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 V.14 No.2 | January 13 - 19, 2005 

Blue Note

Motion Trio Pictures From the Street (Asphalt-Tango)

Motion Trio

Pictures From the Street (Asphalt-Tango)

Preconceptions of accordion music as hokey or limited vanish upon playing this mind-opening disc. Featuring original compositions by members of Poland's Motion Trio, the music ranges from uptempo, high-spirited affairs to others that bubble along in a manner reminiscent of Nino Rota's music for Fellini.

The video is especially wild, with space music sounds and Glass-like minimalist repetition accompanying equally outré, unabashedly self-promoting images. The trio has won the Grand Prix at the Fourth Krzysztof Penderecki International Competition of Contemporary Chamber Music in Kraków; each of its members has also won a handful of prizes as soloists. The years they've spent honing their craft on the streets pays off in a stunning recorded début.

Natalie Dessay Amor (EMI)

Natalie Dessay

Amor (EMI)

When it comes to amor, high-flying soprano Natalie Dessay's new recital of opera scenes and lieder (songs) by Richard Strauss has me head over heals. From Zerbinetta's delightful, impossible-to-sing coloratura showpiece from Ariadne auf Naxos to the two great silver- and pink-hued duets and transcendent trio from Strauss' great romantic opera Der Rosenkavalier, Dessay's beautiful tone, apt phrasing and infectious spirit illumine Strauss' soaring melodies with love and joy. If you've ever wondered why some people wax ecstatic over opera, give this a listen.

For those who know the music of Strauss only from the thunderous chords of his early tone poem, "Sprach Zarathustra" played at the opening of the movie "2001," uncovering his vocal music may bring as much pleasure as opening a gift of expensive chocolate. The four Brentano Lieder, capped by the bubbly "Amor," are one of the composer's many gifts to the soprano voice of which he was enamored. The Arabella duet, originally composed for the very different voiced Lotte Lehmann, combines beauty and nostalgia in Strauss' inimitable soaring manner.

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