Mirror in Mirror (CD Review)

Works by Ciupinski, Corigliano, Glass, Lauridsen, Pärt, and Ravel. Anne Akiko Meyers, violin; Akiro Egushi, piano; Elizabeth Bridges, keyboard; Jakub Ciupiñski, luthéal reproduction;  Kristjan Järvi, Philharmonia Orchestra. Avie Records AV 2386.

Welcome back a guest reviewer, Karl W. Nehring. For over twenty years Karl was the editor of "The $ensible Sound" magazine and a regular contributor to its classical review pages. Take it, Karl:

This new album by violinist Anne Akiko Meyers is a delightful combination of interesting music, splendid playing, excellent engineering, and even -- as an added and unexpected bonus -- thoughtful, helpful, and intelligent liner notes. If only more music releases were so thoughtfully produced!

Although on the whole I have never been a big fan of the music of Philip Glass, I have found some of his smaller-scale works to be enjoyable. Meyers opens her program with an arrangement for violin and piano by Glass's frequent collaborator Michael Reisman of the composer's Metamorphosis II. Pianist Akira Eguchi and Meyers make this piece soar and sing. Indeed, the expression and passion these musicians bring to this music belie the reputation for boringly repetitious minimalism that Glass's music has accrued among many music listeners.

Interestingly enough, the liner notes mention that Metamorphosis II was influenced by Arvo Pärt's Fratres, the next cut on this CD. I have heard many performances of various arrangements of Fratres, including some for violin and piano as on this recording, but never have I heard a performance as strikingly virtuosic as this one. I would never have thought of Pärt as composing gypsy music, but there is a hint of that here, at least to these ears. Fascinating!

Next up is the title track, Spiegel im Spiegel ("Mirror in MIrror"), also by Pärt. Although simple on the surface, this truly is a composition with great depth of feeling, a deeply reflective piece, as implied by its title. Meyers mentions in the liner notes that she had worked closely with Pärt a few years ago while recording several of his compositions, an experience that provided her with an insight into both the composer and his music. Meyers and Eguchi play this music in a loving but straightforward way, allowing listeners to find their own reflections as they gaze into the music.

Anne Akiko Meyers
Although Meyers somehow managed to find a gypsy thread in the music of Part, she somehow manages to overlook the gypsy element in Ravel's Tzigane, which she plays in a straightforward manner that strikes these ears at least as lacking in the necessary passion and flair. An interesting aspect of this performance, though, is the inclusion of a digital recreation of the sound of a luthéal, which the liner notes explain is an optional piano attachment – now virtually extinct – that Ravel indicated could be used in performance. The percussive sound of the luthéal does add an intriguing dimension to the sound, but overall, this performance of the Tzigane is the least appealing track on this CD. It just sounds out of place, not quite consonant with the overall pensive, introspective mood of the rest of the program.

That more introspective mood is restored, however, with the next cut, a moving piece titled Lullaby for Natalie, which was written by composer John Corigliano at the request of Meyers's husband to play in honor of their at that time yet-unborn child. In Corigliano's liner note, he mentions that Meyers sent him a video of her playing the lullaby for baby Natalie, who was indeed asleep by the end of the piece: "The baby, awake at first, was asleep at the end, so either the 5-minute lullaby had bored her to sleep or I had lived up to the promise of my title. I will never know." Those who listen to this cut will not be bored to sleep but will rather be enchanted by its charms.

The next cut, Edo Lullaby, based on the traditional Japanese folk song "Edo No Komori Uta," is a composition for violin and electronics by Jakub Ciupiñski, who explains in his liner note that the opening quotes the original melody while the rest of the piece "represents my subjective interpretation of its spirit." The end result does not sound like a traditional lullaby – there are lots of electronic effects going on in the deep bass that would shake your woofers, not to mention your baby, wide awake. Perhaps this is what Ciupiñski has in mind when he writes, "it is my personal nod to the Zen tradition, which I think of as an ancient lullaby that makes you wake up." In any event, it is an interesting piece of music that fits well into the overall arc of the program.

The next cut, Wreck of the Umbria, is also by Ciupiñski, who explains that the title came from an underwater wreck in Sudan that he had explored back in 2005. The violin has a haunting sound, a mood augmented by electronic effects that truly do allow the listener to conjure up the mental image of a mysterious underwater realm. Although my brief description might give the impression that this is bizarre, forbidding music, it is actually quite enticing and eminently listenable.

Although the previous pieces on this album have been at chamber music scale, the program concludes with an arrangement for violin and orchestra (in this performance, the Philharmonia Orchestra under the baton of Kristjan Järvi) by composer Morton Lauridsen of his oft-recorded (e.g., as led by the late Robert Shaw on a marvelous Telarc recording with the same title) choral piece, O Magnum Mysterium. The sound of Meyers's violin floating above the orchestral cushion is a grand and fitting way to conclude this beautiful production, which is first-class in every respect.

KWN

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 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.
Karl W. Nehring, Contributing Reviewer

For over 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 simple-minded, 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, as of right now it comprises an Onkyo C-7030 CD player, Legacy Audio High Current preamplifier, AVA FET Valve 550hc or Legacy Audio PowerBloc2 amplifier, and a pair of Legacy Audio Focus SE speakers augmented by a Legacy Point One subwoofer.
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.

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