Mar 29, 2023

Recent Releases No.48 (CD Reviews)

 by Karl Nehring

Impromptus. Fauré: Impromptu No. 1 in E-Flat Major, Op. 25; Chopin: Impromptu No. 1 in A-Flat Major, Op. 29; Fauré: Impromptu No. 2 in F Minor, Op. 31; Chopin: Étude in F Minor, Op. 25; Fauré: Impromptu No. 3 in A-Flat Major, Op. 34; Chopin: Fantaisie-Impromptu in C-Sharp Minor, Op. 66; Fauré: Impromptu No. 4 in D-Flat Major, Op. 91; Chopin: Impromptu No. 2 in F-Sharp Minor, Op. 36; Fauré: Impromptu No. 5 in F-Sharp Minor, Op. 102: Chopin: Impromptu No. 3 in G-Flat Major, Op. 51; Fauré: Impromptu No. 6 in D-Flat Major, Op. 86; Chopin: Berceuse in D-Flat Major, Op. 57; Fauré: Improvisation in C-Sharp Minor, Op. 84; Ismaël Margain: Improvisation. Ismaël Margain, piano, naïve V7860


The French pianist Ismaël Margain (b. 1992) says in the liner booklet that the idea for this new recording first came about “when I chanced upon Fauré’s impromptus four years ago, when I was looking for a repertoire. It is astonishing to see how rarely this composer’s piano music is played in his own country, and the impromptus are, with the exception of the third, largely unknown. Compared to Debussy and Ravel, Fauré  is much less in the limelight. On reading the impromptus, I was immediately struck by their beauty, by a desire to play them, and by how close the first three were to the language of Chopin… So I looked again at Chopin’s impromptus with the idea of juxtaposing them with Fauré’s.” Chopin wrote a total of four impromptus, while Fauré wrote a total of six. Margain has organized his program around similar tonalities, and to further balance the program and ensure the strict alternation between the two composers, Margain also adds the Chopin Étude op.25 no.2 in F minorBerceuse op.57, and the Fantaisie-Impromptu

 My guess would be that many readers will also be less familiar with the piano music of Fauré (1845-1924) than they are with that of Chopin (1810-1849,). For those in that particular circumstance, this recording would serve as an excellent introduction to the charming, inviting work of the French master. Just listening to the first few bars of his Impromptu No. 1, which opens the program, should be enough to entice most listeners to want to hear more. With six impromptus by Fauré on the program, there is plenty more to hear, not to mention some excellent Chopin playing by the young Margain. The music of Chopin will no doubt sound familiar to many listeners, who will be pleased to discover that the Fauré pieces, although certainly different from the Chopin, do indeed blend seamlessly into the program, which is beautifully played by Margain and beautifully recorded by engineer/producer Alice Legros.


Margain closes out the program with an something out of the ordinary, an improvisation of his own – played as an encore as he might do in a concert performance. Margain says of this idea, “I wanted to do an improvisation if we had time at the end of the recording. After three days in the studio, with my head full of all of Chopin’s and Fauré’s music, I made a start, without really knowing how to approach it all. I didn’t want to make an exercise in style, nor did I want to include absolutely all the themes. In the end I began by taking up the theme of Chopin’s berceuse, which is just before this on the album, to play with it, transform it, and then mix it with other pieces of the program, sometimes merely hinted at, before gradually moving away from it.” It’s a delightful piece, by turns wistful and playful, clearly inspired by what has come before – especially Chopin – “I’m Always Chasing Rainbows” – but original and imaginative as well, adjectives that apply fittingly to this entire release.

Tomer Cohen: Not the Same RiverNot the Same RiverConnecting DotsHithadshut (Regeneration)Empty?;PasturesSunriseProbably More Than TwoFirst Laps. Tomer Cohen, guitar; Matt Penman, Bass; Obed Calvaire, drums. Hypnote Records HR028


The Israeli-raised New York-based guitarist-composer Tomer Cohen (b. 1996) makes his debut as a leader with Not the Same River, an album that serves as another example of how jazz can be viewed as a form of chamber music. Sometimes classical music folks have a misguided idea that jazz is mostly improvisation, played by people who really do not know much about music theory and are just kind of getting together and making it all up as they go along. This is most assuredly not the case; in fact, the majority of professional jazz musicians are well-versed in the nuances of music theory. Their ability to improvise grows out of their knowledge of chords, scales, modes, transpositions, key changes, meters, rhythms, and such – plus plenty of practice, practice, practice. And you’d be surprised at how many top jazz musicians are also fans of classical music. But I digress…

