These two 1960 releases offer an ingenious mixture–swinging Latin rhythms popular in the late '50s and early '60s, and the rhythmical perfection of Peggy Lee. When these songs were recorded, Lee was already the toast of the world. Having proved herself early on in the Benny Goodman orchestra she then started writing her own songs, raked in hit after hit, and became a celebrated actress. It seems appropriate that the selection of songs from "Ole Ala Lee!" should be favorites from the musical theater.
Joseph Suk's Ripening is one of the most amazing of all post-Romantic orchestral works. It is immensely complex in its structure: a celestial introduction is followed by a cogent progress of scherzos and slow movements, of funeral marches and fugues, all concluded by a serene coda. Yet the work is immediately comprehensible as a musical drama, made clear through the coherence of the thematic and harmonic material. Pesek and the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic perform like modern-day deities. They fall short of the heights of Talich and the Czech Philharmonic, but Talich gave the work its premiere. Nonetheless, Pesek gives Ripening his very considerable all: his concentration holds the gigantic structure together as a single arch. Plus, his players articulate every instrumental detail, right down to the beatific wordless women's choir at the work's close. Highly recommended.
The two large-scale works by Dvořák and Smetana are complemented here by the one- movement Elegy, by Josef Suk, Dvořák’s student and later son-in-law. Formed in 2007, the Sitkovetsky Trio performs worldwide and has received numerous awards and critical acclaim, but is here making its début on disc, in a programme perfectly suited to the ensemble’s virtuosic and impassioned music-making.
GRP's generally well-chosen 1991 Collection covers an entire decade of Lee Ritenour releases from Elektra and GRP. As such, those years seem to form a late-'70s plateau descending into a commercial valley by the early part of the '80s and then gradually ascending a slope as Rit's playing grows and deepens in the decade's final years. Some of the high points are the Latin-inflected numbers from Festival ("Latin Lover") and Portrait ("Asa") and two excellent straight-ahead excerpts from Stolen Moments ("24th Street Blues," "Waltz for Carmen"), the latter two with lots of Wes Montgomery-like octave work. And even "Is It You?," Ritenour's pop hit from 1981, comes off as a good, catchy piece of record-making. Recommended for those who only want a sample of Lee Ritenour's voluminous solo output.