Classic Catalog: New AV Picks From Knox Co. Public Library

In Shelf Life by Chris Barrettleave a COMMENT

Anna Netrebko
Richard Strauss: Vier Letzte Lieder and Ein Heldenleben (Deutsche Grammophon)
There is no shortage of recordings of the music on this program. Anna Netrebko’s splendid turn at Richard Strauss’ Four Last Songs joins a half-dozen other versions in our stacks, all worth hearing. As lush and sumptuous as Netrebko is here, the same composer’s symphonic tone poem A Hero’s Life probably offers greater justification to spend time with this record. It was recorded live in Berlin last year as part of the festivities commemorating the 150th anniversary of Strauss’ birth, and the esteemed Staatskapelle Berlin—with violin soloist Wolfram Brandl—perform as if their lives depend upon it. The joint effort is heroic in its own right, and the recording quality nicely renders the dimensions of the space.


Zuill Bailey and the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra
Muhly: Cello Concerto; Bloch: Schelomo and Jewish Poems for Orchestra (Steinway and Sons, 2015)
Young American composer Nico Muhly fully deserves the attention he receives for his wit and ability to surprise, and his “Cello Concerto” is a treat. However, the surprise here is cellist Zuill Bailey’s ability to breathe new life into Ernest Bloch’s melancholic instrumental prayer “Schelomo.” Composed with vocals in mind, Bloch ultimately chose the solo voice of the cello over the combined voices of humans. Earlier recordings by other cellists fail to evoke much that is holy or hopeful in Bloch’s lament. Bailey, on the other hand, performs in an undulating and varied tempo that creates alternating tension and relief, like any worthwhile conversation with God.


Howard Shore, Ornette Coleman, and the London Philharmonic Orchestra
Naked Lunch: The Complete Original Score (Howe Records, 2014) 
It’s been 25 years since the theatrical release of David Cronenberg’s film adaptation of the trippy William S. Burroughs manifesto Naked Lunch. That’s probably a safe span of years after which to reissue this gorgeous soundtrack. Now you can enjoy the fantastic symphonic setting that Howard Shore created for Ornette Coleman’s alto saxophone without necessarily being visited by visions of talking bugs and bullet holes in foreheads.


Grigorii Sokolov
The Salzburg Recital (Deutsche Grammophon, 2014)
A nearly universal trait among concert pianists is the hateful dread of being recorded live. (See Horowitz and Gould.) Russian pianist Grigorii Sokolov came of age professionally during the Cold War era. His fondness for being recorded live in the great concert halls of the West may stem from his memories of being forbidden to even visit them. This two-disc set fairly crackles with energy. There is no question that this enthusiastic audience is elevating what Sokolov demands of himself and the music he’s chosen—primarily Mozart and Chopin, presented ecstatically and delightfully nuanced, respectively.


Gates of Heaven and Vernon, Florida (Criterion Collection Blu-ray)
Gates of Heaven, from 1978, explores the curious industry of pet cemeteries. Along with the legal minutiae related to rendering and remains in the state of California, Errol Morris coaxes a diverse cast of characters to reveal what they’re able to articulate about love and loyalty and the surrogate functions performed by domesticated animals. (It also needs to be said that Gates of Heaven is, ultimately, about a guitar.) Morris was attracted to Vernon, Fla., when it was still known as “Nub City.” In this town of fewer than 1,000, a disproportionately high number of people were maiming themselves in order to collect insurance payments from death and dismemberment policies. Not surprisingly, interviewees declined to discuss the subject. But they chatted freely about almost everything else. Listening—or listening again, in high definition—will feel like time well spent.

Chris Barrett's Shelf Life alerts readers to new arrivals at the Lawson McGhee Library's stellar Sights and Sounds collection, along with recommendations and reminders of staples worthy of revisiting. He is a former Metro Pulse staff writer who’s now a senior assistant at the Knox County Public Library.

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