A delightful new set of favorites by Pulitzer Prize-winning composer Ellen Taaffe Zwilich has just been released on the Naxos label. The collection opens with an enchanting performance of the “Millennium Fantasy” for piano and orchestra, featuring the brilliant American virtuoso Jeffrey Biegel, for whom the two-movement piece was written. Biegel, who knows the score better than perhaps anyone else save the composer, turns in a magical performance that stays with the listener long after the recording is over.
Zwilich’s set of five “Images” (“Opening,” “La Poupee Abandonee,” “Irises, Tulips, Jonquils and Roses,” “Bacchus No. 3,” and “Spiritualist”) is a veritable musical tasting menu. Pianists Read Gainsford and Heidi Louise Williams serve up each offering with flavorful dashes of dreamy lyricism and explosive violence.
Rounding out the album, Biegel returns to the keyboard with a deeply satisfying rendition of “Peanuts Gallery,” a charming group of musical sketches inspired by the well-known Charles Schulz characters.
The Florida State University Orchestra was in especially fine form under the baton of Alexander Jimenez.
The disc is available at bookstores including Barnes & Noble, or online via various sources including bn.com and ArkivMusic.com: http://www.arkivmusic.com/classical/album.jsp?album_id=511628&album_group=14
– Mark Stubis, Global Newsbytes, New York