easily misfire, but the performers’ sensitivity to the music and its underlying emotions lead to an effective and affecting performance in which the Wagner/Auer material does indeed tie neatly to the Wagner/Waxman work. Neither of those pieces really relates directly to the Strauss sonata from a musical standpoint, although both share in its intense emotionalism. And the remaining works on the disc share similar sensibilities. These include two pieces by Erich Wolfgang Korngold (1897-1957), like Waxman a talented composer best known for film music; and the three little Alt-Wiener Tanzweisen by Fritz Kreisler (1875-1962) – and although Korngold, Kreisler and Waxman are all thought of as 20th-century figures, their approaches as heard here are as clearly in the Romantic vein as are those of Wagner and the young Richard Strauss. The violin-and-piano arrangement of the aria from Korngold’s Die Tote Stadt speaks as eloquently as does the vocal original, while the four Much Ado about Nothing vignettes are lighter but still mostly sweet, albeit with a touch of Mahlerian acerbity in March of the Watch and some suitable scurrying in the concluding Hornpipe. As for Kreisler’s three little dances, the extremely well-known Liebesfreud is as Viennese as it can be, the Liebeslied that follows is more softspoken and wistful, and the concluding Schön Rosmarin is bright, elegant and pithy (lasting just two minutes). There is a certain magic to this CD in the way it unites disparate music so the combination of material makes more sense to the ear than it makes when considered objectively by the brain. Love may not conquer all, but in this case it connects all the parts surprisingly well.

     The connections among the three Ukrainian composers heard on a new Naxos CD are ones of geography, of course, but they are also ones more of sensibility than of time period. All three are heard in 20th-century works, but these violin-and-piano pieces date to very different times in the century even though they share sensibilities to a surprising extent. The disc includes two pieces from the 1920s framing one from the 1990s – an interesting arrangement. The CD opens with the two-movement sonata by Viktor Kosenko (1896-1938), which has as strong a Romantic temperament as does Richard Strauss’ early violin-and-piano sonata. Kosenko’s A minor piece, which dates to 1927, is so strongly redolent of its time and of emotional expressiveness that it is somewhat surprising to realize that this reading by Solomiya Ivakhiv and Steven Beck is its world premiѐre recording. The performance is thoroughly convincing, neatly highlighting the differences between the two movements while also drawing attention to their underlying emotional parallels. This is followed by a three-movement sonata from 1991 by Myroslav Skoryk (1938-2020) – a work that, unsurprisingly, is considerably more pointed and dissonant than Kosenko’s, but that also insists on an underlying lyricism in the violin line even though its tonal language is less than soothing. The gently rocking piano in the second movement, marked Andante con moto, makes an especially effective contrast to the thoughtful and rather melancholic violin line, while the brief finale lives up to its title of Burlesque with a kind of caustic post-Shostakovich determination. After this, it is more than a bit jolting to listen to the 1922 sonata in G minor by Sergei Bortkiewicz (1877-1952), the longest work on the disc and the one whose composer is best-known (although scarcely a household name). Here Ivakhiv and Beck take listeners back to Romantic-era warmth, to a violin line at times plaintive, at others pointed, with a near-operatic first movement followed by a broadly conceived and crepuscular Andante and a bright and bouncy finale that barely seems to come from the same sound world as the first two movements – and that serves as a sort of self-contained encore to the sonata and to this impressively played CD as a whole. The ability of violin-and-piano works to convey a very wide range of feelings and emotions is everywhere apparent both on this CD and on the one featuring Roussev and Son, despite the very different provenance of the specific pieces presented on both discs.


Tchaikovsky: Symphonies Nos. 1-6; Manfred Symphony; Original version of Symphony No. 2’s first movement; Capriccio Italien; Coronation March; Francesca da Rimini; Romeo and Juliet Fantasy-Overture; Marche Slave. Russian National Orchestra conducted by Mikhail Pletnev. Brilliant Classics. $42.99 (7 CDs).

