Summer may be the best season for exploring new music. And this year has seen a strong crop of new and interesting recordings that are tailor-made for expanding musical horizons. Below are seven noteworthy releases to explore. Besides sharing musical excellence, these CDs are performed by musicians or ensembles at the cutting edge of their musical discipline. After listening to them, it's safe to say they'll put a new shine on the word "classical."
To stand out these days, a string quartet has to write and perform music offering a sense of drama. The music must be as cinematic as it is aural. It is in this realm that the New York-based Ethel is thriving. On "Heavy" you get the noir-like musical highway string-trip that is "Four Thoughts on Marvin Gaye." This wide-screen sonic work comes across as fraught one moment, jazzy the next. At times, the bowed notes and the plucked strings falls on the ear like so much rain. A highlight on this release is Kenji Bunch's "String Circle No. 1" and the hopeful, tactile musical poetry of "Rounds."