Young Talents With Some Lively Ideas

There is no end of fretting in the classical music world.

Just look at the record business. The major labels have nearly ceased recording new cycles of Schubert symphonies and Wagner operas, perhaps finally realizing that the multitude of performances already available may be just about enough. Lowest-common-denominator crossover albums crowd the catalog. Clueless record executives seem able to discern the fact that there's an audience but can't quite figure out how to tap it.

These are appropriate concerns. But there are also signs of new life in classical music, which are apparent to anyone who looks for them.

No longer do emerging pianists automatically feel compelled to compete with Rubinstein by doing yet another Chopin program. Emerging conductors now realize they can follow in the footsteps of Frtwangler without mimicking him in Beethoven. In other words, there are plenty of new musicians with new musical ideas.

Moreover, it is relatively cheap and easy to make a CD these days, and small, independent labels are often eager to take chances with new artists and new repertory. The Times' music critics take a look a few of these emerging artists and their CDs:

* * * LIGETI Etudes Toros Can, piano L'Empreinte Digitale

A Turkish piano student at the University of Arizona and 1998 winner of the International 20th Century Piano Competition in Orleans, France, Toros Can takes on a spectacular challenge. Gyrgy Ligeti's Piano Etudes (begun in 1985 and still in progress) are a dazzling, quirky collection of pianistic flamboyance. There are humor and goofiness in these works, which can sound like mechanized pianos come to cartoonish life, but there is also, in the reflective etudes, the rarified air of other worlds revealed in astonishing new sonorities. Can's recording is a daring project, given that the highly admired French pianist Pierre-Laurent Aimard made a celebrated recording of the first 15 etudes a few years ago for Sony under the composer's supervision. Can, however, holds his own. He is less amusing and less poetic than Aimard, but he has a drive and a technical command that inspire awe. He also has the advantage of presenting the first recordings of the latest two etudes, which were composed after the Sony recording. Today's composers just got a thicker security blanket with the arrival of Can.

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