     This is a very peculiar release indeed – or rather a very peculiar re-release. The seven-CD Brilliant Classics Tchaikovsky cycle led by Mikhail Pletnev originally appeared as a boxed set of Pentatone SACDs in 2015; individual symphonies had previously been released between 2011 and 2014. The complete set consists of readings from 2010 and 2011, except that the Manfred Symphony was recorded in 2013. And this grouping is about as quirkily personal a set of interpretations of Tchaikovsky’s symphonic oeuvre as any listener is likely to hear.

     Pletnev conducts an outstanding ensemble: the Russian National Orchestra, which Pletnev founded in 1990, vaulted rapidly to the top ranks of ensembles in Russia, placing it very high in the European and worldwide orchestral pantheon. Indeed, the orchestra’s first recording, of Tchaikovsky’s Sixth, was one of the work’s best recorded performances ever, so beautifully articulated, perfectly played and nuanced in interpretation that a full Tchaikovsky cycle at the same level would have been one for the ages. Unfortunately, that is not this grouping, which is decidedly uneven. Although the orchestral playing is uniformly excellent, many of Pletnev’s interpretations are just too unfocused to be fully convincing.

     Pletnev’s ideas can be simply bizarre. For example, he changes tempo repeatedly and confusingly in the four-minute slow introduction to the first movement of Symphony No. 1 – but wait! There is no slow introduction to this movement. Pletnev simply invents one, turning the start of this Allegro tranquillo opening into something sleepy and dreamlike, likely because Tchaikovsky called the movement “Dreams [or Daydreams] of a Winter Journey.” Then Pletnev leads the next section of the movement at such a breakneck pace that a lesser orchestra would have had real difficulty avoiding sloppiness. Later in the movement, we get further speedups and slowdowns placed here and there, producing a disjointed, mixed-up performance. In the lovely second movement, Pletnev again starts slowly, speeds up (but thankfully not so much), and manages to bring out the cantabile in the Adagio cantabile ma non tanto tempo designation only because of the great warmth and beauty of the orchestra’s strings. At the end of the movement, though, Pletnev slows down the proceedings so much that listeners may find themselves nodding off: it is the orchestra that makes this recording worth hearing, not the conductor’s view of the music. The much-better third and fourth movements do not make up for the odd first two. Symphony No. 2, heard as usual in its 1879-80 version, is also very well played, and there is a wealth of fine detail in the first three movements. But the fourth movement is peculiar: it is taken unusually quickly, albeit convincingly, at first – until the gong that heralds the final section, which here leads to complete stoppage of the forward impetus, then a very slow accelerando, and then eventually a conclusion so fast that even this first-class orchestra barely keeps up. Also included on this disc is the original (1872) version of the first movement – an intriguing addition that points to one of the release’s real strengths: its ancillary, supplementary material, which tends to come off better than do some of the symphonies that are the primary focus here.

     The first two symphonies’ lacks do not extend to the very fine Third. Here the tempos are well chosen, the balletic elements so important to this symphony are well communicated and thoroughly understood, the lighter moments are nicely contrasted with the more-serious ones, and the overall effect is of a substantial work with considerable drive, brightness and elegance. The only disappointment is the third of the fifth movements, the central Andante, which Pletnev takes too slowly and deliberately, so that it somewhat drags down the rest of the symphony. The interpretation is justifiable, but in light of the mostly jaunty tempos elsewhere, the movement seems a bit overthought and overdone. In all, though, this is a well-done interpretation – and as well-played as are all the works in this Pletnev cycle. The Fourth fares very well, too. From the opening proclamation of the “fate” motif on burnished brass, through a first movement handled with tone-poem flair so its length does not seem ungainly and its episodic nature makes perfect sense, Pletnev shows his clear understanding of and empathy for Tchaikovsky’s music – more so here than elsewhere. A second movement that nicely balances the first, rocking gently and not wallowing in the emotionalism of the lengthy opening, is followed by a quicksilver pizzicato Scherzo that flits and dances about and enfolds a rollicking Trio in which the woodwind playing is outstanding. Then the finale bursts like thunder onto the scene, with Pletnev’s pacing and – yet again – the excellent playing of the orchestra combining to produce a thrilling and highly dramatic conclusion. If Symphonies Nos. 1 and 2 are mannered and fussy in Pletnev’s readings, Nos. 3 and 4 are well-thought-out and well-managed.

