DG: Echo 20/21

COMPOSERS: Various
LABELS: DG Echo 20/21
PERFORMER: Various
CATALOGUE NO: See text for individual catalogue numbers

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Hard on the heels of the first bunch of DG’s Echo 20/21 series (reviewed in November) comes the second, and it’s another refreshing, well-packaged mix of recent recordings and older material – some of it from the fondly remembered ‘avant-garde’ series of the late Sixties and early Seventies.

CORNELIUS CARDEW’s Great Learning is still gripping after 30 years, though the chanting, drumming and sustained choral harmonies of the two recorded excerpts feel much more familiar in these days of world and new-age music (471 572-2, £13.99).

SIEGFRIED PALM and ALOYS KONTARSKY’s expertly played cello and piano recital – encompassing the strained techniques of Xenakis, the surreal humour of Kagel, the indeterminism of Earle Brown and the agonised lyricism of Bernd Alois Zimmermann – conforms more to the avant-garde stereotype (471 573-2, £13.99), as does BERIO’s Coro with its 40 singers distributed among the orchestra.

It could do with a modern recording to sort out its geographical textures a bit more cleanly, but the composer’s own Cologne version from 1980 is a classic, like the work itself – a unique take on folk poetry with a passionate political message (471 587-2, £13.99). SCHNITTKE’s engagement with pre-existing material sometimes embraces parody and pastiche, but in the hands of Gidon Kremer and friends, two of the Concerti grossi and Quasi una sonata compel you to think freshly about familiar musical gestures (471 626-2, £13.99).

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LUTOSLAWSKI’s late works do the same, though his language is more integrated, and his ear more attuned to beauty of sound. He conducts Anne-Sophie Mutter in the Partita and Chain 2, and Krystian Zimerman in the Piano Concerto, definitive recordings coupled together for the first time (471 588-2, £13.99).