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Soundtakes

August 8, 1985



CLASSICAL Alban Berg: Violin Concerto; Bartok, Bela: Violin Concerto No. 1 (op. posth.). Kyung Wha Chung, violin. Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Sir Georg Solti, conductor. (London digital 411 804-1 [LP]; 411 804-2 [CD]) -- Kyung Wha Chung is an elegant violinist, at her very best when suffusing long, lyrical lines with pathos. Throughout, her reading is tender yet strong, wistful yet passionate. Sir Georg Solti is an alert, pleasantly subdued accompanist, allowing the violinist her central role, yet never underplayin g Berg's musical drama. The Bartok receives an equally fine performance. The Chicago Symphony plays superbly throughout. The sound on the CD is magnificent -- full in the climaxes, transparent (and noiseless) in the quiet pages. -- Thor Eckert Jr. Sergei Prokofiev: Cinderella (suite). Saint Louis Symphony, Leonard Slatkin, conductor. (RCA Red Seal digital ARC1-5321) -- This is the second RCA release from Leonard Slatkin and the St. Louis Symphony. It is also the second disc devoted to Prokofiev, the first being an exceptional reading of the Fifth Symphony. This ``Cinderella'' suite is performed with such beauty and atmosphere, it makes one almost regret that the entire ballet wasn't recorded -- it would have been the best recording of the work. As it is, this suite is treasurable. Slatkin has cultivated an elegant orchestra in St. Louis. Producer Jay David Saks gives the performance a sound that is not stereo-demo, but natural, luxuriously listenable. -- T. E. Jr. JAZZ/POP/ROCK Frank Foster and Frank Wess: ``Two for the Blues.'' (Pablo Records 2310 905) -- Both Foster and Wess were members of the Count Basie band in the '50s and '60s, and Frank Foster was Basie's longtime arranger. At last these two are moving out of the reed section and into the small-group jazz scene and getting some well-deserved individual attention. This album -- a swinging example of the complementary yet contrasting styles of the two Franks -- should certainly help to speed them on their way. The two men play tightly

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together, and the soloing is strong and inventive. The excellent rhythm section consists of drummer Marvin (Smitty) Smith, pianist Kenny Barron, and bassist Rufus Reid. -- Amy Duncan Gene Bertoncini and Michael Moore: ``Close Ties.'' (OmniSound Records GJB 3334, OmniSound Inc., Box 128, Delaware Water Gap, Pa. 18327); the Victor Feldman Trio: ``To Chopin With Love.'' (Palo Alto Records PA 8056 N) -- The melding of classical music with jazz has produced some beautiful, as well as some horrific, results. Guitarist Gene Bertoncini and bassist Michael Moore have come up with a highly successful blending of the two forms on their latest release, ``Close Ties.'' Bertoncini, who has been playing jazz on

the classical acoustic guitar for a long time, has just the right approach -- carefully structured, yet free; sensitive and gentle, yet swinging and harmonically biting. On this recording, he and Moore (one of the finest and most musical bassists in jazz) read each other uncannily. The two explore a stunning variety of colors and textures, from the funky groove and bowed bass solo of Gershwin's Prelude No. 2 to the charming counterpoint duet on Bach's ``Siciliano,'' which transmutes to a lightly swinging w altz. The Feldman album, although it exudes a sincere love for Chopin's music, lacks the cohesiveness of the Bertoncini-Moore collaboration. Instead of presenting a unified whole, it comes across a bit too much as a ``jazzed-up classics'' project. Nevertheless, there are some fine moments. Feldman's solo piano pieces, such as ``Star Drift'' (based on the berceuse) and ``Waltz for Scotty'' (from the A-flat major waltz), demonstrate a lyrical quality reminiscent of Dave Brubeck's early solo piano style. -- A. D. U2: ``The Unforgettable Fire.'' (Island Records S-681380) -- A group from Dublin, U2 expresses in this album its interest in mankind and its unquenchable hope for peace. The song ``Pride (In the name of love)'' is a tribute to Martin Luther King Jr. Lead vocalist Bono dramatically juxtaposes breathless lyrics with powerful cries, yielding a strong message about the importance of sacrificing whatever is necessary for world peace. Striking bass lines and the subtle, featherlike thrum of a guitar set tle a blanket of fog on ``4th of July.'' Dire vocals resonating desperation, desolation, and isolation then lift the fog, demanding that these feelings be dealt with. The soft, delicate beauty of ``MLK'' breathes counterpoise. ``Sleep, sleep tonight and may your dreams be realized, so let it be,'' Bono sings. His message is clear: Don't become overwhelmed with life's trials; give yourself a moment now and then to dwell in peace. Chalk up another winner for U2. -- Roger Dean du Mars Toto: ``Isolation.'' (CBS Records QC 38962) -- Listen to this album, and you can visualize a small group of guys in a recording studio -- nubby and slightly cross after being shackled together for 48 straight hours -- battering an album into shape. ``Isolation'' sounds like work, and it's work to listen to. Toto has done some nice work in the past -- its 1982 ``Toto IV'' yielded several superlatively styled hits. But the crack instrumentals and studio pyrotechnics that have powered the group into the

top 40 sometimes seem like an old bag of tricks here. New lead singer Fergie Frederiksen, while well equipped to belt out these songs, sounds uncomfortably similar to the singers for several other ``corporate rock'' bands. The LP begins auspiciously enough with ``Carmen,'' a skillful rocker that unleashes the group's powerful guitars and histrionic keyboards. But instead of building on that, much of the remaining material is trivial. The scene brightens considerably for ``Holyanna,'' a smartly styled song with a splendid hook. There are other times, too, when the group sparkles, but as a whole, this ``Toto'' doesn't hold up at album length. -- David Hugh Smith