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Culture Watch: What's new in music, DVDs and books

December 1, 2010 |  9:15 am

 Books: “My Nine Lives,” Leon Fleisher and Anne Midgette, (Doubleday). Fleisher’s story — great young American pianist loses ability to use right hand, tries Rolfing and sessions with dubious psychics, along with every medical therapy in the book, and eventually gets some mobility back — has been the subject of a sentimental documentary (nominated for an Oscar, natch), and it has made him a musical cult figure for all the wrong reasons. Here’s the real story, terrifically and frankly told, along with an enjoyable sprinkling of gossip and just enough insights to justify his reputation as the Obi-Wan Kenobi of pianists.

— Mark Swed

RachelCDs: “Passion Ysaÿe,” Rachel Kolly D’Alba, (Warner Classics and Jazz).This 29-year-old Swiss with flaming red hair and goth-black eye makeup is the next in a long line of gorgeous young violinists. She could be, easily, an actress in a French new wave film. She is also a remarkable player — she brings a huge technique, intense musicality and, yes, genuine passion to Ysaÿe’s six solo violin sonatas, once underrated but no more.

— Mark Swed

“The End of Fear,” Tarbaby, (Posi-Tone). Does this trio have your attention? Armed with inventive originals alongside covers of Andrew Hill, Sam Rivers and even the D.C. hard-core act Bad Brains, this raucous piano trio anchored by Jason Moran’s longtime drummer Nasheet Waits would stand out by any other name. A guest horn section that includes trumpeter Nicholas Payton adds to an already vibrant mix.

— Chris Barton

DVDs: “Ioan Holender Farewell Concert,”(Deutsche Grammophon). This nearly four-hour June benefit concert at the Vienna State Opera, which Holender headed for 19 years, is a snapshot of the Old World opera world in 2010. They’re all here, star singers and conductors (including a woman, Simone Young!). No new music, heaven forbid. But alluring performances keep coming, and a great time is had by all.

— Mark Swed

Photo: Rachel Kolly D’Alba. Credit: