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Every day we post 10 new Classical CD and DVD reviews. A free weekly summary is available by e-mail. MusicWeb is not a subscription site. To keep it free please purchase discs through our links.

  Classical Editor Rob Barnett    


Michael MENTION (1714-1788)
Fantaisie
Impressions 1 - 3
Libidineuses 1 & 2
Sonatine
Ballade
Etudes 1 - 3
Sonata No. 2
Michael Mention piano
recorded 7 9/6/99 in Bridges Hall of Music, Claremont, California, DDD
PROdigital PRO - 4652 [68.09]
ProDigital

 

Listening to this disc of solo piano works by Michael Mention, I was reminded of a programme I listened to many years ago on Radio 3. The subject of the programme was "what is a tune." The end result of the programme was that provided the note sequences could be played on the instrument(s) for which it was written, then it was a tune. The programme then developed the idea, taking into account the levels of inspiration, which ended up with the great tunesmiths who have delighted us over the years.

Michael Mention, I must say is some way down in the pecking order by these criteria, for although his sound world is very pleasant and I obtained a certain level of pleasure from his works, I had to work very hard to discern in them what I would call a tune!

Still, by modern terms these works are not unpleasant. Mention is a French-born naturalised American musician and, in addition to the works on this disc, he has written for piano, quintets for both brass, and woodwind, a quartet for saxophone, and a mass for mezzo-soprano, mixed choir and orchestra.

The PRODigital recording, made by Sonny Ausman was produced by Mention himself, and so I assume was made primarily for a promotional item to be sold to audiences at his recitals. (I have no proof that this statement is correct, but when the production and recording team is as announced on the sleeve, this is the most likely scenario around the recording). Other recordings by this company appear similarly to be of the same nature. It is to our benefit then, that this disc is available in the UK via Ludwig, as today we are able to experience the music of many, many modern artists, and Michael Mention is by no means totally forgettable.

Most of the works are relatively short, which is a good thing, as many modern works outstay their welcome, and this does not happen here. Indeed the most substantial work on the disc, Sonata No. 2, only lasts for under twenty minutes and this is by far the longest.

I would strongly recommend any purchaser not to play this disc from start to finish in one go, but to select discrete pieces to get to know the works better. This is a much better strategy than full-out straight-through listening which then becomes a bit monotonous.

PRODigitals recording quality is really first rate achieving a natural sound quality which allows the composers works to really make an impact. By having him interpret his own works this should ensure good performances, and I can detect no shortcomings in his technique that may limit this.

Production is by the composer, and the whole product is a first class offering the only drawback is the lack of sleeve notes, which is a major problem if one wishes to find out more about the composer. I was unable to find any reference to the composer on the net and so I am unable to expand further.

John Phillips

 

 


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