Soundtracks: December 1999

Traditionally, December is a slim month for new releases. Most record companies and distributors view December as a time to catch up and to make one valiant final effort for the entire year’s releases through holiday promotions. Still, however, a handful of exciting new releases have come our way that might even wind up in many “Best of the Year” lists! A new disc of early chamber music by Elliott Carter, lovingly played by the Chicago Pro Musica, fills in the missing aural links between his accessible Americana and the later metrical complexities. A new recordings of Aaron Copland’s The Tender Land, re-orchestrated for 13 instruments by Murry Sidlin, finally captures the innocence and intimacy which Copland was trying to convey in his only full-length opera.

This month, CRI, continues its usual bounty combining exciting new recordings of new repertoire with re-issues from its legendary back catalog. Two new composers featured on their own first-ever CRI releases this month are Richard Festinger and Mathew Rosenblum, whose must-hear music employs a bizarre 21-tone tuning system combining the standard 12-tone equal tempered scale with 9 additional pitches derived from just intonation. Past repertoire mined by CRI this month include a re-issue of historic composer-led recordings by David Van Vactor and a brand new recording of piano and chamber works by Louise Talma whose music should be much better known. Finally, Vicky Ray‘s exciting new recital disc features six very recent solo piano pieces, five of which were composed within the last four years. Combine that with New Albion’s CD re-issue of Stephen Scott’s classic LP Music for Bowed Pianos for a fascinating overview of new ideas for the piano emanating from the West Coast.

Of course, for people who are producing their own CDs, there is no need to worry about pushing back catalog for the holidays. In fact, this is probably an excellent month to introduce something new: hence new CDs devoted to music by Mark Carlson, Earnest G. Woodall and Larry Kucharz, whose previous CD was also featured in NewMusicBox earlier this year. And although Christina Fong’s new recital disc featuring late solo violin works by John Cage might make your skin crawl (perhaps inspiring the disc’s provocative cover), it challenges the myth that Cage’s late number pieces are all ambient and meditative.

In addition, 4tay, a brand new record label devoted to new music launched with new releases by Herbert A. Deutsch, Albert Tepper, Jerry Rizzi, and Elodie Lauten whose remarkable Variations on the Orange Cycle was featured on the Century List.

Lastly, Sony Classical’s 2-CD retrospective of 30 years of film scores by John Williams, poses a challenge that NewMusicBox would like to make. What are the ten best CDs of 1999 that we featured in NewMusicBox. What are the 10 best CDs of 1999 that we left out?