June 3, 2023

Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra; Gustavo Dudamel, conductor (Nonesuch)

It’s a great joy—a relief, in fact—to revisit a new work and be as fervently positive about it as it was at its premiere.

Take Thomas Adès’ full-length “Dante,” whose concert premiere at the Los Angeles Philharmonic I attended last spring. My review, at the time, was one of groundbreaking enthusiasm. Now that I listen to the recording, that seems like the only way I could have reacted.

On a personal note, ‘Dante’, a three-part journey through the world of ‘The Divine Comedy’ through Liszt and other indirect influences, was a cosmic, sometimes movingly spiritual and often overwhelming experience. Much of it remains intact on disc. What emerges most clearly is the thorough commitment of the Philharmonic under the direction of Gustavo Dudamel. This ensemble is at its best as a shepherd of contemporary music; here it sounds like Adès’ score is ingrained in his players’ bones.

“Inferno” does it best on disc: timelessly entertaining, a high-octane tour through the circles of hell. “Purgatorio,” with amplification and acoustic design in the hall, is relatively flattened, the surviving recording of an ancient Jewish prayer less excitingly grand when balanced with the orchestra. And it’s hard for “Paradiso” to maintain its hypnotic spell through headphones and surrounded by the visual distractions of everyday life. But, tellingly, the celestial chorus finale still has the power to bring you to a halt. Some music is effective no matter how it is heard. JOSHUA BARONE

Orchestra of Paris; Klaus Mäkelä, conductor (Decca)

The last time I reviewed a Klaus Mäkelä recording – a cycle of the Sibelius symphonies that I politely described as “its ups and downs” – this Finnish maestro was merely chief conductor of the Oslo Philharmonic and music director of the Orchester the Paris. He was 26 then. He is 27 now.

Much of the classical music industry has since humbled itself at Mäkelä’s feet. Great American orchestras, of the kind that should know better, vie for his future services; at least from 2027 to 2032 he will conduct the Royal Concertgebouw in Amsterdam — the orchestra of Willem Mengelberg, Eduard van Beinum and Bernard Haitink, one of the most legendary ensembles of all. He hasn’t given himself time to grow, and nowhere to hide.

A shame, because this Stravinsky recording is terrible. Mäkelä misunderstands ‘The Rite of Spring’ almost incomprehensibly; the riotous ballet is rendered so calm, so tame here, it could qualify for an “easy listening” playlist. Much of it is inert, with nice details piled on nice details in the service of no dramatic purpose imaginable. There’s no atmosphere, no energy, no drive, no gore; compare it to the “Rites” that Michael Tilson Thomas and even Gustavo Dudamel recorded at about the same age, and the gap in inspiration is painfully wide.

It speaks badly of Mäkelä that this was released at all. If anything, “The Firebird” is worse. DAVID ALLEN

Relâche (important data)

Fortunately, Pauline Oliveros is already a key figure in conversations about minimalism. Excerpts from this composer-performer’s influential text “On Sonic Meditation” appear in the new scholarly collection “On Minimalism”, and since her death in 2016, her works have continued to be present at concerts in New York, including through a recent tribute by flautist Claire Pursuit.

However, this classic 1985 double album has been hard to find in recent years, so its recent re-release is cause for celebration. The first disc contains two pieces performed by Oliveros, listened to on accordion, and the contemporary specialists of the ensemble Relâche. (You can hear two versions of it: from a studio-like setting and from a live recording.)

“The Well” was originally conceived by Oliveros, Relâche and the dancer-choreographer Deborah Hay for performances in Chester Springs, Pennsylvania; “The Gentle” was developed around the same time, for the same instrumental powers. On the studio version of ‘The Well’, Oliveros shines with her accordion playing for the first few minutes; later, as the members of Relâche join, her interest in group listening and interdependence is realized. (Apart from navigating her scales and rhythms, players use “guide words” — “listen, join, match, sustain, and float” — to structure the performance.) The second disc features another Oliveros masterclass accordion, this time solo in a cistern in Cologne, with a resonant finale in her take on ‘The Gentle’. SETH COLTER WALLS

Jean Rondeau, harpsichord (Erato/Warner Classics)

The modern piano has shamelessly infiltrated the extensive repertoire originally written for harpsichord. So why shouldn’t a harpsichordist reciprocate? That’s essentially the question Jean Rondeau asks when he takes on piano works by Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven and even Debussy on this quietly bold album, a reflection on influence, transcription and re-creation whose Latin title means “Steps to Parnassus, the home of the muses in greek mythology.

“Gradus ad Parnassum” has been a name for centuries for artistic instructional guides and studies, as well as a seminal counterpoint treatise by Johann Joseph Fux, whose magnificent Chaconne is Rondeau’s penultimate issue. The album’s form is a chronological arc, archived by Renaissance Palestrina ricercars and stepping back in time after reaching a 20th-century midpoint: a ruminating, convincingly flowing “Doctor Gradus ad Parnassum,” Debussy’s nod to the ” Gradus’ Practice Tradition.

Previously, Rondeau’s rendition of Haydn’s Sonata No. 31 in A flat was elegant, but also fierce in counterpoint. He plays two pieces from Muzio Clementi’s ‘Gradus’ collection and flanks Debussy with little-played, moody-lyrical preludes by Beethoven. The second of these is followed by famous Mozarts: the D minor Fantasia and the “Sonata Facile” Andante, both sumptuous and eloquent — examples of Rondeau’s gift for conveying at slow tempos a sense of artful but in-the-moment experimentation, of searching. to take. without looking tired. ZACHARY WOOLFE

Katrina Krimsky, piano (Worlds Unseen)

I spent last weekend at the 92nd Street Y, New York, for a three-concert festival dedicated to the once-neglected music of Julius Eastman. The restoration of his work to the world of modern American music is a great gift, but other voices are still missing.

Take Katrina Krimsky, the pianist behind this recent archive release. Recorded live in 1980 at the Creative Music Studio in Woodstock, NY, her solo recital is too much fun to be unannounced for so long. (The studio’s co-founder, Karl Berger, passed away earlier this month at the age of 88.) The first track, “Soundscape,” initially ripples along in a minimalist fashion. But as the chord relationships change, Krimsky gradually and naturally incorporates jazz movements. Halfway through, the pulse drops and we find ourselves in a freer universe of European modernism. It’s great to hear that transition – as well as Krimsky’s subsequent return to harder driving material and the opening sound world.

Krimsky teamed up with La Monte Young and performed in the Carnegie Hall debut of Terry Riley’s “In C” in 1967. Intriguingly, promotional materials for the release of Unseen Worlds also mention her affection for figures such as Karlheinz Stockhausen and Woody Shaw. All those fascinations can be heard in this fine set: a release that reminds us that despite all the attention paid to minimalism, its history can still surprise. SETH COLTER WALLS