RICHARD STRAUSS Oboe Concerto. With Lutoslawski's Double Concerto for Oboe and Harp. Heinz Holliger, oboe; Ursula Holliger, harp. Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, Michael Gielen, conductor (MMG/Vox Cum Laude digital, CD MCD 10006) - A marvelous LP takes on new splendors in its CD format. Without the intrusion of surface noise, and with the stunning clarity of digital sound, both these compellingly performed works have a new-found majesty and appeal. There is no finer oboist than Holliger, and Gielen is a superb accompanist throughout. Strauss's last concerto is expectedly pretty, while the Lutoslawski blends drama, dynamism, and wit as it explores the relation between the soloists and orchestra. -ThorEckertJr. ZWILICH Symphony No. 1 (``Three Movements for Orchestra''); ``Prologue and Variations''; ``Celebration.'' Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra, John Nelson, conductor (New World Records digital, LP NW 336) - Ellen Taaffe Zwilich is considered America's premier woman composer. But by any label she establishes herself as a muse worth noting in these three works. Her idiom is basically, but not self-consciously, tonal; she writes graceful, thoughtful, attractive pieces. Her First Symphony won her the '83 Pulitzer Prize for Music. It should be played by every orchestra, since players will find it gratifying, and audiences will appreciate the lyricism and musical candor. The ``Variations'' is less remarkable, while ``Celebration,'' written for Andr'e Previn's first night at the helm of the Los Angeles Philharmonic is appropriate as an occasional piece.
-T.E.Jr. MEREDITH MONK ``Our Lady of Late'' (Wergo/Spectrum SM 1058) - A pure example of Monk's unique style. While running her finger along the rim of a goblet to produce a ringing drone, she works her way through a 16-part sequence of uninhibited vocal flights, each illustrating a different facet of her anything-goes technique. With its radically minimal accompaniment and absence of other voices, the suite may be too uncompromising for some listeners. But there's a world of variety in its tunes and atmospheres, and Monk's vocalizing is as virtuosic as it is freewheeling. The late Collin Walcott is the guest artist.
-David Sterritt STEVE REICH ``Sextet/Six Marimbas'' (Nonesuch 79138-1) - Reich returns yet again to two of his great loves, minimalism and mallet instruments. ``Six Marimbas'' is a rescoring of his early ``Six Pianos,'' always a percussion piece at heart, and more shimmering than ever in its new form. Composed with the percussion group Nexus and choreographer Laura Dean in mind, the Sextet takes off in fresh directions for Reich, who uses synthesizers for the first time and coaxes sustained tones from marimbas by having them played with bows. The results are both complex and infectious. Nexus and the Manhattan Marimba Quartet are guest artists. -D.S.