Arts & Culture

From Jan Kraybill at Helzberg Hall to an André Previn box set, listen to these albums

“The Orchestral Organ” was recorded at Helzberg Hall on its Casavant organ.
“The Orchestral Organ” was recorded at Helzberg Hall on its Casavant organ.

Here’s a look at some new noteworthy albums, including two by local artists.

Jan Kraybill at Helzberg Hall

Organist Jan Kraybill is a local treasure whose previous recordings on the audiophile Reference Recordings label have garnered acclaim from critics around the world. Kraybill has just released a new CD, and it will add to her renown.

“The Orchestral Organ” is a stunner. Imagine some of classical music’s most powerful orchestral works performed on Helzberg Hall’s Casavant organ. If you think that sounds good on paper, wait until you actually hear the recording. Kraybill, who is also the conservator of the Casavant organ, is a one-woman orchestra whose renditions of Wagner, Tchaikovsky, Verdi and Sibelius will leave you slack-jawed.

Among the pieces were a couple of works new to me. Emil von Reznicek’s Prelude and Fugue in C minor is a showpiece by the composer of the popular “Dona Diana” overture. A prelude by Finnish composer Edvard Armas Jarnefelt is a good-natured jaunt.

Reference Recordings has now made several recordings in Helzberg Hall, so the engineers know how to capture the hall’s spaciousness and pristine acoustics, which are absolutely stunning on the Super Audio iteration. But even on a regular old CD player, “The Orchestral Organ” will knock the socks off any music lover, even those who claim they don’t like organ music.

Kansas City Chorale goes Irish

When Charles Bruffy first made his mark with the Kansas City Chorale back in the 1980s, it was with Russian Orthodox Music. People couldn’t believe that a Midwestern choral ensemble could capture the Russian soul and language with such authenticity.

Now, Bruffy and his Grammy-winning chorale have turned their attention to the little-known Celtic choral tradition with their newest CD, “Artifacts: The Music of Michael McGlynn.”

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The Kansas City Chorale presents “Artifacts: The Music of Michael McGlynn.”

I remember Bruffy once telling me that Gaelic is just as challenging for Anglophones to sing as Russian, maybe even more so. But Bruffy, ever the dogged perfectionist, plunged into a study of the Irish language and choral repertoire, even going to Ireland for first-hand experience with McGlynn’s choral group, Anúna. You can hear the results of Bruffy’s and his chorale’s efforts on this fantastic CD.

Like a fine wine, McGlynn’s music has terroir. You can hear Ireland’s slate gray sky and emerald landscape in his lush but airy harmonies. Whether it’s his own works or his arrangements of traditional tunes like “Danny Boy,” the sound of Ireland permeates McGlynn’s music. You hear elements of Celtic mouth music, which is like beatboxing, created when the Irish were too poor to own instruments. Other of McGlynn’s works transcend time and space entirely, taking the listener beyond our earthly realm.

“Artifact”s is a great addition to any choral collection and a must for fans of our beloved Kansas City Chorale.

Isabelle Faust: Bach concertos

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Violinist Isabelle Faust blows the cobwebs off these ubiquitous works by Bach.

You could be forgiven for thinking, “Ho hum, a new recording of Bach’s violin concertos,” but Harmonia Mundi’s new two-disc set of the violin concertos featuring violinist Isabelle Faust blows the cobwebs off these ubiquitous works. Faust is accompanied by Akademie für Alte Musik Berlin, a group that has appeared several times on the Friends of Chamber Music series.

Yes, these are familiar works, maybe even too familiar, but Faust and the Akademie bring a compelling freshness that will have any Bach fan listening intently. In addition to the violin concertos, there’s some delightful filler material, such as trio sonatas and orchestral suites. And kudos to Harmonia Mundi for the superb sound. This is a great set for those who love Bach.

‘Classic André Previn’

André Previn, who died in February at the age of 89, was one of the greatest musicians of our era. Not only was he a superb jazz pianist who could jam with Oscar Peterson, he was also one of my favorite conductors. You can hear the love in his performances. Luckily, Previn left an amazing recorded legacy, of which Sony Classics has just released a huge chunk.

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“Classic André Previn” is a boxed set that contains all 54 albums Previn recorded for RCA and Columbia in the ’60s and ’70s.

“Classic André Previn” is a boxed set that contains all 54 albums Previn recorded for RCA and Columbia in the ’60s and ’70s, and it’s an embarrassment of riches. There are so many good things here, but one of my favorites is Previn’s joyful, exhilarating recording of Copland’s “Red Pony” suite. There are also several albums that demonstrate Previn’s chops as a classical pianist. The delightful “Music for Children” disc includes Previn’s dazzling take on Mozart’s variations on “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star.”

Each CD comes in a cardboard jacket that exactly duplicates the original album’s cover art. That warms my record-collecting soul. At around $150, it’s a pricey set. But when you crunch the numbers, at 54 CDs that comes to around $2.70 a disc. Such a deal!

Queen by Heartland Men’s Chorus

The Heartland Men’s Chorus always puts on a rollicking good time, but the guys are about to take that to a whole new level. “Rock You: A Wild Ride Through the Music of Queen” will feature 15 of the biggest hits by the iconic British rock band, like “We Are the Champions,” “A Crazy Little Thing Called Love” and, of course, “Bohemian Rhapsody.”

8 p.m. June 8 and 4 p.m. June 9. Folly Theater, 300 W. 12th St. $18-$43. 816-931-3338 or http://hmckc.org/tickets.

You can reach Patrick Neas at patrickneas@kcartsbeat.com and follow his Facebook page, KC Arts Beat, at www.facebook.com/kcartsbeat.

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