Manhattan Intermezzo from the Naxos release Manhattan Intermezzo
Composed by Neil Sedaka
Jeffrey Biegel, piano
Paul Phillips & the Brown University Orchestra
Before helping to create the “Brill Building” sound, Neil Sedaka was trained to be a classical pianist. At the age of 13 he was selected by Arthur Rubenstein to play live on New York’s WQXR. In 2008, Sedaka wrote the Manhattan Intermezzo. It’s a musical pastiche featuring multiple musical styles associated with Manhattan, including touches of Russian, Latin and Asian melodies and rhythms along with a liberal dose of the Broadway styles of composers like Gerswhin and Bernstein. Sedaka recorded the work himself with the London Philharmonic, including it as the final track on his 2012 release The Real Neil. For this new recording, Jeffrey Biegel has created his own embellished version of the piano part, with Sedaka’s blessing.
The Lord Bless You and Keep You from the Delphian release Viri Galilaei
Composed by John Rutter
Choir of Merton College, Oxford
John Rutter is a particular kind of enigma: the man who doesn’t consider himself to be very religious, although he considers himself to be spiritual and finds inspiration in sacred verses and prayers, and yet, is a preeminent contemporary composer of sacred choral works.
I’ve loved "The Lord Bless You and Keep You," since I first sang it in my high school chorus. There’s a reason it was chosen for high schoolers; it is a glowing, enfolding benediction that highlights the power of monody and simple harmonies, and it doesn’t require an expert chorus to make it hum. This is in keeping with many of Rutter’s influences from early 20th century choral composers. Gustav Holst, for instance, made a point of making beautiful choral music that was within the capabilities of any amateur choir to perform.
The Choir of Merton College, Oxford did not become a professional choir until 2008. Since then they have quickly established themselves as a mixed-voice choir to be reckoned with.
Romanza Andaluza from the Decca release Kavakos
Composed by Pablo de Sarasate
Leonidas Kavakos, violin & Enrico Pace, piano
This album is a showcase for Kavakos’ technical and expressive prowess. The recording largely consists of encore pieces that were composed by virtuosic violinists, including Pablo de Sarasate’s Romanza Andaluza; a work that draws from the culturally mixed tradition of the Iberian peninsula.
Sephardic Trio: III. Una Matica de Ruda from the Cedille release Sephardic Journey
Composed by Alan Thomas
The Cavatina Duo with David Cunliffe, cello
Sephardic Journey features five world premier recordings of works by living composers, all of which draw their inspiration from the musical tradition of the Sephardic Jews, who inhabited the Iberian peninsula until they were expelled by the Church in 1492, when Columbus sailed the ocean blue, or, when Spanish rulers made scapegoats of Jews? Despite mass expulsion, conversions and executions, the Sephardim maintained a distinct cultural identity, which is effectively mined for inspiration by these five composers, two of whom were born as recently as 1978 and 1979. Una Matica de Ruda is a traditional wedding song. The unusual, if not unorthodox, pairing of guitar, flute and cello suits the work well.