Judith Lynn Stillman
Judith Lynn Stillman, Christmas Reflections (North Star Music): The booklet of this CD bears the subtitle ‘Enchanting Holiday Chamber Music’, and for once, such a phrase is not false advertising. Stillman is an accomplished award-winning pianist whose admirers include everyone from the Kronos Quartet to Wynton Marsalis. Here’s she’s joined by two members of the Muir String Quartet (violinist Peter Zazofsky and cellist Michael Reynolds) and Boston Symphony flutist Fenwick Smith for a score of holiday tunes, presented with impeccable grace and subtle, appealing inventiveness. The sparse instrumentation of the ‘March’ from ‘The Nutcracker’ showcases the complexity of this familiar piece while still being thoroughly charming. Most of the tunes are familiar (except perhaps, for the haunting ‘El Noi de la Mare’ and Couperin’s ‘Les Barricades Misterieuses’), and throughout there are some inspired pairings of popular melodies, like the melding of ‘Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas’ with Victor Herbert’s ‘Toyland’, which closes the disc on a quiet, gentle note.