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*** CORIGLIANO: "Phantasmagoria" Emanuel Ax, piano; James Tocco, piano; Yo-Yo Ma, cello, Sony Classical

November 19, 2000|RICHARD S. GINELL

"Phantasmagoria" is a distillation of John Corigliano's opera "The Ghosts of Versailles," a 16-minute-plus showpiece for Ma and Ax. Roughly following the order of the opera, touching upon its slithering "ghost" music, bustling Rossini/Mozart pastiches and emotionally lyrical passages, "Phantasmagoria" is the only way to get a taste of this amazing score because the entire opera, released only on home video by Deutsche Grammophon, is now out-of-print.

The disc also includes a collection of Corigliano fantasies. Ma makes intense, yearning work of "Fancy on a Bach Air," which abstractly takes off on Bach's ubiquitous "Goldberg" Variations--a memorial to a Corigliano friend also named Goldberg. "Fantasy on an Ostinato," a solo piece for Ax, is another homage, building gently on the rhythms and tunes of the second movement of Beethoven's Symphony No. 7 with Minimalist and chance techniques.

And "Etude Fantasy" uses a difficult study for the left hand as a springboard for a wild variety of textures that seem to pose few terrors for Tocco's colossal technique.

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