"Lux Aeterna," Morten Lauridsen (Hyperion) One of today's most performed choral composers, Northwest native Morten Lauridsen has won legions...

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“Lux Aeterna,” Morten Lauridsen (Hyperion)

One of today’s most performed choral composers, Northwest native Morten Lauridsen has won legions of international fans for the otherworldly beauty of his music. This new Hyperion CD has paired that music with superb interpreters: conductor Stephen Layton and his chorus Polyphony, plus the Britten Sinfonia (Pauline Lowbury, leader). The 1997 “Lux Aeterna,” a luminous five-movement choral/orchestral requiem composed to texts about light, is joined here by the six “Madrigali” — virtuoso a cappella choral pieces — and three shorter works for chorus, including the hugely popular “O Magnum Mysterium.” Layton’s Polyphony is just the chorus to do this music justice, with clear, unfussy, adroit readings that rise to the rapturous.

Mozart Piano Sonatas,


Alfred Brendel


(Philips)

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It was the great pianist Artur Schnabel who famously observed, “Mozart’s music is too easy for beginners and too difficult for artists.” Alfred Brendel, however, is a pianist who regularly surmounts all challenges, and his Mozart has long been famous for the clarity and wisdom of his playing. Here he undertakes three lovely sonatas (K.281, K.282 and K.576), plus the Fantasia in C Minor (K.396), in a disc that keyboard fans will love. Another Philips recording pairs the pianist with his cellist son, Adrian Brendel, in a two-disc set of the complete Beethoven works for cello and piano — a rare partnership with brilliant playing on both sides. (Note: Catch Alfred Brendel in recital at Benaroya Hall on March 13 at the unusual start time of 4 p.m., when he’ll play Mozart and more; call 206-215-4747 for tickets.)

Ax and Bronfman Play Brahms (Sony Classical)

Pianists Emanuel Ax and Yefim Bronfman both have stellar solo careers, but they also love playing duo-piano repertoire. Here they take on two large-scale Brahms works, the Sonata in F Major for Two Pianos (Op. 34b) and the Variations on a Theme by Haydn (Op. 56b). (The former work began its life as a string quartet, and eventually became the Piano Quintet in F Minor; the latter is more famous in its orchestral version.) These two keyboard powerhouses combine for a sound that is truly orchestral. (Note: Ax and Bronfman return to Benaroya Hall for a March 21 recital at 7:30 p.m., performing Ravel’s “La Valse” and Stravinsky’s “The Rite of Spring.” For tickets, call 206-215-4747.)

Lang Lang Plays Rachmaninoff (Deutsche Grammophon)

The young virtuoso pianist Lang Lang has taken a few recent hits from critics who feel he over-emphasizes visceral excitement at the expense of musical values. This new CD of Rachmaninoff (the Piano Concerto No. 2 and the Paganini Rhapsody) with Valery Gergiev and the Orchestra of the Mariinsky Theatre certainly doesn’t bear out such criticism. If ever there were an invitation to thunder away at the keyboard, Rachmaninoff provides it, but there’s considerably more here than mere pyrotechnics (though this is pretty exciting Rachmaninoff).

These are probing performances, not always taking the obvious line, with expansive playing and attention to detail. The high-powered Gergiev is Lang Lang’s ideal partner on the podium.

Brahms Symphony No. 1,


Marin Alsop


(Naxos)

Cello fans will already have marked their calendars for the April 21-23 arrival of the gifted Truls Mørk in Benaroya Hall.

But there is another reason to cheer. Conductor Marin Alsop, a woman who is making her mark in increasingly high places, will be there to lead the cellist and the Seattle Symphony in performances of Dvorak and Tchaikovsky.

On this disc for the Naxos label, where she has been much featured, Alsop leads the excellent London Philharmonic Orchestra in a disc of Brahms: the magisterial Symphony No. 1, plus the “Tragic” Overture and the “Academic Festival” Overture. These are deft, spirited performances that bring out the grandeur of the music but also its complexities and inner voices. Brava.

“Silken Rags,”


Peter Winkler and Dorothea Cook


(SR CD-1)

Violinist Dorothea Cook was a familiar figure in Seattle musical circles before her move to New York several years back (she was a member of the Northwest Chamber Orchestra, among many other groups). Now fans can hear her in something entirely different: a lovely and inventive disc of genre-bending compositions by her husband, Peter Winkler, a music professor at Stony Brook University. The music, for violin and piano, features the pair in rhythmically complex, harmonically rich music with influences extending from gospel and Caribbean to samba and tango — all performed here with remarkable flair and dash. (This disc is available at www.Cdbaby.com and www.amazon.com.)

Melinda Bargreen: mbargreen@seattletimes.com