For those of you that remember the music and song-craft of Barry White, you remember a performer that could touch the heart of an emotion, and make it stand out with a unique, often breathy, bass vocal. In the ’70s, almost everything Barry White released became an instant hit. In fact, there’s a collection of singles that achieved gold and platinum status. Of course, his albums did quite well. But most of us remember him primarily by his string of radio hits that still resonate because his voice and delivery was never replicated.
It's a tall order to compile the best classical music of the twentieth century, but EMI has selected its top 100 classics for this six-disc set, and it's difficult to argue with most of the choices. Without taking sides in the great ideological debates of the modern era – traditionalist vs. avant-garde, tonal vs. atonal, styles vs. schools, and so on – the label has picked the composers whose reputations seem most secure at the turn of the twenty-first century and has chosen representative excerpts of their music. Certainly, the titans of modernism are here, such as Igor Stravinsky, Arnold Schoenberg, Béla Bartók, Dmitry Shostakovich, Sergey Prokofiev, Claude Debussy, and Benjamin Britten, to name just a few masters, but they don't cast such a large shadow that they eclipse either their more backward-looking predecessors or their more experimental successors.
Allison Brewster Franzetti's debut on Naxos invites the listener to compare and contrast four early modern piano works, performed with muscular vigor and sharp intelligence, and presented in a terrific-sounding album. However, this disc's title is slightly inaccurate, for among the twentieth century piano sonatas by Alban Berg, Paul Hindemith, and Karl Amadeus Hartmann is placed Arnold Schoenberg's Three Piano Pieces, which is neither a sonata nor even of the same century as the other works, as it dates from 1894.
The 20th-Century Cello performed by Matt Haimovitz is a great way to wade into the waters of 20-century music. His technique and musicality are inspiring and the 3-CD collection of pieces is extensive and diverse. It is a great value and a great educational tool for aspiring cellists.