I always get nice surprises at Christmas. So today I've been listening to the new additions to the CD collection.... and a couple of them deserve reviews.
Season of Peace - Bobby Fisher (music of Christmas and Advent arranged for guitar and other instruments). Overall, this one is like a lot of other Christmas music CDs - everybody wants to be Mannheim Steamroller and churn out so-so renditions of stuff everybody else has already done. So for 13 of the 14 tracks, that's pretty much my impression of this: nice background music that won't really hold your interest. But track #9 (O Come, All Ye Faithful) arranged for solo classical guitar is brilliant. I'll be transcribing and learning this one - it's elegant. It's simple (two, sometimes three lines), but it struck me as a great example of Christmas guitar music.
Sketches of Spain - Miles Davis. This one's on the player as I type. My wife gave it to me to replace my vinyl edition. Granted, Sketches isn't for everyone (and it's not even my favorite Miles), but this remastered edition - part of Columbia's 75th anniversary of Miles - includes three previously unreleased tracks... and two of them are outtakes of Rodrigo's Concierto de Aranjuez, originally a concerto for classical guitar and orchestra. Great stuff, and Miles is very expressive.
Other gifts I'm really digging are a couple of books: Michael Dickreiter's "Score Reading: A Key to the Music Experience". It's an introductory book on how to read an orchestral score - or more precisely, how to "follow" an orchestral score (because it doesn't go very deep into notation, clefs, transposing instruments, etc.) But it's very approachable, and has some interesting tidbits on the development of orchestras through history. It lays out some good suggestions for how to work your way up from reading simple stuff through chamber music to orchestral scores. I also got Max Rudolf's "Grammar of Conducting", which I've just started working my way through. It looks like an excellent book, although the diagrams strike me as a little confusing - he marks most of the beats just before I'd beat them in leading an ensemble. But maybe I've been doing it wrong