Mstation Classical Reviews

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Tue, 01 Mar 2005

Jane Austen's Songbook

Julianne Baird, Laura Heimes, Anthony Boutte,
Karen Flint, Martin Davids, Colin St. Martin
LP, Albany Records US, through Priory in the UK

This appears to have been a labour of love by this group and rather a good one it is too. Better than "rather a good one" in fact -- much better.

Jane Austen was a keen musician and usually played her pianoforte for an hour every morning. She collected songs she liked and put them into her songbooks, eight volumes of which are still at her house at Chawton. This group sifted through the songs and here present a selection, each of which has a vocal with piano accompaniment.

The collection includes sea songs, some rollicking tales of the day, and even an early version of what became, in 1795, the post-revolutionary anthem -- the Marseillaise. Jane Austen was a royalist and there are songs sympathetic to that side as well.

I hope they sell a lot of these and are emboldened to do more. (Count K)

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Canteloube, Chants d'Auvergne

Joseph Canteloube, Chants d'Auvergne
Veronique Gens
Orchestre National de Lille
Jean-Claude Casadesus
LP, Naxos

Just the other day your correspondent (that's me) was walking through the main square of Lille on the way to a nice cafe in the old town. Lille, in the North of France, and where the orchestra comes from, is a long way from the mountains of the Auvergne, where the songs come from. Cantaloupe's treatment of these songs is also a long way away from that heard in those rustic quarters, so there's a nice symmetry about the thing.

Joseph Canteloube (1879-1957) was born in the Auvergne but moved to Paris. During WWII he was involved with the Petain government working on reviving the folk songs of the area. The result is a pretty set of songs with very much, as you'd expect, a Romantic setting with an orchestra drifting sinuously in and out of the actual singing. This, incidently, is very nicely handled by Veronique Gens. (Count K)

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Brubeck, The Gates of Justice

Dave Brubeck
The Gates of Justice
Dave Brubeck Trio
Kevin Deas
Cantor Alberto Mizrahi
Baltimore Choral Arts Society
Russell Gloyd
LP, Naxos American Classics

This is interesting for a couple of reasons. The first is that most people think of Dave Brubeck in connection with West Coast Cool, a jazz style. This style was branded by revolutionary Blacks in the sixties as white bread music and a lot of other things besides. At the same time, Dave Brubeck was writing this work: a work that celebrates the idea of human justice and the release from oppression. It is a cantata based on Jewish texts. It is a serious work but then, in my book, so is Take Five.

The other interesting thing is that this comes from the Milken Archive. You might possibly not recall that Michael Milken was head trader at an investment bank in the yuppie eighties. He put together zero-deposit finance deals based on junk bonds which enabled a coterie of cronies to make a metric ton of money, and a lot of workers to lose their jobs for no particular reason. The oppressed becomes the oppressor. (Count K)

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Bach Keyboard Concertos

JS Bach Keyboard Concertos
BWV 1060, 1061, 1062, 1063
Guher and Suher Pekinel
Zurcher Kammerorchester
Howard Griffiths
LP, Warner Classics

J.S. Bach invented the keyboard concerto. In his fifth Brandenburg Concerto he liberated the harpsichord from continuo work only and started a genre that came to full fruition with Mozart and Beethoven.

Bach's first encounter with the concerto is said to have been when his employer's nephew, Prince Johann Ernst, returned from studying in Utrecht with examples of Venetian works, most notably Vivaldi. This was in 1713. He took them apart by arranging them for a single keyboard and then set off on his own.

This is a nice performance by the Pekinel twins with a lot of delicasy. The recording is a little antiseptic but is not offensive. (Count K)

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