Cai Thomas and the Bourne Ensemble: “Lascia ch’io pianga” (Handel)


“Well, the Welsh do sing, do they not?” I murmured to myself, upon starting to listen to this rather astonishing performance. And when he got to the embellished repeats… I was not speechless!

The YouTube identifies the young “treble” (here in the US, we say “boy soprano”) Cai Thomas as Welsh; and, as far as I know, Cai is a very Welsh given name; but he appears to live in Surrey. He started singing in a local church choir at age seven; at age 12, a Kickstarter campaign made Cai’s début CD possible.

I first learned of Cai from classical-music publicist Sarah Folger, who sent me an email about an Arvo Pärt single-track release (“Vater unser,” Arvo Pärt’s setting of the “Our Father”) that was recorded under pandemic lockdown conditions, with Cai in the UK, and pianist Julien Brocal in Brussels.

More on the Handel aria, and on the Pärt piece, after the jump. Continue Reading →

D. K. Hamlin and Hyperion Knight: “The Manuscript”

Clark Johnsen (who recently died; I am preparing a memorial post) was an optical physicist whose career included working on the Apollo Moon Mapper, the Viking Mars-Lander camera, and the Orbiting Astronomical Observatory. Clark also worked on a Rube-Goldberg-ish ultra-secret project that launched an earth-orbit satellite with a huge analog-film camera. That project took on added importance after the 1960 U-2 incident in which the Soviet Union shot down a US CIA spy plane. (The analog-film satellite project went by the now-timely name of Project Corona.) The Rube Goldberg aspect was that the spy satellite would eject a “lifeboat” re-entry capsule of exposed film. Which of course had to be recovered.

Clark’s passion, however, was classical music. First as a disc jockey on Harvard University’s radio station WHRB, and later as a high-end audio dealer, but always as a record collector. I have yet to meet a musician, engineer, or musicologist who had Clark’s depth of knowledge of the history of recorded classical music. His collection included more than 20,000 78 rpm records, which he actually would listen to. And perhaps 30,000 LPs.

Clark once told me that he had five favorite Beethoven “Waldstein” piano-sonata recordings, and that one of them was Hyperion Knight’s debut recording on Wilson Audio LPs. (Now available as hi-res downloads.) Dave Wilson recorded that LP in 1983, when Hyperion was a newly-minted Doctor of Musical Arts. And, no surprise, Hyperion’s DMA dissertation was on the Waldstein Sonata. That LP earned a place on Harry Pearson’s The Absolute Sound “Super LP” list.

Not content to rest on such laurels, Hyperion (and his significant other) have just published a novel in the sci-fi/fantasy genre. (Available printed or for Kindle, here.) The jacket image and publisher’s blurb are after the jump, as well as the first part of the Waldstein sonata from that Wilson Audio LP of long ago. Continue Reading →