Manhattan Intermezzo - American and British Works for Piano & Orchestra (CD)

With classical's influence having morphed all sorts of genres, it's no surprise that the worlds of pop, jazz, and prog can do the same for classical. Opening with the composition "Manhattan Intermezzo," Neil Sedaka lets loose as a Copland-esque composer of cosmopolitan joy. Though he's mostly known for his eternal radio standards like "Calendar Girl" and "Oh Carol," Neil Sedaka originally was classically trained musician and pieces like "Manhattan Intermezzo" gives him the room to breathe. The delicate piano and strings fill the air as it gives a warm, nostalgic feeling that recall the best Burt Bacharach instrumentals. Following is Keith Emerson's "Piano Concert #1," originally heard on Emerson, Lake & Palmer's Works Volume 1. It's given new gravitas and polish that the original could have used and a more airy production that gives the piece more depth. It doesn't sound like a rock musician stumbling into more complex territory, but a work that perfectly fits among the great Western composers of the 20th century. Culminating the album is two pieces by pre-rock composers: Duke Ellington's early foray into classical, "A New World A-Comin'," and George Gershwin's eternal "Rhapsody in Blue." Both are shiny-eyed and their enthusiastic fusion of jazz and classical feels like an optimistic view into the 21st century. Under the direction of Paul Phillips, the velvety sound of the orchestra feels inseparable from Jeffrey Biegel's sensitive piano.

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Classic Quadrophenia (CD)

The Who's Quadrophenia is, without a doubt, one of the great rock albums. Now Pete Townshend converts the already surprisingly operatic album into a glorious full on symphony. With the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra and featuring special appearances by Billy Idol and Alfie Boe, Classic Quadrophenia reinvents and subverts rock into something even more spectacular.

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