Although Cohen composed all of the selections on this recording, and his guitar takes the spotlight in term of melodic invention, Penman’s bass and Calvaire’s drums provide more than merely rhythmic support, as the three musicians listen to and play off each other with drive and intensity. Cohen plays his guitar with an unusual technique of playing single notes with a pick between his thumb and forefinger while simultaneously chording and playing counterpoint with his three remaining fingers, which allows him to play arpeggios and melody lines while comping for himself. This gives him a smooth, tuneful sound that has an easy, natural flow to it

There is a consistency of sound throughout the album, as Cohen does not strive for effects or far-out sounds from his guitar. He maintains a consistent guitar tone throughout. The overall mood of the tunes does not vary much, either. That is not to say they all sound the same; rather, that there is an overall feeling or mood to the album that seems to point to a point to a single vision. Cohen says of the album, “I used to play outside with my guitar, watching the fields and the blue sky. I believe some of that vibe is reflected in some of the tunes on this record.” For example, he points to the tune Pastures as an example of offering a sense of place. “I’m trying to get the listener to see the place where I wrote the song. Basically, I’m saying to the listener: ‘Close your eyes and imagine that you’re sitting on a high hill. You see the green fields and you can see the wind move them like the waves in the sea. Above you only cloudless blue skies. Far back you can see two rivers, one is a bit bigger than the other. On your right you see a green forest with some white birds flying above the trees.’ That’s the image I’m trying to convey in that piece. That’s exactly what I was trying to do on this record, trying to connect some stories, images and life philosophies that I have into one thing.” That’s an ambitious agenda, to be sure, but it certainly demonstrates a seriousness of purpose that belies the idea that jazz is just some guys just getting together and playing whatever happens to come into their heads. This is a fine album of well-crafted, tuneful, engaging music that should appeal to a wide-cross-section of jazz and classical fans alike.

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Meet the Staff

Meet the Staff
John J. Puccio, Founder and Contributor

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 for 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 Nehring, Editor and Contributor

For more than 20 years I was the editor of The $ensible Sound magazine and a regular contributor to both its equipment and recordings 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 they 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 Marantz CD 6007 and Onkyo CD 7030 CD players, NAD C 658 streaming preamp/DAC, Legacy Audio PowerBloc2 amplifier, and a pair of Legacy Audio Focus SE loudspeakers. I occasionally do some listening through pair of Sennheiser 560S headphones. I miss the excellent ELS Studio sound system in our 2016 Acura RDX (now my wife's daily driver) on which I had ripped more than a hundred favorite CDs to the hard drive, so now when driving my 2022 Accord EX-L Hybrid I stream music from my phone through its adequate but not outstanding factory system. 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 tolerably nice sound for such a diminutive physical presence. And finally, at the least grandiose end of the scale, I have an Ultimate Ears Wonderboom II 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.

William (Bill) Heck, Webmaster and Contributor

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 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. Most recently I’ve moved to my “ultimate system” consisting of a BlueSound Node streamer, an ancient Toshiba multi-format disk player serving as a CD transport, Legacy Wavelet II DAC/preamp/crossover, dual Legacy PowerBloc2 amps, and Legacy Signature SE speakers (biamped), all connected with decently made, no-frills cables. With the arrival of CD and higher resolution streaming, that is now the source for most of my listening.

Ryan Ross, Contributor

I started listening to and studying classical music in earnest nearly three decades ago. This interest grew naturally out of my training as a pianist. I am now a musicologist by profession, specializing in British and other symphonic music of the 19th and 20th centuries. My scholarly work has been published in major music journals, as well as in other outlets. Current research focuses include twentieth-century symphonic historiography, and the music of Jean Sibelius, Ralph Vaughan Williams, and Malcolm Arnold.

I am honored to contribute writings to Classical Candor. In an age where the classical recording industry is being subjected to such profound pressures and changes, it is more important than ever for those of us steeped in this cultural tradition to continue to foster its love and exposure. I hope that my readers can find value, no matter how modest, in what I offer here.

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.

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