David Deveau: Siegfried Idyll
Piano music of Liszt, Wagner, and Brahms
Steinway & Sons CD 30051
This completely musical and unusually thoughtful recital program by David Deveau is not only a feast of pianistic tonal beauty and artistic phrasing. For my always-increasingly-meager shekels, of all the recent Steinway & Sons CD solo-piano releases, this is the one that most closely approximates my ideal of what a great piano recording should sound like.
So, audiophiles: please vote with your wallets by buying this CD!
Words about the performer, the program, and the recording venue (followed by some generous sound bites), all await you after the jump. Clickez-vous, s-v-p!
Faure: Requiem, Op. 48; Cantique de Jean Racine, Op. 11; Laurence Equilbey, Accentus.
CD Naïve 5137
Sandrine Piau (soprano), Stéphane Degout (baritone), Luc Héry (solo violin), Christophe Henry (organ); Maîtrise de Paris, Patrick Marco, musical director; National Orchestra d’Ile de France, conducted by Laurence Equilbey.
Gabriel Fauré was one of the first students admitted to the new school founded by Louis Niedermeyer to give training in classical religious music (by which he must have meant chant), and the rediscovered polyphony of Palestrina and other Renaissance and Baroque masters. Fauré was hugely influenced by Camille Saint-Saëns and César Franck. It was Franck to whom the young Fauré dedicated his student work Cantique de Jean Racine.
Click the continuation link to access a sound sample of Laurence Equilbey’s and Accentus’ wonderful 1905 orchestral version of Cantique de Jean Racine. It is my final Holy Week music pick for this year.
Metropolitan Hilarion (Alfeyev): The Passion According To St. Matthew (YT)
Russian Orthodox Metropolitan Hilarion (Alfeyev) has an amazing life story. Formerly a violin and piano student, a soldier, and a monk; he is now one of the world’s leading Orthodox theologians. He studied at Pembroke College, Oxford (PhD), which I think is drolly amusing, in that the women’s college formerly associated with Brown University was called Pembroke.
According to Wiki, Metropolitan Hilarion has authored more than 600 publications.
Oh… he also writes music!
Bach: Saint Matthew Passion, BWV 244; Richter, Munich Bach Orchestra
DVD Deutsche Grammophon 000617709
Siegmund Nimsgern (Bass), Peter Schreier (Tenor), Helen Donath (Soprano), Ernst Gerold Schramm (Bass), Julia Hamari (Alto), Horst Laubenthal (Tenor), Walter Berry (Bass).
Julia Hamari‘s being so under the radar in the U.S. makes me think that there must be so many other truly exceptional singers who for one reason or another, we never hear about. So to rectify that, here is a video from 1971 when she was in her prime; and at least she has YouTube fame, more than 1 million views.
(Please note, the song featured in the music video is not on the above album.)
Music-Video Friday: Patricia O’Callaghan: “Sad Boy”
Back in A.D. 2000, I resigned from a different audio and music magazine, and signed on with Stereophile. I wanted to do a bang-up job for my first column, and I also wanted it to be mostly about music.
I was lucky to snag a phone interview with an up-and-coming young Canadian crossover singer, Patricia O’Callaghan, about her very impressive breakthrough album Real Emotional Girl, CD cover above.
You can read that review and interview here. From the review part:
O’Callaghan, a handsome young Ontario native, has a voice that is strong, clear, and agile, combining a silvery-sweet upper range with a lower register just made for sly innuendo. Although her primary genre is cabaret, she’s not stuck in the late 1920s. Randy Newman, as well as Pearl Jam’s Eddy Vedder, are two of the songwriters represented on her new disc, Real Emotional Girl, along with retro-cabaret standby Kurt Weill and cabaret-nouveau mainstay Leonard Cohen.
Patricia O’Callaghan’s website is here.
(Photo of Eric Feidner at Steinway and Sons’ NYC Global headquarters by and courtesy of Wes Bender Studios.)
Connections, connections (Steinway and Sons office stereo systems, Part III)
AudioQuest cables and Hosa power adapters
One of my all-time favorite “educational” TV shows was James Burke’s Connections… . I’ll have to get around to covering that some time. But in the context of a high-quality but affordable stereo system, connections are very important. And on the subject of connections, Steinway and Sons have renovated their website; the About tab now brings up a very evocative introductory video featuring lots of wonderful close-ups of the craftspeople at work. Check it out! (You will need to un-mute the sound; there is an icon in the upper-right corner.)