     The problem is that when Pletnev fails, he does so on a large scale – and his Tchaikovsky Fifth is, not to mince words, a failure. It is an odd failure, a throwback to the days when the conductor mattered more than the composer, when Tchaikovsky’s deep emotionalism (over-emotionalism to some) invited swooning on the podium and a level of rubato that, far from bringing out the inner workings and feelings of the music, inevitably imposed the conductor’s feelings on it, and on the audience. This is simply unforgivable today, even when the conductor is Pletnev. His Tchaikovsky Fifth is well-nigh incoherent, the tempos varying so much in the first and final movements that listeners will be whipsawed rather than pulled along through this most carefully structured of Tchaikovsky’s symphonic works. The finale is little short of a disaster, slowing down so much that the rhythm flags, then speeding up to such a point that the beauties and the musical lines themselves are simply lost. And the coda, which always hangs uneasily onto this otherwise profound symphony, is a mess, so perfunctory that it seems as if Pletnev had simply had enough of the symphony and wanted to get it over with. The orchestra’s still-superb playing is not nearly enough to compensate for all the conductor’s quirks, which result in an inelegant and ill-considered interpretation. But just when it is tempting to give up on Pletnev’s Tchaikovsky sequence, something comes along to redeem it: Symphony No. 6. Although the reading included here lacks the elegance and some of the interpretative nuances of Pletnev’s 1991 recording of the work for Virgin Classics, this 2010 version is amazingly well-played, exceptionally well-recorded (much better than the older one), and filled with highly sensitive touches. The opening bassoon, for example, sounds particularly gloomy here, while the gorgeous main theme of the first movement has a yearning wistfulness that is deeply felt without being mawkish or overdone. Pletnev clearly broadened his view of the symphony in the decades after the 1991 recording: the first and last movements in this later version are both longer than on Virgin Classics, where they were already expansive. But nothing in them feels stretched; nor do the middle movements sound rushed. The second movement flows with considerable beauty and elegance, while the scurrying, speedy opening of the third effectively introduces a movement whose increasingly frenetic tone makes the depressive start of the finale all the more pathétique. The last movement starts almost languidly, moving more deeply into despair as it progresses, and eventually fading into nothingness with a very moving sigh of resignation. This performance reaffirms both the symphony’s place in the classical-music canon and Pletnev’s expertise with the work.

     As for the Manfred Symphony, written between Nos. 4 and 5, Pletnev’s performance is one of the best in this set, allowing the often-gorgeous themes to flow freely while not engaging in the sort of overdone rubato that mars Nos. 1, 2 and 5. The beautiful second theme of the first movement and the whole of the third come across particularly appealingly here, and Pletnev does not hesitate to pull out all the stops in the somewhat over-the-top finale, in which the organ (played by Norbert Gembaczka) fits very well. The performance is involving and flows elegantly, and the sound is first-rate.

     The bonus elements that help lift this set above mediocrity are all handled very well, with little evidence of the sort of overthinking that mars some of the symphonic readings. Marche Slave (on disc #1) is a jaunty quickstep, with light and bright winds, and has a concluding section that is quite speedy – far too fast to march to – but very well played. The brass is outstanding in a performance that makes this definitely a piece for the concert hall, not the parade ground. The less-known Concert March (on disc #3) is all bombast at the start, very proclamatory – with the strings sounding lovely in the contrasting central section, which also features much lighter wind highlights. Then the return of the brass, in chorale form, heralds a powerful recapitulation that includes some of the same material as heard in Marche Slave.

