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PERFORMING ARTS: CLASSICAL MUSIC, DANCE, OPERA | RECORDINGS

*** 1/2 AMY BEACH: "By the Still Waters." Joanne Polk, piano. (Arabesque)

September 28, 1997|Josef Woodard

As heard on this luminous recording, composer Amy Beach (1867-1944) straddled the 19th and 20th centuries with a wistful attraction for the former and a reluctance to join the latter. Her post-romantic and post-impressionist leanings may account for the unjustified neglect of her work during her day, although gender no doubt also had something to do with it. The tables have turned, and now Beach's music is attracting attention in part because of her rare status as a female composer.

Pianist Joanne Polk, displaying a refined sense of dynamics and instrumental color, does poetic justice to Beach's notes on this collection. New Englander Beach adapted folk music from afar, as in her "Variations on Balkan Themes" and "Scottish Legend," and created nature-oriented music worthy of Transcendentalist sentiment, as in "Young Birches." Closing the album on an ethereal note is its title piece, based on the 23rd Psalm and written in 1925. Here, Beach adopts a more modern scheme, intertwining arpeggiated lacework and patches of melody worked from left hand to right.

*

Albums are rated on a scale of one star (poor), two stars (fair), three stars (good) and four stars (excellent).

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