One of my favorite audio shibboleths is, “Buy it once and buy it right, and get off the ‘upgrade’ merry-go-round.” Therefore, the systems I specified for Eric Feidner and for Mike Sweeney were anchored by components that, while not extravagant by any means, were not bargain-basement items either. They are not “bargains;” they are “keepers.” Both the Grace Design m920 DAC/linestage and a pair of Harbeth P3ESR loudspeakers run about two thousand dollars. So to make the necessary connections, I wanted audio cables that were high-performance, but at reasonable cost.
Van Morrison: Moondance Deluxe Edition
Recorded August to December 1969, released January 1970; remastered 2013.
HD Tracks download HX603497907663
8-CD/1 Blu-ray boxed set, Warner Bros. Records R2 53656
Van Morrison, vocals, guitar, rhythm guitar, tambourine, harmonica, producer; John Klingberg, bass; Gary Mallaber, drums, vibraphone; Guy Masson, conga; John Platania, guitar, rhythm guitar; Jef Labes, organ, piano, clavinet; Jack Schroer, alto and soprano saxophones; Collin Tilton, flute, tenor saxophone; Judy Clay, Emily Houston, Jackie Verdell, backing vocals (tracks 3 and 8).
Moondance was George Ivan “Van” Morrison’s third studio album. His previous ones having been the somewhat inscrutable Astral Weeks and the earlier, somewhat slapdash Blowin’ Your Mind. The latter was assembled without Morrison’s cooperation (or knowledge) from takes originally intended to be released as 45-rpm singles.
Blowin’ Your Mind was an effort to capitalize upon the success of Morrison’s Irish rock band “Them.” Them’s memorable one hit of wonder was “Gloria.” An indication of Them’s brief but major eminence was that when them had a residency at Los Angeles’ Whisky a Go Go in 1966, their opening act was: The Doors. (Sorry, I could not resist.)
Morrison Jim was hugely impressed by Morrison Van’s poetry and by his stage presence. On the last night of the gig, the two bands jammed on “Gloria.” Not shabby.
Franz Schubert: Symphony in C major (D 944),
Nikolaus Harnoncourt, Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra
Recorded March 22-24, 2006; released 2015
HD Tracks download HD4260306189120
Gloriosky, what a magnificent performance!
Just download it, today. Every now and then, a new recording comes along that blows the dust off thrice-familiar music, while at the same time blowing the competition into the weeds. For interpretation, playing, and recorded sound, this download sets a new standard in Schubert’s “Great” C-major symphony.
But up front, please let me explain that, when I say, “blows the dust off” a masterwork, I do not mean a superficial jazzing-up, or any disrespect to tradition. What I refer to is the fruits of a scholarly and humble investigation into the best sources, leading to a needful correction of tradition, when tradition can be shown to be faulty.
(During the time this review was in preparation, news was received of Nikolaus Harnoncourt’s death, on March 5, at age 86. A life well lived; and one that will be long remembered. Requiescat in pace.)
One must admit at the outset that the folk group Peter, Paul and Mary was, to a degree, a synthetic creation. Producer Albert Grossman discussed with Peter Yarrow his idea for “an updated version of The Weavers for the baby-boom generation… with the crossover appeal of the Kingston Trio.” [Ed: Yecch.]
Intrigued by a photograph, Yarrow approached Mary Travers. Travers in turn suggested her friend Noel Stookey, who was doing standup comedy when singing gigs were not to be had. Be that as it may, each of them was talented; and together, they made magic.
Among the songs they picked up was one by a Canadian former singing cowboy named Gordon Lightfoot, “Early Morning Rain.”
Blossom Dearie: Verve Jazz Masters 51
CD Verve 529 906-2
Blossom Dearie, piano, voice; Ray Brown, bass; Kenny Burrell, Herb Ellis, guitar; Jo Jones, drums; others. Recorded 1955–60; remastered 1996.
“Blossom Dearie” (full name Blossom Margrete Dearie) certainly sounds like a stage name. However, “Dearie” is an old Scottish name, also spelled “Deery” and “Deary.”
As for her given names, she was born in April, and one story is that the pear trees in the area around her home in rural New York were in blossom, and a neighbor brought blossoms to the Dearie home on the day of her birth… . I suspect “Margrete” was chosen by her mother, who either was Norwegian, or was of Norwegian ancestry.
That said, perhaps the stage-name thing (as well as her gamine cuteness, and her little-girl voice) made people underestimate Dearie’s musical intelligence.