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.

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Charming music from the Salon

From September 20, 2012:


"Salon music" can range from inoffensive background music to more substantial pieces with real rhythmic and melodic appeal. Occasionally music written for the salon transcends its origins, as happens with Schubert and Chopin, and in the 20th century with a number of composers from Iberia and Latin America.

A simple dance tune needs a bit of spice or salsa to liven things up, some rhythmic vitality to make things interesting. That's why I enjoy the simple but attractive salon pieces by Villa-Lobos, Granados and Falla; and by the four Mexican composers included on this new disc by Jorge Federico Osorio.

None of the pieces on this well-filled disc of music by Ricardo Castro, Felipe Villanueva, Manuel Ponce and Jose Rolon are timeless masterpieces. But nearly all of them are appealing, with some memorable tunes and catchy rhythms. A few of the best pieces, Castro's Vals amorosos and Ponce's mazurkas among them, are special. These are works I'll probably keep on my iPhone and listen to quite regularly.

The key to appealing salon pieces is that elusive concept "charm". You know something is charming when you hear it, and the charm often comes as much from the performer as from the composer. Osorio has the right, light, touch here. He doesn't make too much of these dances, but he brings a solemn grace to many of the more melancholy dances. His virtuosity is occasionally on display, but he's not afraid to let some of the stronger pieces speak with their own dignified simplicity. The production is first rate, with a warm and lifelife piano sound.

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