     Romeo and Juliet (on disc #4) opens with quiet delicacy, followed by a main section that is very fast, almost hectic – but the strings, as always, manage to keep up. There is a substantial slowdown into the famous “love theme,” which is handled with considerable delicacy. The intermingling of themes thereafter is managed very skillfully, although Pletnev favors speed and drama over emotional evocation. The work’s last three minutes, however, are very affecting, especially the extended harp passages. Francesca da Rimini (on disc #5) features a very dramatic opening, the sound of eternal winds impressively conveyed by the excellent strings. The brass interjections are very forceful, to the point of overwhelming some of the main thematic material in the strings – making this a somewhat divisive interpretation of what is arguably Tchaikovsky’s greatest tone poem. The central section, in which Francesca tells her tale, brings woodwinds to the fore and is expansively handled, sounding plaintive for a time, then sweet. It mounts to a moving climax, after which the sound of the eternal winds starts to sneak back in, the music quickly becoming dramatic again as those winds become intense and the brass highlights and interjections resume, leading to a very strong close. Finally, Capriccio Italien (on disc #6) is strongly rhythmic and well-balanced, with the first-rate brass brought to the fore. After the first five minutes, as the pace picks up, there is a nice lilt to the sunny thematic material, and the percussion is particularly well-handled. This is, all in all, a bright and jaunty performance with emphatic rhythms and fine highlighting of orchestral sections.

     It is difficult to sum up the effect of this important but decidedly odd Tchaikovsky cycle. Some of it is outstanding, some astonishingly ill-considered: it is hard to grasp the reality that performances of such extremes all come from the same conductor. The cycle is such an odd mixture of excellence and ineptitude that Tchaikovsky aficionados will definitely want to think twice, or maybe three or four times, before committing to a purchase.

February 22, 2024


Nicola Porpora: Il trionfo della divina Giustizia ne' tormente e morte di Gesù Cristo; Leonardo Vinci: Oratorio Maria dolorata—Sinfonia; Oratorio a 4 voci; Pasquale Anfossi: Salve Regina; Pergolesi: Violin Concerto in B-flat; Vivaldi: Stabat Mater, RV 621. Andreas Scholl, countertenor; Accademia Bizantina conducted by Alessandro Tampieri. Naïve. $16.99.

James Weeks: Primo Libro; Zosha Di Castri: We live the opposite daring; Hannah Kendall: this is but an oration of loss; Shawn Jaeger: love is; Jeffrey Gavett: Waves; Erin Gee: Mouthpiece 36. Ekmeles (Charlotte Mundy, soprano; Elisa Sutherland, mezzo-soprano; Timothy Parsons, countertenor; Tomás Cruz, tenor; Jeffrey Gavett, baritone; Steven Hrycelak, bass). New Focus Recordings. $16.99.

Barbara Harbach: Choral Music I—Sacred Music; Advent and Christmas; Lent and Easter; Spirituals; Secular Music. Apollo Voices of London conducted by Genevieve Ellis; Timothy End, piano. MSR Classics. $14.95.

