Issue 41, Sept/Oct 2016
rating: rewarding & most satisfying
There is a huge variety of repertoire here in Lou Marinoff’s Classical Journey. It begins with Bach, and one of Bach’s most famous offerings, the Prelude from the Solo Cello Suite No. 1. The sense of intimacy is present from the very first note; Marinoff’s evenness of delivery and his sensitivity to voice-leading points to his innate musicality. This is a 1976 recording from Montreal; the Bourée that follows was taken down 30 years later, in New York in 2006, and while the recording might be more immediate, the level of illumination is just as involving. The three Sinfonias (recorded around the same time as the Bourrée), heard in arrangements by Moshe Denburg, are no less impressive (see above for the relationship between Marinoff and Denburg). The gentle flow of the Invention is particularly impressive.
The following music by Aragonese composer Gaspar Sanz (c. 1640–1710) is delivered with the utmost concentration: The Pavane flows beautifully, while the piece Canarios is joyfully playful. Marinoff injects the latter with a lovely sense of rhythmic bounce. If the first offering by Carcassi, the Third Study, continues in a gentle mode, the Seventh Study is altogether more lively. Both the Sanz and the Carcassi recordings date from 1996, and are heard in splendidly present sound. Perhaps it is the Sor, however, that offers the most meat in terms of substantive musical statement. The Fantasy, op. 7, is a terrifically touching piece, and unfolds with an aching sense of questing here, while the Rondo from the Grand Sonata is more focused of structure, its charming main theme continually returning with an aura of innocence.
The acoustic to the live Lauro Vals Venezolano No. 2 seems a little unfocused, but the intimacy of the Vals Criollo No. 1 is absolutely honored; even better is the shifting, enigmatic rhythm of the Vals Criollo No. 3 (these two were recorded in CCNY Sonic Arts Center, New York in 1996). Moreno Torroba’s Torija (Montreal, 1976) holds a serenity that makes it the perfect interlude between the Lauro and the beautiful Mascagni/Denburg Sicilian Dreams. This latter piece takes as its material the famous Intermezzo from Cavalleria rusticana and the Barcarolle from Silvano. Its whispered intimacy, coupled with the way it truly captures the atmosphere of Mascagni’s world, makes it by a considerable margin the most memorable offering on the disc, at least for the present reviewer. The Brouwer (the piece with that “obstinato” marking mentioned in the interview) is remarkable, the most progressive piece on the disc, even including some knocks on the instrument itself as a percussive device. The rhythmic play of the second part is most involving, the whole enhanced by Brouwer’s piquant harmonies. The live element certainly comes through in the performance’s drive; applause is retained, and rightly so.
This is a lovely collection, and a most rewarding one. The repertoire chosen spans a variety of styles, but is so carefully programmed that the end result is most satisfying.