Various Artists

New Music for Virtuosos

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This compilation collects eclectic 20th century music written by several avant-garde composers. Milton Babbitt originally scored Phonemena for soprano and synthesized tape, but gave vocalist Lynn Webber permission to also perform it with a pianist. Both versions are heard on this disc, with Webber displaying incredible range in interpreting the composer's wordless vocal to wild accompaniment in either case, though the primitive synthesizer used is easily eclipsed by the piano. Likewise, Babbitt's Reflections (For Piano and Synthesized Tape) is less than satisfying, as the electronic sounds provide little more than a distraction. Better is his Post-Partitions, written for solo piano and also played by Robert Miller. William O. Smith, who is also known as Bill Smith when he performs in a jazz setting (including a number of recordings with Dave Brubeck and a few as a leader himself), performs his own Fancies for Clarinet Alone. The ten studies produce some eerie effects, particularly when he simultaneously sings and plays a line. Leslie Bassett's Music for Saxophone and Piano is a chromatic piece for alto sax and piano, stretching the limits of the reed instrument, often simulating the sound of the higher-pitched soprano sax. Charles Wuorinen's Bassoon Variations is scored for the unusual combination of bassoon, harp, and timpani, sounding as if it could have been written for a mystery movie soundtrack. Not all of this music stands up to repeated listening, but it is enjoyable for the most part.

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