Michael Walsh
November 16, 1990 AT 05:00 AM EST

The latest in classical music releases

Stravinsky
The Rite of Spring; Symphony in Three Movements. Esa-Pekka Salonen conducting the Philharmonia Orchestra
(Sony Classical; CD, T)
Stravinsky
Works for Piano and Orchestra. Paul Crossley, piano; Esa-Pekka Salonen conducting the London Sinfonietta
(Sony Classical; CD, T)
Esa-Pekka Salonen, age 32, is perhaps the fastest-rising conductor on the international scene. Recently appointed to succeed André Previn at the Los Angeles Philharmonic, this Finnish-born maestro is blessed with an ear for sonorities and a strong rhythmic sense, and he makes an ideal Stravinskian. ”The Rite” surges and sparkles, often at breathtakingly fast tempos, while the regal ”Symphony in Three Movements” has an icy grandeur that befits its status as Stravinsky’s most cogently argued abstract symphonic work. A-

The piano works are a bit more problematic. Small, slight, and self-deprecating to a fault, they have not found favor with pianists. Probably the best is the frisky ”Capriccio for Piano and Orchestra,” which dates from 1928-29 but is heard here in the slightly revised version of 1949. More enigmatic is ”Movements for Piano and Orchestra” (1958-59), in which the aging composer finally tackled the 12-tone techniques he had spent his life avoiding. Stravinsky never really believed in Schonberg’s radical method of organizing music, and his diffidence is plainly apparent. Crossley plays both pieces, as well as the ”Concerto for Piano and Wind Instruments,” with style and sass, while Salonen chips in with a finely calibrated accompaniment and a bustling reading of the ”Symphonies of Wind Instruments.” B

Ruth Laredo
My First Recital
(ESS.A.Y; CD, T)
Here’s an interesting idea: Take a prominent American pianist and put her in the studio playing a collection of (mostly) beginner’s piano pieces and see what happens. What happens is good. Laredo, better known for her fire-breathing Rachmaninoff, here tones down, delivering splendidly artless readings of old favorites like the first prelude of Bach’s ”Well-Tempered Clavier,” Beethoven’s ”Fur Elise” and Debussy’s ”Clair de Lune.” No matter how sophisticated a performer or listener may be, these classics always repay study, as Laredo demonstrates. A pleasure. B+

Shostakovich
Symphony No. 10. James De Preist conducting the Helsinki Philharmonic
(Delos; CD)
How to account for the run on Shostakovich’s Tenth lately? Hard on the heels of Yoel Levi’s fine version with the Atlanta Symphony comes this excellent performance by De Preist and the Finnish orchestra. De Preist, music director of the Oregon Symphony, has long seemed to me an underrated American musician, and part of the reason, sad to say, is his race: Black conductors, like black quarterbacks in the NFL, still have plenty of hurdles in their way. De Preist grabs ahold of the mighty Tenth and doesn’t let go, shaping the opening Moderato movement with a master’s hand, turning the band loose in the nightmarish scherzo, and generally distinguishing himself elsewhere. The Helsinki orchestra is not first-class, but the disc is a solid contender in the Shostakovich sweepstakes. B

Dvorák
Symphony No. 9, ”From the New World.” André Previn conducting the Los Angeles Philharmonic
(Telarc; CD)
His reign sandwiched between those of Carlo Maria Giulini and Esa-Pekka Salonen, Previn has left little mark on the Los Angeles orchestra. A sober, dutiful, dull conductor, he has found favor in Britain, where such qualities are prized. But in L.A., which also experienced Zubin Mehta when he was young and full of juice, Previn never made the grade, as this tired reading of Dvorák’s great symphony shows. There’s not a spark of life in it, mostly because the rhythmic underpinning, while accurate, never supercharges the music the way it should. Previn is content to muddle through, letting the tunes fall where they may; he’s on autopilot and we, unfortunately, are along for the ride. D-

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