Arranged for violin and piano by Friedrich Hermann. Alex Strauss, violin; Cord Garben, piano. Naxos 8.570213.
Even if you don't think you've ever heard any of Felix Mendelssohn's piano works he called Songs Without Words, the pieces in which he wrote down some musical ideas that he said could not be verbalized, you will undoubtedly still recognize a few of them from this selection. The first one, especially, the Allegretto grazioso, Op. 62, No. 6, better known as "Spring Song," will put a smile on your face, because you'll know it from a multitude of Warner Bros. and Disney cartoons.
What we have here is not just another collection of the usual piano compositions but the arrangements Friedrich Hermann (1828-1907) made of them for violin and piano. Not that the piano doesn't work well alone, but the duets provide an extra measure of haunting pleasure in the pieces. Alex Strauss, violin, and Cord Garben, piano, play with sparkle and sensitivity, and they have varied the selections well enough to keep one interested from beginning to end; a most enjoyable experience.
Moreover, in this 2007 release the Naxos engineers captured the two performers admirably in an acoustic that is just close enough to be vivid, yet distant enough to impart a welcome bloom. Although the twenty-two selections on the disc have a total playing time of well over an hour, they are all so brief and so intimate, the time seems much shorter. (Not that that is a good thing; one comes away wishing there were more.) All told, it's a sweet set.
Adapted from a review the author originally published in the $ensible Sound magazine.
About the Author
Understand, I'm just an everyday guy reacting to something I love. And I've been doing it for a very long time, my appreciation for classical music starting with the musical excerpts on The Big John and Sparkie radio show in the early Fifties and the purchase of my first recording, The 101 Strings Play the Classics, around 1956. In the late Sixties I began teaching high school English and Film Studies as well as becoming interested in hi-fi, my audio ambitions graduating me from a pair of AR-3 speakers to the Fulton J's recommended by The Stereophile's J. Gordon Holt. In the early Seventies, I began writing for a number of audio magazines, including Audio Excellence, Audio Forum, The Boston Audio Society Speaker, The American Record Guide, and from 1976 until 2008, The $ensible Sound, for which I served as Classical Music Editor.
Today, I'm retired from teaching and use a pair of bi-amped VMPS RM40s loudspeakers for my listening. In addition to writing the Classical Candor blog, I served as the Movie Review Editor for the Web site Movie Metropolis (formerly DVDTown) from 1997-2013. Music and movies. Life couldn't be better.
It is the goal of Classical Candor to promote the enjoyment of classical music. Other forms of music come and go--minuets, waltzes, ragtime, blues, jazz, bebop, country-western, rock-'n'-roll, heavy metal, rap, and the rest--but classical music has been around for hundreds of years and will continue to be around for hundreds more. It's no accident that every major city in the world has one or more symphony orchestras.
When I was young, I heard it said that only intellectuals could appreciate classical music, that it required dedicated concentration to appreciate. Nonsense. I'm no intellectual, and I've always loved classical music. Anyone who's ever seen and enjoyed Disney's Fantasia or a Looney Tunes cartoon playing Rossini's William Tell Overture or Liszt's Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2 can attest to the power and joy of classical music, and that's just about everybody.
So, if Classical Candor can expand one's awareness of classical music and bring more joy to one's life, more power to it. It's done its job.
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