Alternative July Fourth listening. No Sousa is heard in The National Anthems, a choral work by David Lang on the Cantaloupe label. Its text contains lines from the national anthems of every United Nations country, along with Lang's own poetic commentary, which unflinchingly addresses the anguish and violence that seem to be part of the formation and maintenance of any nation. Alternately halting and exclamatory, the rhetorical style uses minimalist repetition that becomes entrancing as it evolves, similar to the piece's disc-mate, the choral version of Lang's Pulitzer-winning The Little Match Girl Passion. Performances by the Los Angeles Master Chorale favor a fuller, less-precise sound than we're used to from The Crossing, but director Grant Gershon uses it to make weightier pronouncements.
- David Patrick Stearns
Martha, our dear. Record labels are constantly mining the vaults, and with various degrees of reward, but Martha Argerich fans will be thrilled to greet at least a few of the works in Early Recordings, a new Deutsche Grammophon release of recordings from the very beginning of the pianist's career. Argerich is captured in early views of Ravel's Gaspard de la nuit and the Sonatine, as well as in Prokofiev's Toccata and Third and Seventh sonatas, and she is more than fine, if not unusually revelatory, in this repertoire.
But it is two works of Beethoven and Mozart that make this two-CD set worth hearing, especially since they have not been, until now, part of the authorized Argerich catalogue. Made in 1960 for West German Radio when Argerich was 18, these takes of Mozart's Sonata No. 18 in D Major, K. 576 and Beethoven's Sonata No. 7 in D Major, Opus 10, No. 3, are rendered in both an edgy intensity and a golden, rounded tone. The Beethoven is especially electric - the pacing of that excruciatingly tragic climax in the second movement, and the force with which she makes those unexpectedly placed rhythmic jabs in the first. She hears things in these works no one else does, which is the Argerich (now 75) we have come to love. - Peter Dobrin