Lucy Schaufer: Carpentersville

ABC 481 0331

“You should never judge a book by its cover is the long held saying. So it is with this debut solo disc from the abundantly gifted American mezzo soprano, Lucy Schaufer, that it should not be judged by its uniquely home-spun style cover (a photo of Schaufer as a young girl complete with bicycle, alongside her father, aka 1950’s).

349678-1On this journey from her roots (Carpentersville is the small town of her birth), Schaufer passionately puts forward new music or repertoire, much of which has not been recorded previously.

But from the very first track (Best Thing of All, from Regina), this CD reveals a wildly exciting singer and equally exciting selection of songs that is irresistible.

From Leonard Bernstein (Dream with Me, from Peter Pan) to Richard Rodgers’s grandson, Adam Guettel (Margaret The Beauty Is, from The Light in the Piazza), the material is rich, showing Schaufer excelling in this lyric-led music.

Classically trained, Schaufer points to the importance in her view of material that is “deeply embedded in the language of song and story-telling”. Small doubt that she is drawn to such songs as Bernstein’s 100 Easy Ways to Lose a Man (from Wonderful Town) or McBroom’s lyric in Martha, or Errol Flynn.

Her characterisations through song are infused with an honesty, poignancy (I Wish it So, from Blitzstein’s Juno, or Bernstein’s Greeting, from Arias and Barcarolles) and oftentimes striking wit (Dinghy Song), that brings to life these songs.

Don’t go past this disc if you can. And don’t judge it by its cover. It is a great journey by Lucy Schaufer who is an artist of immense character and colour.

 

CORRECTION: Apologies, date in first par should be 1960′s. Ms Schaufer has confirmed that the photo was actually 1969. (BW)

Blue Silence: Complete Works for String Quartet by Elena Kats-Chernin

Acacia Quartet

840-1202 (2 CD set)

The music of Elena Kats-Chernin has immediate appeal for the 21st century as it grabs you by the throat and compels you to listen. It is edgy, striking, colourful, and rhythmically taut, with a momentum that is almost unceasing.

BlueSilenceThis two CD set brings to the fore the composer’s diverse range of expression for the medium of string quartet. These are miniatures covering intense moments right through to lighter entertainment style works.

Some of the titles will give the reader a sense of the range of ideas which are presented: Fast Blue Village, Eliza’s Aria, Moody Tango, Mexmer, Road to Harvest, Kwong Song, Luke’s Painting, Second Door on the Left, Russian Rag, Butterflying, Pink-Breasted Robin, Blue Silence, Blue Rose, Grotesk (sic), Drinking Song, Charleston Noir, Naïve Waltz, and Slicked Back Tango.

All these pieces reveal her Russian roots, her love of dance and her eclecticism, as well as an optimism that might emanate from her new home country, Australia, giving her an alluring individuality.

Using a range of compositional devices, Kats-Chernin has appropriated music from Anna Magdalena’s Notebook in paying homage to the great JS Bach. In so doing, she has breathed new life in her selection of pieces from the Notebook with a bold, modern and somewhat quirky sense (but pensive in the Aria).

Her Silver Suite (Burnished Silver, Silver Pearls, Silver Poetry, Silver Eucalypt) is a collection of small movements, which exhibit an optimism as well as minimal melodic, rhythmic and harmonic gestures, making them truly beautiful in their simplicity.

The Acacia Quartet is comprised of four internationally recognised musicians: Lisa Stewart and Myee Clohessy (Violins), Stefan Duwe (Viola) and Anna Martin-Scrase (Cello). The quartet’s warmth of tone and blend is coupled with an infectious passion for this new music, making this recording a stand-out! It is not only exciting music, but exciting playing.

This CD set is to be recommended for every teacher of Australian music (whether they teach piano, singing, strings or any other instrument), as well as every classroom teacher (with its rich array of work which can easily fit into the Mandatory HSC topic of “Music of the Last 25 Years”).

Chopin Sonatas: Duo and Solo

Daniel Herscovitch (piano); Elizabeth Neville (cello)

Wirr 048

Shopin Sonatas webProducing a disc of Chopin music is perhaps a radical departure for Wirripang, which unashamedly promotes Australian composition, but it is a very worthwhile departure.

Capturing the remarkable pianistic skills of Daniel Herscovitch in two Piano Sonatas (Op 35 No 2 and Op 58 No 3), as well as his ensemble playing with British-born cellist Elizabeth Neville in the rarely heard Cello and Piano Sonata (Op 65) was a welcome addition to the catalogue. This alone, fills an immense gap in the recording world.

Recorded at the Sydney Conservatorium, where Herscovitch is a lecturer in Piano, the sound is clean and exquisite. The Cello Sonata was totally captivating for its construction and interplay between two demanding parts.

Too often Chopin is considered to be a composer of piano compositions alone, but as Herscovitch cites in his well-written notes, “British pianist and writer Paul Hamburger surmised that he (Chopin) would have undertaken more large-scale chamber music works. One inevitably speculates what Chopin’s further development would have been had he been granted more time”.

As well, the B flat minor Piano Sonata suffered from not being amongst many of the recordings available today. Even the great Arrau and Richter chose never to record this work.

Along with the B flat minor Piano Sonata is the well-known B minor Sonata, both given the dramatic, anxious, sensitive and reflective qualities required for their contrasting sections and moods.

If this recording is anything to go by, there should be more interest and hopefully more performances now of these great works from those who genuinely love the music of Chopin.

Simon Tedeschi: Gershwin & Me

ABC 481 0032 

Tin Pan Alley comes alive when Simon Tedeschi meets Gershwin in this sumptuous disc of piano music. You can feel the Manhattan energy in Tedeschi’s playing as he delves into the heart and soul of one of the world’s greatest song writers.

Having spent years living and working in New York City, Tedeschi has an affinity with such music, that he has earned accolades from some of the great jazz masters of all time.

Gerswhin & Me

Gerswhin & Me

“I just wish Gershwin were here … one of the finest exponents of his music I have ever seen,” said Larry Adler.

This recording has so much diversity in terms of original Gershwin music, arrangements and improvisations, that it stands out amongst similar discs.

Perhaps one of the really compelling aspects of this disc is its compilation of some wonderful arrangements of Gershwin classics by luminaries such as Percy Grainger in Love Walked In and The Man I Love, Keith Jarrett in Someone to Watch Over Me, Dave Grusin in his cocktail bar arrangement of Nice Work if You Can Get It and the composer himself (O Lady Be Good!, Strike Up the Band).

Tedeschi has also been inspired to provide improvisations of the favourites Summertime and I Loves You, Porgy, in which he weaves layers of musical ideas seamlessly.

For any piano student, there is always interest in Gershwin’s 3 Preludes which appear here, as well.

A little known piece also included is the Rialto Ripples Rag, composed in 1917 by Gershwin and Will Donaldson, who was another American Tin Pan Alley song composer. A song arranger at the Jerome H. Remick Music Publishing Company, Donaldson befriended and assisted the 16 year old George Gershwin with the latter’s career when starting at Remick’s, and also helped with this rag composition, receiving credit as co-creator of the work.

Finally, there is a live recording of Rhapsody in Blue (with the Queensland Symphony Orchestra conducted by Benjamin Northey), with all the pizazz that one comes to expect from this gem.

In Tedeschi’s playing, there is robustness, as well as expressive sensitivity, coupled with a fine technique and mastery of the idiom.