Cesar Frank -- Preludes
Paul Crossley, Piano
(Sony Classical): For most semidevoted classical fans, Frank is best known for his Symphony in D Minor, a work of sweeping moods and beauty that guarantees his reputation as a master. But his shorter piano works, preludes, and dances give useful hints about the mysterious construction of that work. The unequivocal themes of Bach, Beethoven, and Wagner, who predated him, wend through his work, but his compositions are modernized by his French intensity (he was Belgian, but lived in Paris) and the imploring nature of the falling phrases. He uses these phases rapturously, if tendentiously. Paul Crossley's treatment is precise and patient.
* RHYTHM & BLUES
Barry White -- The Icon is Love (A&M): After a long commercial dry spell, the man is back, with a hit album featuring his singular voice and sultry, romantic sounds. The theme, as you might imagine, is love, and the music is a canny blend of slow grooves and up-tempo dance rhythms, with a production team that includes such ringers as Jimmy Jam, Terry Lewis, and Gerald Levert. White's deep, deep voice stands out among the R&B clutter, and while his spoken introductions still border on camp, the music has undeniable sex appeal.
Duran Duran -- Thank You
(Capitol): Duran Duran may be thought of as a British glam band whose career ended in the '80s with the hit ''Hungry Like the Wolf,'' but the group has released several records since then. Their latest, ''Thank You,'' (paying a debt of gratitude to fans) is a collection of covers. The songs that come across beautifully are ''Perfect Day'' (written by Lou Reed) and ''The Crystal Ship'' (The Doors). But lead singer Simon LeBon proves that his voice isn't suited to rap on ''911 is a Joke'' (Public Enemy). Die-hard fans will probably wish for a sequel with more originality.
Lisa Leigh Parney