Classical reviews

This week Geoff Adams reviews Janacek: Orchestral Suites from Operas, and Short Stories.

> Janacek: Orchestral Suites from Operas. Vol .3. NZ Symphony Orchestra. Naxos CD.

This completes a commendable set of evocative orchestral suites, arranged by Slovak Peter Breiner from excerpts from six Janacek operas. Breiner conducts the NZSO in admirable performances.

Featured operas in this disc are The Cunning Little Vixen and From the House of the Dead, mature masterpieces which contain some of the composer's most effective music.

The first derived from a series of cartoons and the second from Dostoevsky's memoirs of being sent to a Siberian prison camp. Both reflect love and loneliness, life and death in very different ways.

These suites concentrate the energy and modern, but folksy, colours of the operas into music for the concert hall.

Highlight: The NZSO (solos from violinist Vesa-Matti Leppanen and flautist Bridget Douglas) obviously enjoys its task.


> Short Stories. Ancia Saxophone Quartet. Naxos CD.

Subtitled "American Music for Saxophone Quartet", the works of seven US composers, including Charles Ives, are featured, by this talented US quartet.

A major work is Jennifer Higdon's Short Stories (1995) in six movements. David Bixler's Heptagon has seven much briefer movements.

Fred Sturm's Picasso Cubed makes a bewitching abstraction of Coleman Hawkins' 1948 tenor solo Picasso.

Michael Torke's July has a bright tune written originally for the Apollo Saxophone Quartet, England.

Elusive Dreams, by Carleton Macy, adds an accordion to the quartet sound.

Ives' Chorale, first movement of String Quartet No.1, arranged for saxes, works best among all the contemporary works, with hymn-like harmony and nice chromatic gestures.

Highlight: Final track Black Bottom Stomp, the classic jazz of Jelly Roll Morton - flashback from modernism


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