     A thoroughly winning mixture of well-known and nearly unknown works for countertenor, the new Naïve CD featuring Andreas Scholl clearly shows, and showcases, the attraction of the highest male voice – which is roughly equivalent in vocal range to that of a female contralto or mezzo-soprano. Only one composer featured on the disc, Vivaldi, is heard in a vocal work that audiences favoring Baroque music will know: the Stabat Mater, RV 621, in F minor, which Scholl sings with unerring pitch and considerable emotional heft. The sensitivity of presentation of the thoughts of the sorrowing Mary Magdalene comes through clearly throughout the performance, with Accademia Bizantina under Alessandro Tampieri unerringly supporting Scholl to just the right emotional as well as musical degree. Quis non posset contristari (“Who could not be saddened?”) is especially moving here, while the instrumental opening of Eia Mater, fons amoris (“Here is the Mother, the source of love”) is exceptional for its mood-setting. The work as a whole is thoroughly moving even in our much-more-secular age. Interestingly, the other well-known composer here, Pergolesi, is represented not by a vocal work but by a violin concerto (with fine solo playing by Tampieri). This is placed on the CD immediately before the Vivaldi, which concludes the disc, and the contrast between the brightness and enthusiasm of Pergolesi and the dark seriousness of Vivaldi is pronounced and highly effective. The earlier part of the CD offers well-played, well-sung material from three less-known composers. The overture and two arias from Il trionfo della divina Giustizia ne' tormente e morte di Gesù Cristo by Nicola Porpora (1686-1768) are just as strongly emotive as the music of Vivaldi, and Scholl’s presentation of Per pietà, turba feroce (“For pity’s sake, ferocious crowd”) is positively operatic in its effect. The two works by Leonardo Vinci (1690-1730) are also exceptionally well-made, the Sinfonia well-balanced and carefully structured and the Oratorio a 4 voci especially noteworthy for the contrast between its extensive instrumental passages and its finely developed vocal ones. And Salve Regina by Pasquale Anfossi (1727-1797) shows how much expressiveness can be packed into six short movements: there is an ethereality about the vocal settings here that Scholl brings out highly effectively, and the instrumental accompaniment not only supports the voice but also presents scene-setting and emotional context for the words. This is a first-rate disc both for the quality of the music offered and for the very high vocal and instrumental standards brought to bear in all the performances.

     The countertenor voice has gone through something of a revival since the late 20th century, with modern composers increasingly willing to explore it in new works – even as specialists in Baroque music have used it more frequently for historically informed performances. The vocal ensemble Ekmeles includes a countertenor among its six members, and the mixture and contrast between the high male voice and that of the group’s mezzo-soprano is one element of the performers’ carefully honed sound. A (+++) New Focus Recordings release featuring Ekmeles is of considerable interest for the quality of the a cappella performances, but the six contemporary works on the disc are more of a mixed bag and will be attractive only to a limited audience. The longest piece, the 18-minute Primo Libro by James Weeks, uses an old form – that of the madrigal – in modern guise, including 16 short pieces composed using 31-division equal temperament. As challenging to hear as it is to perform, the work is effectively scored – for one, two, three or four voices – but seems more of a sonic experiment than a piece designed to connect emotionally with an audience. Zosha Di Castri looks to the past from a modern perspective as well: We live the opposite daring harks back to Sappho for inspiration. Its four movements treat the singers both as vocalists and as percussion instruments – they steadily slap their thighs in parts of the work and make meaningless repetitive sounds elsewhere. The actual words sung are largely inaudible, treated as component parts of a sonic world rather than a method of communicating meaning. The other pieces on the CD make no attempt to reach into the distant past. Hannah Kendall’s this is but an oration of loss (one of those works titled without capital letters) is based on a work by Canadian poet M. NourbeSe Philip and uses massed harmonicas to introduce a series of fragmentary verbal passages, many spoken or whispered rather than sung. Shawn Jaeger’s love is (again, a title without capital letters) uses similar vocal delivery, here in service of a feminist text. Jeffrey Gavett’s Waves treats voices strictly as instruments – its three movements are all wordless – in what is clearly an intellectual exercise that explores singers’ ability to create an aural environment without expressing anything specific. Similarly, Erin Gee’s Mouthpiece 36, which is in four parts, focuses on vocal sound production, the performers voicing (or subvocalizing, as the case may be) whistles and clicks, breath sounds and vocal vibrations, individual letters and diphthongs, and other elements of which the human voice is capable when not being used to express any particular kind of meaning. The experimental nature of all the works on this disc will be of interest to those with a strong attraction to avant-garde music, while the skill of Ekmeles in rendering the pieces will be impressive to listeners interested in vocal skill – even if the material as presented neither connects with a wide audience nor attempts to do so.

