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suggesting that it could stand on its own. The ease with which the recording captures the orchestra’s superb intonation and velvet power is an equally essential element of the production. With its amazing range, spatial definition and excellent manners, this offering should reproduce well on every system at every volume level. Laurence Vittes

Joseph Rackers ‘Debut’ JS Bach ‘Chromatic’ Fantasy and Fugue, BWV903 Bartók Piano Sonata, Sz80 Ravel La valse Schumann Fantasie, Op 17 Joseph Rackers pf MSR Classics M MS1364 (68’ • DDD)

Solo debut on MSR for South Carolina piano professor Joseph Rackers makes his recording debut with an impressive recital of intriguing heavyweight display pieces played as if he means it. He digests the music spontaneously as if he were a method pianist along the lines of a pianistic James Dean.

The results are consistently compelling, each in a different way, as if Rackers’s response were primarily to his relationship with the composer as some sort of kindred spirit. In the Bach fugue he identifies the musical elements and colours with an initially uninvolved abstract curiosity. But as the Fugue develops, the music and the playing become increasingly infused with warmth and flexible phrasing.

The Schumann is like that, too, as if Schumann were someone beyond merely his music. In Rackers’s imagination it means playing dreamily at times, in a generous, lyrical, flowing way that recaptures idyllic raptures of the composer’s own life, when he felt these emotions and wrote them down in music. Rackers is adept at sharing the intimacy he feels with Schumann’s music and communicating it with an unassuming technical ease. While Rackers’s Ravel is suitably drowsy, moody and charming, his Bartók is a man of attractive, homespun qualities – the Bartók who played lullabies for his son at night on a piano in the next room. The workman-like recording was made at the South Carolina School of Music, where Rackers teaches. The pianist’s bookletnotes speak eloquently about the musical and technical challenges each work poses to the aspiring pianist and listener. Laurence Vittes

‘In Paradisum’ ‘The Healing Power of Heaven’ Duru lé Requiem, Op 9 Sarti Nïñe sílï ñebésnïya (Now the Powers of Heaven) Traditional The Battle of Jericho (arr Hogan). Deep River (arr Lubo f). Run on (God’s gonna cut you down) (arr Ruschman)

Cohesive and expressive: South Dakota Chorale at First Congregational Church, Sioux Falls

South Dakota Chorale / Brian A Schmidt with Jesse Eschbach org Gothic F Í G49279 (55’ • DDD/DSD)

Duru lé the anchor in South Dakota choir’s irst recording Before embarking on the contemplative masterpiece that is Duruflé’s Requiem, this professional ensemble introduces its kaleidoscopic sense of choral sonority in shorter scores also abounding in deep spiritual feeling. What’s striking about Giuseppe Sarti’s Nïñe sílï ñebésnïya is the Italian composer’s remarkable assimilation of Russian Orthodox traditions. The ‘power of heaven’ noted in the title is depicted through rich and impassioned lines that are distinctive in shape, shading and personality. The chorale and their conductor Brian A Schmidt provide the writing with cohesive and expressive definition, as they do the three American pieces that follow. In the traditional folksong ‘Run On’, basses Tom McNichols and Trevor Neal are vividly alert to emotional coloration, and McNichols contributes vocal splendour in ‘Deep River’, an opportunity for the ensemble to breathe expansive life into the fervent phrases. Moses Hogan’s arrangement of ‘The Battle of Jericho’ bursts with excitement, especially when soprano Amber Wellborn makes startling octave leaps as if the sun were suddenly breaking through the clouds.

Schmidt presides over a luminous account of the Duruflé, which is performed in the version with organ. The chorale embraces with organic refinement the meditative beauty in each movement, and the soloists – baritone Brandon Hendrickson and mezzo Elizabeth Johnson Knight – bring fine intensity to their duties. Organist Jesse Eschbach draws subtle and grand colorations from the Bedient organ at First Congregational Church in Sioux Falls. Donald Rosenberg

‘Journaling’ JL Adams Three High Places Bunch Until Next Time Dufallo Violin Loop I; Violin Loop V Huang Ruo Four Fragments Iyer Playlist One (Resonance) Jeanrenaud Empty In inity J King Prima volta Cornelius Dufallo vn/elecs Innova F INNOVA831 (58’ • DDD)

Dufallo and friends play with instrumental experimentation Violinist Cornelius Dufallo knows there’s a fine line between composing music and fiddling around. In his second solo collection for Innova, Dufallo has erased that line, stringing together – so to speak – works by himself, fellow string players (viola players John King and Kenji Bunch, former Kronos Quartet cellist Joan Jeanrenaud) and a couple of stray pianists (Huang Ruo and Vijay Iyer).

Dufallo’s own Violin Loop I sets the tone, its simple repeated passage growing in intensity as the musical material augments. By contrast, Jeanrenaud’s Empty Infinity spins its ethereal aura by overlapping loops of varying lengths to destroy any metric pulse, while King’s Prima volta juxtaposes fixed elements with chance-generated computer processing.

Huang’s Four Fragments and Bunch’s Until Next Time play with tunings and timbre, finding experimental possibilities in Chinese folk music and Scottish fiddle tunes respectively. Only Iyer’s Playlist One (Resonance), with its plucking and double-stops, and John Luther Adams’s Three High Places, which integrates spatial dimensions into the musical package, resort to the self-conscious rhetoric of composition.

Despite the breadth of these works, the results clearly form a distinct musical vision that, no matter how adventurous a particular piece may be in terms of timbral or technical requirements, never loses sight of the sheer joy of solo playing. Ken Smith