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*** MacDOWELL Piano Concertos Nos. 1 and 2, 'Witches Dance," Romance for Cello and Orchestra, Stephen Prutsman, piano; Aisling Drury Byrne, cello; National Symphony Orchestra of Ireland; Arthur Fagen, conductor, Naxos

*** MacDOWELL Suites Nos. 1 and 2, 'Hamlet and Ophelia," Ulster Orchestra; Takuo Yuasa, conductor, Naxos

April 15, 2001|RICHARD S. GINELL

Ever since the unofficial edict that American music ought to sound American, Edward MacDowell has been out of fashion, scorned as too Germanic, too derivative. Yet Naxos' enterprising American Classics series cares not what fashion dictates-and at Naxos' super-bargain price, these discs make a great entryway into MacDowell's earnestly appealing orchestral music. Both the Piano Concerto No. 1-a model Romantic student work full of good tunes and showoff passages-and the unconventionally structured yet still 19th century-bound Piano Concerto No. 2 are no strangers to the CD catalog. But their brief, lightweight disc-mates are apparently first recordings. The highly evocative Suites have more exuberance and originality-especially No. 2 ('Indian'). One can live very nicely with these well-played, plushly recorded performances.

*

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

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