     One modern composer who does want to reach out widely is Barbara Harbach (born 1946), whose works continue to appear in a very extended series of releases from MSR Classics. The 17th volume in the series is the first featuring Harbach’s choral works – and all of those on the CD are world premiѐre recordings. There are 21 tracks in all, grouped somewhat arbitrarily under five headings, and all are given forthright and carefully considered performances by Apollo Voices of London under Genevieve Ellis – with solid piano support from Timothy End. Clarity of presentation, a hallmark of Harbach’s instrumental music, is clearly present in her choral works as well: there is nothing confusing, unclear or experimental in her use of voices, with the words of all these pieces being paramount. This does not mean that Harbach’s harmonies are old-fashioned: the dissonances that open Praise Him with the Trumpet, one of the four works brought together as Sacred Music, are one example among many of her knowledgeable handling of sound – while the very next work in the same group, Sing, Alleluia, shows just how sweetly Harbach can handle harmony when she so chooses. There are three works listed under Advent and Christmas, with This Night in Bethlehem – with its soaring soprano line – being especially affecting. Among the five Lent and Easter works, Of Christ’s Dark Cup is noteworthy for its moody piano, while Mary’s Joyful Shout has something of the revival about it. The four Spirituals offered here are the most straightforward settings on the CD, all being pleasant although none is particularly distinctive. The disc concludes with Secular Music, five pieces that provide a welcome contrast to the rest of the material here. Intoxicated by the Wine of Love has a pleasant lilt, while Sunset St. Louis has some of the character of the sacred pieces in its choral declamations. There is no overriding theme to this (+++) CD, and no particular sense of organization beyond the rather haphazard assignment of pieces to one designation or another. There is differentiation enough among the settings to make the disc a pleasant listening experience for listeners already familiar with Harbach’s music, although nothing here will likely lead an audience unfamiliar with her works to search eagerly for more of her vocal productions.


Schubert: Arpeggione Sonata; Lied der Mignon III; Nachtstück, D. 672; Piano Trio No. 2—Andante con moto. Anja Linder, harp; Julie Sévilla-Fraysse, cello; Laurent Korcia, violin. Naïve. $16.99.

Tessa Brinckman: Taniwha; A Cracticus Fancie; Todd Barton and Tessa Brinckman: Sonus Redux—And the Wave Rolled Back; Andile Khumalo and Tessa Brinckman: Wade Through Water; Cara Stacey and Tessa Brinckman: You Never Come Out the Same; Norio Fukushi: Dawn Brightens the Day of Mortals Robed in Purple; Andile Khumalo: Zeuze; Shirish Korde: Tenderness of Cranes. Tessa Brinckman, flutes and prepared piano; Caroline Delume, guitar; Kathleen Supové, piano and prepared piano; Todd Barton, Buchla; Horomona Horo, taonga pūoro. New Focus Recordings. $16.99.

