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CD reviews: Sting's music holds up to chamber treatment

| Tuesday, July 27, 2010

'Symphonicities'

Sting (Deutsche Grammophon/Cherry Tree)

Sting's voice is well suited to many forms. It can move from the social conscience of "We Work the Black Seam" to the emotion of "Next to You." His current album "Symphonicities" shows how it can work with a chamber orchestra and with The Police. It is a collection 12 songs ranging from hits such as "Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic" to the not-as-popular "The Pirate's Bride." The Royal Philharmonic Concert Orchestra, the London Players and the New York Chamber Consort provide the backup in arrangements that tend to be right on the money, even if one or two take a little listening to accept. The brass of "We Work the Black Seam," for instance, has an appropriate power and "Englishman in New York" is accurately bright, but "Every Little Thing" seems a bit out of place and a little affected. He is on tour supporting this album, but, alas, no visit is scheduled here.

— Bob Karlovits

'The Music of Eddie South'

Violinjazz (Dorian)

A problem with tribute albums is the homage can hide the talent of the presenter. That is true with this album. "The Music of Eddie South" is an extremely listenable collection of the music of the Louisiana-born fiddler (1904-62) who incorporated American folk sounds, European classical music and jazz into a style rooted in the swing of the '30s and '40s. The music is played by a quartet, Violinjazz, led by fiddler Jeremy Cohen, who does a great job handling all of these forms, The songs range from South originals such as "Black Gypsy" and "Fiddle Ditty" to a violin-quartet version of George Gershwin's "Rhapsody in Blue," which is a light-hearted delight. Also included are Cohen's look at songs that have become jazz standards such as "Yesterdays" and "I Can't Get Started," which he plays in a South-ern style,

— Bob Karlovits

Mozart Piano Concertos Vol. 1

Vassily Primakov (Bridge Records)

Bridge Records, one of the most valuable classical independent labels, is backing pianist Vassily Primakov in a big way. It's easy to hear why on a new release of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart's piano concerti.

Born in Moscow in 1979, Primakov completed his music education in the United States and has won prizes in a couple of international competitions. Three of the four concerti he performs are absolute, heartwarming winners.

Primakov shapes the music decisively but with sensitivity. His phrasing includes emotional richness reminiscent of much older pianists. His choice of cadenzas notably includes Wanda Landowska's witty ones for Piano Concerto No. 26 that alludes to Mozart's operatic hits, and late romantic French composer Gabriel Faure's for Piano Concerto No. 24 in C minor.

American conductor Scott Yoo is Primakov's attentive partner, leading Denmark's Odense Symphony Orchestra in stylish collaboration.

The only disappointment is Piano Concerto No. 27, Mozart's last, in which the performers' accents and slowing downs are too emphatic. This piece requires a subtler degree of emphasis.

— Mark Kanny

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