New Releases by the Tokyo Quartet, Ailyn Pérez & Garrick Ohlsson

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For the July Fourth holiday week, we highlight a quartet of American-themed new releases. The Tokyo Quartet plays Dvorak's "American" Quartet in their farewell recording; young American soprano Ailyn Pérez sings French songs; the Buffalo Philharmonic plays Gershwin and Garrick Ohlsson celebrates Charles Tomlinson Griffes.

Tokyo String Quartet
Dvorak: String Quartet No 12; Smetana: String Quartet
Harmonia Mundi
Available at

After an eventful 44-year run, the Tokyo String Quartet is calling it a day. The quartet will give its final concert this Saturday at the Norfolk Chamber Music Festival. Fans of the ensemble can be grateful that it is leaving behind four-dozen recordings from the core of Western chamber music. For their last album, the US-based Tokyo offers a glimpse into the private world of two Czech composers: Antonín Dvorak and Bedrich Smetana. The group gives us a radiant reading of the former's "American" String Quartet No. 12, and a well-balanced and polished performance of the latter's String Quartet No. 1, subtitled "From My Life."

Ailyn Pérez, soprano; Iain Burnside, piano
Poeme d'un jour
Opus Arte
Available at

American soprano Ailyn Pérez is a becoming a fixture at some of Europe's top opera houses, notably Covent Garden in London and the Hamburg State Opera in Germany. The 33-year-old is getting more attention on this side of the Atlantic too, with a Metropolitan Opera debut planned for an upcoming season. Her debut recital album, with pianist Iain Burnside, features a mix of studio and live recordings of French and Spanish songs. Highlights include a set of sensual numbers by Renaldo Hahn; the title cycle by Gabriel Fauré; and the scintillating Siete canciones populares espanolas of Falla. Read an interview with Pérez.

Charles Tomlinson Griffes Piano Music
Garrick Ohlsson, piano
Available at

The American composer Charles Tomlinson Griffes composed actively for only 13 years but managed to develop his own unique brand of American romantic impressionism before his death in 1920, at age 35. Griffes was particularly attracted to the music of Debussy, Ravel and Scriabin, and his music reflects their influence. His best-known work is the rich, dense Piano Sonata, widely considered his masterpiece, and it’s the centerpiece by this new album by Garrick Ohlsson. The pianist also brings together some of Griffes’s short, evocative pieces including The Vale of Dreams, The White Peacock and A Winter Landscape. A welcome contribution to our understanding of this neglected American original.

Gershwin: Rhapsody In Blue; Strike Up The Band Overture; Promenade
Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra
JoAnn Falletta, conductor
Available at

The Buffalo Philharmonic, conducted by the tireless Joann Falletta, present the second volume of a series of Gershwin recordings, this with pianist Orion Weiss taking on the solo part in the ultimate orchestral party piece: Rhapsody in Blue. The collection also includes some of Gershwin's shorter razzle-dazzle, and the Catfish Row from Porgy and Bess. This fine orchestra, which recently appeared at the Spring for Music festival at Carnegie Hall is in fine form here.