Fanfare

Like that recent Deutsche Grammophon recording of Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition with Gustavo Dudamel and the Vienna Philharmonic, issued to help support Superar—a project designed to bring music to Vienna’s impoverished Tenth District—the point of this very odd collection of pieces is no less laudable. Subtitled “Music related to neurodegenerative conditions,” Mind Music features music, performers, and composers with the common denominator of depression, Parkinson’s disease, or Alzheimer’s, with all proceeds from the album’s sales being donated to various related charities. While the Adams and Malone pieces were both reactions to their fathers’ struggle with Alzheimer’s, the connection to the other works is a bit more tenuous. Richard Strauss was suffering from a severe bout of depression while he was writing his Wind Sonatina during the waning years of the World War II—a depression brought on not by the on-going slaughter or the persistent rumors of the Holocaust but rather (given the composer’s worm’s-eye-view of history) the destruction of his beloved Munich Court Theater, while Mendelssohn, as the liner notes suggest, may have been suffering from Parkinson’s (or something very much like it) during the last years of his brief life.

While you’re justifiably feeling good about yourself for supporting a very worthy cause, you’ll also be enjoying an immensely accomplished album. The Northern Chamber Orchestra proves itself both deft and more than versatile in this wide-ranging collection, from playing in the Strauss so lively and observant that it makes it seem much better than it probably is, to performances of the Adams and Malone pieces that easily get under the skin of both of these challenging works. The recorded sound is equally impeccable, while the extremely readable notes—the Adams and the Malone by the composers themselves—come with a sensitive appraisal from the music therapist Jonathan Trout. Clearly, an album that really means something.

—Jim Svejda