Tarrodi: Highlands - Cello Concerto (CD review)

Also, Camelopardalis; Serenade to Seven Colors; Zephyros: Lucioles; Birds of Paradise. Jakob Koranyi, cello; Andreas Stoehr, Joäna Carnerio (Highlands), Johannes Gustavsson (Zephyros), Västeräs Sinfonietta. dB Productions dBCD166.

By Karl W. Nehring

Not sure whether any of our readers do this, but I have found it quite useful for discovering new recordings. I subscribe to a couple of British magazines, Gramophone and BBC Music Magazine. Gramophone is relatively expensive but is packed with reviews (the version imported to the USA begins with reviews of recent releases featuring American artists and compositions) and interesting feature articles. Each issue also includes retrospective looks at classic recordings, roundup reviews of boxed sets, and recommendations regarding particular compositions. Not cheap, but a good value. BBC Music Magazine also presents good value, but in a different way. Although its reviews are not as extensive, each issue features a section wherein musicians discuss what music they have been listening to recently, plus a section that reveals the same for some of the magazine's staff. In addition, each issue comes with a CD, many of which are quite interesting, plus an article giving the background of the music on the disc. Both magazines, but especially Gramophone, also contain pages and pages of advertisements of new releases from music labels both large and small.

Now, in addition to my subscriptions to these two magazines, I also have a subscription to Amazon Music. So where is all this leading? Well, whenever I find a new issue of either magazine in my mailbox, I eagerly tote it with me back up the driveway, into the house, and oh, oh, are we gonna fly, down in the easy chair! Once settled in cozily, I pull my red pen out of my shirt pocket and begin to leaf methodically through the pages, drawing arrows that point to those recordings in which I might be interested amongst the various reviews, articles, lists, and ads. Then, as the month unfolds, I can pick up the magazine, fire up Amazon music on my phone, connect via Bluetooth to my soundbar system, and then from the comfort of my recliner audition the previously highlighted recordings to determine which ones I might be enthused enough about to justify a purchase of the CD so that I can then enjoy them more fully on my big system.

This release of music by contemporary Swedish composer Andrea Tarrodi (b. 1981) is one of the recordings I have purchased after finding a reference to it in a magazine, listening through my phone, and deciding I really wanted to hear it in all its glory. It was a rewarding purchase.

I have encountered the observation in several places that much contemporary orchestral music is more about sound than melody; in this case, that observation seems to hold, as the music on this disc presents much in the way of fascinating sounds but little in the way of hummable tunes. But no, that is not to say that Tarrodi's music is dissonant, or random-sounding, or in any way unpleasant. Although it is not particularly tuneful, it is certainly colorful and engaging to the ear.

The opening track, Camelopardalis, opens quietly in the strings, gradually gaining in volume as the rest of the orchestra joins in, imparting a sense of motion. Following what seems like a breakthrough in to a different scene, the mood changes, the calls of birds can be heard amongst the instruments of the orchestra, then a quiet solo, gentle percussion, a sense of looking out over vistas, flying, soaring, then brass, drums, a large climax, then a fade to the quiet end of what seems to have been a marvelous dream. By the way, I wrote the notes from which I have written my account before reading the liner notes, an activity of that I will leave as an assignment for the reader.

Andrea Tarrodi
The next composition, Serenade for Seven Colours, also begins softly. This time around, the quiet opening begins with the woodwinds, the music moving forward as if propelled by a gentle pulse, with the orchestra leading us on a journey. Brass and percussion join in, and we hear more apparent birdlike sounds, including at one point what my mind's eye envisioned as a woodpecker. Fascinating! The music seems firmly rooted in nature, celebrating a vision of the natural world, at times adopting a pulse that hearkens to the musical style of American composer Steve Reich. Following a section that brass and percussion build in a crescendo, the music returns to the winds, the sound fading off into the distance, leaving only silence.

Next on the agenda is the featured composition of the release, a concerto for cello and orchestra titled Highlands. No quiet opening this time – the orchestra sounds agitated, with support from the drums. After a couple of minutes of churning energy, the solo cello enters with a plaintive sound. After being joined by some percussion, the cello embarks on a solo, with cellist Koranyi sliding down into some of the lower notes on his instrument. As he continues his playing, he is joined by some light accompaniment by some of the other instruments in the orchestra, the music becoming deeply reflective, even mysterious, as we hear what seem once again to be whistles and bird sounds. As you might expect from a piece titled Highlands, Tarrodi's score once again seems deeply rooted in the realms of nature. 

Zephyros features strings and then winds establishing a mood of mystery and wonder, like entering a new realm of nature, sounds from the brass adding more color to the imaginary musical landscape. This composition seems definitely more about mood than melody, but the overall sound is pleasant and beckoning, drawing us in, leading us through some hidden realms of nature and imagination. Later, the sound of the strings seems to hover above the winds, then the brass, as the overall mood of mystery and enchantment carries through to the end.

Lucioles opens with notes from the cello, soon joined by strings and brass and once again featuring what seem to be bird calls. As the piece goes on, there are lots of fluttering sounds, augmented by lower brass notes, then percussion, the energy level building. After a climax, things quiet down, bird sounds reemerge, and a violin takes the lead. The energy then slowly builds again, brass and drums swelling, the bird sounds returning, the cello making an appearance, then the music fades back into silence.

The final selection, Birds of Paradise, opens quietly and mysteriously, then the brass section starts turning up the heat. As the music continues, we once again hear bird calls – as you would certainly expect from the title – but now they are front and center rather than just part of the overall musical landscape. There is some slowly unfolding melody from the cello as more bird calls are heard, but now from what would seem to be a flock off in the distance, getting farther and farther away as the music fades into silence.

The sound quality is excellent, with a natural tonal balance and a good sense of space. The liner notes offer some fascinating insights into the music. At just over 70 minutes, this Swedish release represents good value to those looking to enjoy some music that is different but still listenable and musically satisfying. And for those currently confined indoors because of COVID-19, this music of Tarrodi brings the sounds of nature right into your listening room.

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 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