This recording is a delight, not least for absolute clarity of diction and phrasing that seduces the ear. What a pleasure to listen to a vocalist who sings as if the words really mean something – and that is certainly not to be taken for granted when one considers the muddy mumblings and near-incomprehensible verbalising that too frequently pass for diction these days.
In this crucially important sense, Perris is in the same league as Frank Sinatra. Listen to the absolute clarity of Sinatra’s diction in any of the records he released in the 1950s; it’s immaculate.
So, too, is Perris’.
A remarkable, velvet voice seduces the ear in songs that are in the best sense listenable with Perris shaping to the demands of whatever he offers like fine wine to a goblet.
Compared to the crass, gross utterances that too often these days passes for singing, Perris’ offerings are a joy. It’s just the thing to unwind to after a terrible day at the office. It sure is a safer and better bet than popping a tranquiliser pill or two.
In 12 of the 14 tracks, Perris has the benefit of top notch backing by the Prague Symphony Orchestra conducted by Adam Klemens – and having the words of all the songs in the liner notes booklet is an added pleasure.
Proceeds from the sale of this CD go to the Horatio Alger Association which does important work assisting students in pursuit of higher education. It has distributed one hundred million dollars over thirty years to students in the USA and Canada.
In this fascinating collection, many in transcriptions for trumpet and organ I’ve not encounteredbefore, ace trumpeter Bruno Siketa and Rhys Boak at the organ rise to the occasion time and again.
Many of the tracks are of pieces long established in the concert repertoire but only rarely heard in these versions, giving the collection significant novelty value as well as high quality readings.
Bach, Telemann and Shostakovich rub shoulders with Piazzolla, Bellini and Monti, odd bedfellows to be sure – but how beautifully these arrangements are offered to the listener.
JeanBaptiste Arban’s Variations on Casta Diva from Bellini’s Norma (arranged by Boak) are made memorable by the tonal beauty of Siketa’s trumpet line; it’s never edgy but invariably mellow. The same could be said of the solo line in the Romance from Shostakovich’s The Gadfly.
Rather improbably, Astor Piazzolla is represented not by a tango but a setting of the Ave Maria in an arrangement by Boak whose musicianship at the console runs like a golden thread through this compilation.
An adagio by Giazotto, in an arrangement by both Siketa and Boak, comes across as the quintessence of gentle melancholy. Intriguingly, a fascinating program note states that this little piece, known to millions as Albinoni’s Adagio, may not be by Albinoni at all. It may well be by Giazotto.
Doubt is also cast on the great J.S.Bach as composer of the magnificent Toccata and Fugue in D minor. A liner note states that some experts are of the view it is really by Johann Ludwig Krebs, a student of the great J.S.. There is also speculation it might have been written by Johann Peter Kellner. But does it really matter?
Like the debate about whether Shakespeare really wrote this or that play, it’s far more important that the music exists and so, scholars, if they choose, can burn the midnight oil for years to come arguing about its authorship while music followers the world over continue to be moved by its magnificence.
Boak’s performance of Bach’s “little organ fugue” in G minor borders on perfection – it’s a musical gem.
Recordings on the Melba label are always worth listening to. Certainly, there is an adventurousness about the label’s choices that is as refreshing as it is rare. Not for them repertoire which has been recorded on innumerable occasions on other labels. More often than not, Melba rescues works forgotten or neglected. In fact, three of the five works on this CD have never been recorded before.
One of these – Gal’s Suite for viola and piano opus 102a – is far and away the chief joy of this recording with both musicians at the very top of their game responding to the work’s myriad facets with extraordinary skill and insight. Recorded sound quality is excellent.
In the 1930s, Hans Gal and Ernst Krenek both sought sanctuary from Hitler’s murderous madness, Gal because he was Jewish and Krenek because his music was considered by the Nazis as ‘degenerate’. Gal left for Britain after the Anschluss and Krenek went to the USA in 1938. Both survived the war.
One of Krenek’s greatest successes was his Jonny spielt auf, a jazz opera with a black musician as its main character. It was hugely popular in Europe before the rise of Hitler. Krenek, incidentally, married Anna, Gustav Mahler’s daughter but the relationship lasted a year. Alma, incidentally, wanted Krenek to complete her late husband’s Symphony No 10 but Krenek lost interest after editing the first two movements.
Interestingly, there’s an Australian connection to his Violin Concerto: Alma Moodie, perhaps our most brilliant violinist ever, used her influence to obtain funding for Krenek’s concerto and, in gratitude, he dedicated the concerto to her.
Gal turned up in Scotland where he composed and also co-founded the famous Edinburgh Festival. He lived to 96 and was apparently in good shape until almost the end. But in recent years, his name had faded from collective memory. But this CD brings him to the attention of a new constituency – and not before time.
Krenek eventually made his way to Los Angeles – but the celebrity of his European years was never to be regained in the USA.
Gal’s Suite for viola and piano opus 102a finds both Benedict and Young in impressive form – and recorded sound quality is excellent. I especially admire the movement marked furioso: it’s assertive, march-like, lively. And there’s frankly beautiful clarity of piano tone in the minuet – and I listened three times to the concluding burla. Its insouciance is a delight. Another gem is the charmingly meditative Impromptu for viola and piano by Gal.
