Five years after first conducting the Simón Bolívar Youth Orchestra in their Venezuelan home, Claudio Abbado continues his commitment to this stunning ensemble in this first joint audiovisual concert recording. Prokofiev's extrovert Scythian Suite is a gift for the boundless energy of these young players, while the intricacy and anguish of Berg's Lulu-Suite are an Abbado speciality, with soprano Anna Prohaska, in her Lucerne Festival debut, singing the heroine's dazzling statement of self-justification. The concert ends with an impassioned account of Tchaikovsky's Pathétique, his final symphony, one of the most moving works in music history.
A new album release by guitarist John Williams is always cause for great anticipation, not only for another opportunity to marvel at his virtuosity, but also to experience music from unheralded areas of the repertoire. EL DIABLO SUELTO is a survey of the guitar music of Venezuela, a vibrant mixture of elements from the cultures of the indigenous Indians, Spanish colonists, and the Africans originally brought to the country as slaves. Williams demonstrates a thorough understanding of the music's heritage, and his commitment is evident in performances that are dynamic and incisive. Williams' remarkable technique allows him to easily negotiate the complexities of these intensely rhythmic pieces, but his keen musical intelligence renders these accounts more than exercises of technical expertise. He skillfully wields a broad palette of tonal colors to express the rich harmonic language and beautiful melodies in works arranged by his mentor, the great Venezuelan guitarist Alirio Diaz.
Evencio Castellanos is one of Venezuela's best-known composers, notable not least as one of the groundwork-makers for that country's much-lauded "sistema" of music education. This album presents some of his best-known works, idiomatically and enthusiastically performed by the Orquesta Sinfonica de Venezuela under Jan Wagner. All three works are nationalistic, with plucked strings stating popular Venezuelan rhythms and melodies against various orchestral backdrops.
Essential: a masterpiece of Progressive Rock music
This 3-piece in my mind blew ELP out of its own native waters! Rick Van Der Linden is a criminally underrated keyboard maestro with more than a few good ideas.