The Beatles, “On Air: Live at the BBC Volume 2” (two discs; Beatles/Capitol/Ume). The companion piece to the 1994 “Live at the BBC” collection, “On Air” is, predictably, crammed full of killer performances and the Goon Show-style inter-band humor that made the Beatles so insanely lovable. Spread across twin discs are 37 BBC-recorded live performances and 23 pieces mixing between-take chats and full interviews with the Fabs. The packaging, with a nice introductory reminiscence from Paul McCartney, blends painstaking performance notes and a treasure trove of photos documenting the Beatles’ time at “the Beeb.” It’s about the music, though, and “On Air” boasts plenty of songs you’ll never hear the Beatles tackling anywhere else, including “I’m Talking About You,” “Lend Me Your Comb,” “Beautiful Dreamer,” “Sure To Fall (In Love with You)” and “Memphis, Tennessee.” Though this hardly seems like a revelation at this point, the Beatles were an incredibly tight live band, and in these early recordings, (made between 1962 and 1965) you can clearly hear the edge the band spent so much time sharpening while working multiset gigs day in and day out in the strip bars of Hamburg, Germany. Beatles completists need this. ΩΩΩ½ (Jeff Miers)


Roswell Rudd, “Trombone For Lovers” (Sunnyside). Back in the era before iPhones, those in need of instant communication with the world walked around with “beepers” giving them telephone numbers they needed to call immediately. A musician’s joke that went around at the time was this: “What is the perfect illustration of an optimist? A trombonist with a beeper.” The demand for trombonists in jazz waned after J.J. Johnson and Kai Winding and virtually died completely. That’s because there are certain kinds of music that are nothing if not unlikely from the instrument. One of the unlikeliest of all is illustrated by the semi-hilarious title of this disc from the former avant-garde jazz trombonist whose career started in neo-trad jazz bands. For splendidly ridiculous use of a trombone by a jazz musician, you’d be hard put to beat Rudd playing Santo and Johnny’s dripping-guitar pop hit “Sleepwalk.” Here is one of the goofiest jazz discs you’ll encounter in a while. All of Rudd’s muting – with plungers and otherwise – can’t disguise the cognitive dissonance of his use of the trombone as yearning instrument of love. Not that he does that all the time anyway. “Joe Hill” comes in three parts and is sung by a choir. Amid all the love calls, he also plays Louis Armstrong’s great “Struttin’ with Some Barbecue,” which is a song of love only if New Orleans food is the love object. But then Duke Ellington’s gorgeously reverential neo-gospel “Come Sunday” turns into nutso tailgate comedy when performed on the trombone. And then, on the lunacy front, he also gets to “September Song,” “Unchained Melody,” “Autumn Leaves” and “Here, There and Everywhere,” none of which would have ever summoned him from anywhere by means of a beeper. Partners in crime here include John Medeski of Medeski, Martin and Wood; vocalists Bob Dorough (on George Harrison’s “Here, There and Everywhere”); and Sex Mob’s slide trumpeter Steven Bernstein. A grand jazz figure, in his way, is Roswell Rudd, but this disc is strictly for lovers of jazz eccentricity. ΩΩ½ (Jeff Simon)


Prokofiev and Stravinsky, Violin Concertos performed by violinist Patricia Kopatchinskaja and the London Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Vladimir Jurowski (Naive). Granted, the comparison is more than a little absurd, but if there’s anything these days that more than rivals the number of women – especially young women – putting out their shingle as jazz singers, it’s the number of lovely young virtuoso violinists on disc these days. Patricia Kopatchinskaja is a 34-year-old Moldavian violinist who, in some photographs, looks barely old enough to drive. She is married, has a daughter and is, absolutely, one of the more impressive violinists to swim unimpeded into international consciousness in quite a while. In these two violin concertos – Stravinsky’s Concerto in D from 1931 and Prokofiev’s Concerto No.2 in G-minor from 1935 – you have two violin concertos separated by scant years in composition and years of premieres. They’re modernist opposites, both handled brilliantly by the young violinist. She excels at Stravinsky’s dry slashing retreat from emotional excess and Prokofiev’s glorious lyricism on his return to Russia and announcement that what Soviet music needed was “serious light” or “light serious music,” music that was “primarily melodious and the melody would be clear and simple without, however, becoming repetitive or trivial.” Prokofiev fulfilled his intentions so well that we now hear nothing “light” at all in the music of his return. It is some of the best known and loved music of his life. The violinist is brilliant in it all. ∆∆∆½ (J.S.)


Mark-Anthony Turnage, “Speranza” and “From the Wreckage” performed by trumpeter Hardan Hardenberger and the London Symphony Orchestra conducted by Daniel Harding (LSO). “Speranza,” meaning hope, is a musical paradox that began as a meditation on suicide and turned into what is possibly 53-year-old Mark-Anthony Turnage’s most substantial work for orchestra thus far, a dissonant, ecstatic 40-minute work employing Palestinian anthems, Israeli children’s song, a Jewish folk song and music featuring the Armenian woodwind instrument the duduk. “From the Wreckage” is a 15-minute trumpet concerto composed specifically for Swedish trumpeter Harkan Hardenberger that follows pieces more than a little revealing of Turnage’s love of jazz. Trumpet, fluegelhorn and piccolo trumpet are all used by the soloist in the single movement work. Turnage is not a contemporary composer destined for broad popularity, but his music is powerful and very well-played here. ΩΩΩ (J.S.)


Joy to the World: An American Christmas from the Handel and Haydn Society (Handel and Haydn Society). The Handel and Haydn Society chorus, led by Harry Christophers, lives up to its history with this collection of august Christmas carols. The disc doffs its hat to New England, where this marvelously named society was organized (in Boston) in the early 19th century. Though not all the songs are old, most are, and they trace the relationship between England and America and America and Christmas. The Puritans originally outlawed Christmas because they associated it, and its revelries, with Roman Catholics. Gradually, the Protestants came on board, and so we now have this rich stocking full of song treasures with varying backgrounds. Some carols, for history’s sake, are heard on this disc more than once. The ancient “In Dulci Jubilo” is heard three ways, and there are two takes of “O Little Town of Bethlehem” (in its American version that you always hear, and the British version heard at Episcopal Lessons and Carols). Sometimes, as in “Angels We Have Heard on High,” the singers sound fussy, over-thinking their phrases. But then should not the Handel and Haydn Society sound fussy? I enjoyed this 19-song trip into history, from the austere, Appalachian “I Wonder as I Wander” to the Trans-Siberian Orchestra standard “Carol of the Bells.” ΩΩΩ½ (Mary Kunz Goldman)


Schubert, Piano Sonatas No. 13 in A and No. 18 in G, Janina Fialkowska, piano (ATMA Classique). Fialkowska is famous for her Chopin and the delicate touch she brings to it. She brings that same ultra-delicate, intuitive touch to these soul-searching, indescribably beautiful sonatas by Franz Schubert. This is definitely music a pianist grows into. I do not think that earlier in her career, Fialkowska could have played it the same way. There is not a lot of muscle in her playing – for vast stretches it rarely goes about a mezzo forte, and sometimes you wish it would. Occasionally it is all but inaudible. It makes me think of what I have read about the way Chopin reportedly played. On the other hand, this is music of the twilight, music not quite of this world. Fialkowska clearly appreciates that, and she communicates it with grace. ∆∆∆½ (M.K.G.)