Benedict is impressive in Krenek’s Sonata for solo viola opus 92 no 3. Listen, in particular, to the scherzo which comes across as a nimble, peekaboos gem.
Bach concertos arranged for mandolin and orchestra
Kammerakademie Potsdam DG 479 0092
Between Worlds DG 479 1069
reviewed by Neville Cohn
Be’er Sheva, in the Negev, was the site of what has been called history’s last great cavalry charge – by the 4th Australian Light Horse – triumphing over the Ottoman Turks in 1917. It is also the birthplace of the Israel Sinfonietta, one of the world’s busiest chamber orchestras. And it was here that Avi Avital was born, a young man who, in a very short space of time, has attracted international interest for his extraordinary skill on the mandolin. Certainly, his virtuosity has given to the instrument a new lease on life, rescuing the mandolin from further decline and restoring to it a significance it hasn’t had for centuries.
Recently, Avital visited Australia – to rave reviews – but did not perform in Perth.
His broadcast performances with Paul Dyer’s Brandenburg Ensemble were first rate.
Two CDs on the DG label give fascinating insights into Avital’s command of the instrument. In an all-Bach compilation devoted to arrangements for mandolin of three of the Master’s most loved keyboard concertos, Avital’s extraordinary skill is everywhere apparent. Can there be anywhere right now a musician able to equal, let alone better, Avital’s musicianship?
Listen to his version of the much-loved keyboard concerto in D minor, its first movement given an athletic quality, evoking its robust, joyous essence to the nth degree. If there is anywhere right now a musician able to equal, let alone better, this astonishing feat of musical insight, I’d like to know about it. I think that Bach himself, a man certainly not averse to taking the music of others and refashioning it, would have enthusiastically embraced these arrangements for mandolin.
Whether energetically essaying rapid note streams, revealing the gentle, introverted essence of the slow movement or exulting in the vivacity of a typical Bachian finale, Avital reaches for the stars. And, as if drawing inspiration from their gifted soloist, the musicians of the Kammerakademie Potsdam, come up trumps with first rate accompaniments.
Another CD recording – Between Worlds – has a much more folksy air to it with favourites such as Monti’s Czardas (given a nostalgia-drenched performance) and a quite delightful account of Bartok’s ever popular Rumanian Dances cheek by jowl with less frequently encountered music. There are also fine arrangements of de Falla’s Canciones Populares. Frequently on this CD, we hear, as well, the clarinet playing of Giora Feidman, that Argentinian-born Israeli musician who seems to defy the passage of time, playing with as much relish and artistry as ever despite being well on the way to 80. And the wizardry of Richard Galliano on accordion, with Klaus Stoll impeccable on double bass, also contribute to a first rate offering.
Georgian folk music is well to the fore here in fascinating, hypnotically listenable performances. And there’s a Piazzolla delight, a fugal-flavoured tango, as improbable and unexpected as it is engaging. As well, you can listen to Avital and friends in the vivace movement from Dvorak’s much loved ‘American’ Quartet. And with harpist Catrin Finch, Avital presents a gently melancholy, traditional Welsh song.
If ever there’s unambiguous evidence of a young musician scaling the heights, it’s this.
Margaret Blades (violin), Michael Goldschlager (cello), Faith Maydwell (piano)
Robert Braham Auditorium, Trinity College
reviewed by Neville Cohn
This was chamber music programming with a difference. Instead of what one would normally have expected – two, perhaps three, complete works for piano trio – we were offered only one work in toto – Arensky’s Trio in D minor. This was played after the interval. But the first half, most unusually, consisted of a selection of movements from a number of trios by Mendelssohn, Brahms and Dvorak. The last mentioned was represented by movements 1, 2 and 6 from his famous Dumky Trio.
Of Brahms, I heard the opening movement of his Trio opus 9 (which I listened to with an ear pressed to a crack in the door as I arrived a few minutes after the concert began). As well, there was the andante con moto tranquillo from Mendelssohn’s Trio in D minor.
On paper, this would have seemed a recipe for muddled musicmaking – a bit of this, a bit of that. Sonic fruit salad. But it must be conceded that, despite these reservations, the compilation made for most pleasant listening, especially the Dumky movements, the mournful essence of which came across in a consistently meaningful way. A Mendelssohn movement was finely considered.
Chief focus of the afternoon, though – and the concert’s most rewarding listening – was an account of Arensky’s Piano Trio in D minor, its shifting moods a challenge which the players met with consistently musical finesse. Adding to the pleasure of the presentation were the impressively fine acoustics of the venue..
Visually, the Robert Braham Auditorium is a quite ordinary looking space but its acoustics make it special. I understand that expert opinion was sought to achieve this – and the result is impressive. And there’s also a first rate baby grand Fazioli piano at which Faith Maydwell was a consistently meaningful player. Apart from a need for rather more tonal presence from the violin, fine synchronisation, tempi choices that invariably sounded right – and excellent grasp of style – combined to provide musicmaking that gave a good deal of listening pleasure.
At this venue, on 2nd November at 2:30pm, Magellan presents a program of music from the 20th century and beyond – Ravel, Shostakovich, Martin and Kats-Chernin.