Variations for Orchestra

Something of a premonition of James Levine’s headline-grabbing tenure at the Boston Symphony, these live recordings with the Munich Phil show off how completely at home he can make musicians feel as they navigate through thorny atonal and serial waters. Carter’s Variations for Orchestra, his first orchestral composition after developing his mature modernist idiom, comes across as downright lyrical. But, if you buy the CD, make sure to go straight to track 2, or be subjected to the 21 seconds of applause which bizarrely open this disc as a stand-alone track.

—FJO