Reviews and occasional notes on classical music

Reviews and occasional notes on classical music

For the past five years or so I've posted reviews of classical music CDs, DVDs and Blu-rays, in various places on the web: Amazon.com, iTunes and other sites. I'll collect those earlier reviews, and add four or five new ones every month.

"Music, both vocall and instrumental, so good, so delectable, so rare, so admirable, so super excellent, that it did even ravish and stupifie all those strangers that never heard the like." - Thomas Coryat, after hearing 3 hours of music at the Scuola di San Rocco in Venice, 1608.

Friday, October 30, 2015

Fine French chamber music from Toronto

From September 3, 2009:


The 1970s pop/rock group E.L.O. (Electric Light Orchestra) was famously formed to "pick up where [The Beatles'] 'I Am the Walrus' left off." Similarly, all the works on this CD come out of the sound world created by a single piece: Maurice Ravel's 1905 Introduction et Allegro for Harp, Flute, Clarinet, and String Quartet. This lineup of composers comes from Ravel's generation, except for the youngster Francaix, who is 30-40 years younger than the rest. The pieces were all written in the 1920s or 1930s, all of them for flute, harp, and strings.

Though the music exists in that same sound world, subtle differences in the personalities of the composers emerge. Francaix is playful, Roussel muscular, and Schmitt nostalgic and a bit sentimental. Marcel Tournier's Suite, Op. 34 is a special treat. I knew, and enjoyed, the piece from a Hanssler Classic CD with the Linos Harp Quintet, but the Mirage Quintet give the work a forward momentum and depth that really makes it stand out. You can get a feel for this from the Mirage Quintet's YouTube video of the 3rd Movement (Lied: Assez Lent, Avec Melancolie) filmed during the CD recording in Toronto in 2007.


This recording took place under the watchful eyes and ears of the great team of Bonnie Silver & Norbert Kraft, who between them share producer, engineer, and editor functions. Kraft, by the way, is the very same guitarist who completely nailed the Villa-Lobos guitar music for Naxos in 2000. The sound on the new disc is predictably excellent, though some might argue that Robert Aitken's flute is too forward in the mix. It's hard to see how this music could be played or presented any better.

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