Evening Adagios (CD review)

Various composers and artists. Decca 289 470 780-2 (2-disc set).

Compilations and more compilations. The classical music industry has been living off its old catalogue for quite a few years now, which in some cases is a bargain for the music collector who needs to have everything. The two-disc set under review is from Decca in its "Adagio" series from 2001, this one called "Evening Adagios." They released a slew of other such collections around the same time titled things like "Romantic Adagios," "Violin Adagios," "Vivaldi Adagios," "Movie Adagios," "Baroque Adagios," and on and on, all of them two disc sets and mid-priced, culled from Decca's back stock of big-name players.

There's certainly a lot of beautiful music one can listen to here, and one can hardly quibble about the performances, with artists like Vladimir Ashkenazy, Arthur Grumiaux, Pascal Roge, Pepe Romero, Radu Lupu, Frederick Fennell and the Eastman-Rochester Orchestra, Neville Marriner and the Academy of St. Martin in the Fields, Charles Dutoit and the Montreal Symphony Orchestra, Jeffrey Tate and the English Chamber Orchestra, I Musici, Sir Colin Davis, Riccardo Chailly, Karl Munchinger, Istvan Kertesz, and many more doing the music-making.

Vladimir Ashkenazy
To name just a few of the thirty items represented on the discs, there are the usual suspects: Debussy's Claire de lune, Barber's Adagio for Strings, Mascagni's Intermezzo, Faure's Pavane, Saint-Saens's The Swan, Chopin's Nocturne No. 2, Bach's Air on a G String, Elgar's Sospiri for Strings, Beethoven's Moonlight Sonata, and so forth through thirty selections and a total of 151 minutes.

Apparently, Decca meant their interpretation of "adagio" in the broadest sense; that is, any slow, leisurely movement, as the composers of many of the items included in the set actually called them Andantes, Nocturnes, Andantinos, Largos, and the like. But a rose by any other name, they're all lovely and make for pleasant, easy listening.

Decca cleaned up and prettified all the sound, homogenized it some would say, despite the fact that some of the numbers date back to the Fifties. In fact, Mercury originally recorded the opening piece, Claire de lune, back in 1959. It doesn't have quite the open airiness of the Mercury and HDTT remasters, but it does blend right in with the digital efforts from as late as 1999. While I wouldn't call it audiophile sound, and one can certainly hear better sound in individual cases, the relatively relaxed nature of it does compliment the music.

The whole collection, in fact, features clear, smooth sound, and I should imagine that's all that matters in this kind of material. The performances are generally beyond reproach.


To listen to a brief excerpt from this album, click on the forward arrow:

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John J. Puccio

John J. Puccio

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.

Mission Statement

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.

Contact Information

Readers with polite, courteous, helpful letters may send them to pucciojj@gmail.com.

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"Their Master's Voice" by Michael Sowa

"Their Master's Voice" by Michael Sowa