Cinema (CD review)

Renaud Capucon, violin; Stephane Deneve, Brussels Philharmonic. Erato 0190295633936.

At last count, there were approximately 19,382,475.3 recordings of film music in the catalogue. So, any new release has plenty of competition. What makes this one any more special than the rest? Well, mainly, it's French violinist Renaud Capucon.

According to his bio at Wikipedia, Capucon (b. 1976) entered the Conservatoire à rayonnement régional de Chambéry at the age of four, then the Conservatoire national supérieur de musique et de danse de Paris at the age of fourteen. Three years after that, having completed his studies, he won first prize in both chamber music and violin. There followed several international competitions before he joined the European Union Youth Orchestra and then the Gustav Mahler Youth Orchestra as first violin. About the same time, he began playing as a chamber musician and launched a solo concert and recording career. On a side note, after playing a Vuillaume, a Guadagnini, and a Stradivarius violin, in 2005 the Banque de Suisse Italienne BSI loaned him a Guarnerius, the "Panette" of 1737 that had once belonged to Isaac Stern.

And what's he up to on the present album? He's playing film music (a healthy nineteen tracks) with the accompaniment of Maestro Stephane Deneve and the Brussels Philharmonic. As Capucon explains it, "Playing music from the film soundtracks that mean so much to me has allowed me to tell my own story. A number of different tales end up woven together here, inspiring the best story of all--the one you'll tell yourself as listen to this album."

Here's a rundown of the selections:

  1. Morricone: Theme (from "Cinema Paradiso")
  2. Morricone: Gabriel's Oboe (from "The Mission")
  3. Barry: I Had a Farm in Africa (from "Out of Africa")
  4. Williams: Theme (from "Schindler's List")
  5. Delerue: Camille (from "Le Mépris")
  6. Piovani: Theme (from "Life Is Beautiful")
  7. Korngold: Romance (from "The Adventures of Robin Hood")
  8. Jarre: Carpe Diem (from "Dead Poets Society")
  9. Legrand: Papa, Can You Hear Me? (from "Yentl")
10. Rombi: Aria (from "Joyeux Noël")
11. Tiersen: Medley (from "Amelie")
12. Telson: Calling You (from "Bagdad Café")
13. Cosma: Le Concerto de Berlin (from "La Septième Cible")
14. Mancini: Moon River (from "Breakfast at Tiffany's")
15. Rota: Love Theme (from "The Godfather")
16. Desplat: New Moon (from "The Twilight Saga: New Moon")
17. Horner: Theme (from "Legends of the Fall")
18. Legrand: Theme (from "Summer of 42")
19. Cosma: Theme (From "The Tall Blond Man with One Black Shoe")

Renaud Capucon
The themes from "Cinema Paradiso" and "The Mission" are good places for Capucon to start the program because they emphasize the sweetness of his playing style. Capucon glides through them with consummate ease and refinement. He maintains a total control of his violin while asserting a total control of the music. OK, admittedly, these are probably not the most-demanding scores Capucon has ever had to play, but, still, to produce such lush, lovely tones is no easy matter. Maestro Deneve and the Brussels Philharmonic give him an equally lush and lovely support.

It's hard to pick out favorites among the many tunes. Most of the music runs high to heavy sentiment and plush romanticism, so it almost seems one of a sort after the first half dozen tracks. "Life Is Beautiful," the "Romance" from  "The Adventures of Robin Hood," and "The Tall Blond Man with One Black Shoe" tend to liven up the proceedings a bit. However, for the most part, things remain on the dreamy, nostalgic side, though never veering too far into the maudlin or sappy. I admit I have a special affection for "Amelie," "Mood River," "Summer of '42," and "The Godfather." Indeed, if really pressed I'd say "The Godfather Theme" was the single most splendid thing on the disc, with Capucon singing out the notes on his violin as though performing grand opera.

In all, the album demonstrates a poignant piece of musicianship and makes for winsome, engaging, easy listening.

Producers Alain Lanceron and Michael Fine and engineer Jean-Marc Laisne recorded the music at Flagey, Brussels, Belgium and Ferber Studio, Paris, France in June and July 2018. The sound is as sweet and gentle as much of the music. The violin is a bit too close for the orchestra behind it, but since this album is really a showcase for Capucon and his instrument, we perhaps might have expected that. When the orchestra does come up strongly, though, it tends almost to engulf the soloist in a soft, billowy reverberation. Fortunately, such occasions are few. Mainly, this is warm, ultrasmooth sound, not particularly transparent or dynamic but comfortable.