     Some musical instruments naturally lend themselves to sounds of delicacy, even evanescence, and the harp is certainly one of them. That makes harp arrangements of works originally written for other instruments inherently interesting, since even the most accurate transcription changes the overall impression of a piece originally created to be played on something other than the harp. This all gets even more intriguing when it comes to harpist Anja Linder’s adaptation of Schubert’s Arpeggione Sonata, since that work is almost always heard in some sort of adaptation – given that the arpeggione (a six-stringed bowed instrument the size of a cello, fretted and tuned like a guitar) was only popular for about a decade in the early 19th century and is very rarely used for this sonata nowadays (which is actually a shame, but that’s another story). Few modern ears know what this Schubert sonata was supposed to sound like, so Linder’s harp version is as worthy in its way as are the more-usual ones for stringed instruments (generally viola or cello). In fact, Linder’s design is fascinating: she performs on the harp and is partnered (that is, not just “accompanied”) by Julie Sévilla-Fraysse on cello. There is an almost otherworldly beauty to the sonata in this guise: its expansive first movement is filled with wavelets of sound, its brief second one is quietly expressive, and its finale is almost achingly lovely. This Naïve recording is focused mostly on Linder (as both performer and arranger), but in the Arpeggione Sonata, the inescapable intertwining of voices produces a sound that mounts quickly to the heights of beauty and remains there throughout. The other works on the CD function more as “framing tales” or encores. Linder and violinist Laurent Korcia are suitably emotive in Lied der Mignon III (So lasst mich scheinen) and the quiet, almost hesitant Nachtstück, D. 672, whose emotionalism is actually somewhat overdone here. The very short CD – only 42 minutes – concludes with the second movement from Schubert’s Piano Trio No. 2, in which the harp’s plucking is a bit too much at variance with the original for the arrangement to be wholly successful. Given the brief duration of the disc and the reality that only one work on it is wholly successful as arranged for performance here, the CD will be of only limited appeal – but that appeal will be very strong indeed to listeners who are already fascinated by the Arpeggione Sonata in all its manifestations, and would like to hear it in yet another guise (and a very worthy one at that).

     Just as Linder is the primary focus on her CD, so Tessa Brinckman is the main reason-for-being of hers for New Focus Recordings. But although listeners may expect the natural delicacy of the flute to be in the forefront here, that is not the case. Indeed, this is a disc that will be of far greater interest to those who know or have a strong wish to discover Brinckman’s compositions and performances than to anyone else. In addition to playing multiple flutes (including alto, bass, contrabass, and piccolo) and prepared piano, Brinckman is either composer or co-creator of most of the music on the disc. Taniwha (2023), despite using piccolo and several different flutes, is a mostly percussive work that makes considerable use of Māori musical instruments. A Cracticus Fancie (2017) is for solo piccolo (live and processed) and combines poetry with, again, percussive elements, all within a rather complex narrative whose bounds are not clear from the music itself but need to be studied by listeners who want to get the full intended effect of the material. Those two works are by Brinckman herself; she is also co-creator of three others on the disc. Sonus Redux (2020, with Todd Barton) is sonically interesting in its mixing of Baroque flutes with prepared piano and Buchla synthesizer. Wade Through Water (2023, with Andile Khumalo) effectively contrasts the alto flute with piano exclamations and, at a length of just three minutes, makes its points without belaboring them. You Never Come Out the Same (2023, with Cara Stacey) is much more about percussion (played by both Brinckman and Kathleen Supové) than it is focused on Brinckman’s piccolo, which mostly produces punctuation points. Also on the CD are three works for which Brinckman is performer but not composer/creator. Norio Fukushi’s Dawn Brightens the Day of Mortals Robed in Purple (1992) is the longest piece on the disc (more than 12 minutes). Written for flute and guitar, it includes some sections in which the instruments build on each other’s differing sounds and means of sound production, and others in which they are strongly contrasted. Khumalo’s Zeuze (2014) is the shortest piece offered here (less than two-and-a-half minutes) and one of the few allowing the flute expressiveness in accord with its more-typical sound – giving the piano the contrasting percussive material. And Shirish Korde’s Tenderness of Cranes (1990) is not only the oldest work presented on the disc but also one of the most challenging: an 11-minute work for solo flute that gives Brinckman plenty of opportunities to showcase the many techniques with which the instrument can be played and the many sounds it can produce. Unfortunately, the piece is not particularly compelling in its own right – it is something of an esoteric offering that Brinckman’s fellow flautists will find more interesting than will people who play other instruments or none at all. Still, if this CD reaches out only to a limited audience by virtue of the music itself and the performances, it is more than satisfactory in displaying both the compositions and the interpretations for those with a strong interest in contemporary flute music – and even more so for those fascinated by Brinckman’s personal thoughtfulness and creativity.