To listen to a brief excerpt from this album, click below:

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Meet the Staff

Meet the Staff
John J. Puccio, Editor, Publisher, Reviewer

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 Jon 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.
Karl W. Nehring, Contributing Reviewer

For more than 20 years I was the editor of The $ensible Sound magazine and a regular contributor to its classical review pages. I would not presume to present myself as some sort of expert on music, but I have a deep love for and appreciation of many types of music, "classical" especially, and have listened to thousands of recordings over the years, many of which still line the walls of my listening room (and occasionally spill onto the furniture and floor, much to the chagrin of my long-suffering wife). I have always taken the approach as a reviewer that what I am trying to do is simply to point out to readers that I have come across a recording that I have found of interest, a recording that I think they might appreciate my having pointed out to them. I suppose that sounds a bit simpleminded, but I know I appreciate reading reviews by others that do the same for me -- point out recordings that I think I might enjoy.

For readers who might be wondering about what kind of system I am using to do my listening, I should probably point out that I do a LOT of music listening and employ a variety of means to do so in a variety of environments, as I would imagine many music lovers also do. Starting at the more grandiose end of the scale, the system in which I do my most serious listening comprises an Arcam CDS50 CSD/SACD CD player, Goldpoint SA4 Passive Preamp, Legacy Audio PowerBloc2 amplifier, and a pair of Legacy Audio Focus SE loudspeakers. I also do a lot of listening while driving in my 2016 Acura RDX with its nice-sounding ELS Studio sound system through which I play CDs (the ones I especially like I rip to the Acura's hard drive so that I can listen to them whenever I want) or stream music through the system using my cell phone. For more casual listening at home when I am not in my listening room, I often stream music through the phone into a Vizio soundbar system that has remarkably nice sound for such a diminutive physical presence. And finally, at the least grandiose end of the scale, I have an Ultimate Ears Wonderboom Bluetooth speaker for those occasions where I am somewhere by myself without a sound system but in desperate need of a musical fix. I just can't imagine life without music and I am humbly grateful for the technology that enables us to enjoy it in so many wonderful ways.
Bryan Geyer, Technical Analyst

I initially embraced classical music in 1954 when I mistuned my car radio and heard the Heifetz recording of Mendelssohn's Violin Concerto. That inspired me to board the new "hi-fi" DIY bandwagon. In 1957 I joined one of the pioneer semiconductor makers and spent the next 32 years marketing transistors and microcircuits to military contractors. Home audio DIY projects remained a personal passion until 1989 when we created our own new photography equipment company. I later (2012) revived my interest in two channel audio when we "downsized" our life and determined that mini-monitors + paired subwoofers were a great way to mate fine music with the space constraints of condo living.

Visitors that view my technical papers on this site may wonder why they appear here, rather than on a site that features audio equipment reviews. My reason is that I tried the latter, and prefer to publish for people who actually want to listen to music; not to equipment. My focus is in describing what's technically beneficial to assure that the sound of the system will accurately replicate the source input signal (i. e. exhibit high accuracy) without inordinate cost and complexity. Conversely, most of the audiophiles of today strive to achieve sound that's euphonic, i.e. be personally satisfying. In essence, audiophiles seek sound that's consistent with their desire; the music is simply a test signal.

William (Bill) Heck, Contributing Reviewer

Among my early childhood memories are those of listening to my mother playing records (some even 78 rpm ones!) of both classical music and jazz tunes. I suppose that her love of music was transmitted genetically, and my interest was sustained by years of playing in rock bands – until I realized that this was no way to make a living. The interest in classical music was rekindled in grad school when the university FM station serving as background music for studying happened to play the Brahms First Symphony. As the work came to an end, it struck me forcibly that this was the most beautiful thing I had ever heard, and from that point on, I never looked back. This revelation was to the detriment of my studies, as I subsequently spent way too much time simply listening, but music has remained a significant part of my life. These days, although I still can tell a trumpet from a bassoon and a quarter note from a treble clef, I have to admit that I remain a nonexpert. But I do love music in general and classical music in particular, and I enjoy sharing both information and opinions about it.

The audiophile bug bit about the same time that I returned to that classical music. I’ve gone through plenty of equipment, brands from Audio Research to Yamaha, and the best of it has opened new audio insights. Along the way, I reviewed components, and occasionally recordings, for The $ensible Sound magazine. Recently I’ve rebuilt--I prefer to say reinvigorated--my audio system, with a Sangean FM HD tuner and (for the moment) an ancient Toshiba multi-format disk player serving as a transport, both feeding a NAD C 658 streaming preamp/DAC, which in turn connects to a Legacy Powerbloc2 amplifier driving my trusty Waveform Mach Solo speakers, supplemented by a Hsu Research ULS 15 Mk II subwoofer.

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. --John J. Puccio

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"Their Master's Voice" by Michael Sowa

"Their Master's Voice" by Michael Sowa