The programme on this recital CD was first released
on a Crystal LP in 1984. It seems to have been remastered, whether AAD
or ADD is not stated, straight across to the newer medium without any
attempt to bump the programme length up to CD standards. At under 47
minutes this is very short measure.
The analogue recordings are fine, though they do seem
to vary in perspective from the close but clear recording given to Ewald,
to the more spacious sound given to Gilbert Amy. His piece really needs
the space because the extremes of dynamics he expects from his five
players are much in excess of the other composers. He also, incidentally,
expects them to make growling sounds, breath heavily and sing while
playing (now there’s a process to juggle with!). As you may have deduced,
Amy is of the Boulez school of plink-plank-plonk composition. I note
that the players are required to "play in relays and in turns regroup
themselves". I prefer not to imagine how a player ungroups himself
to begin with. Amy’s technique and flair for interesting sounds are
not in question, but if we must have "modern" then give me
the genuine originality of Conlon Nancarrow any day. The recording shows
its analogue origins in that both pre- and post- echo are faintly audible
during these outbursts.
Lovelock’s conservative modernism is the most enjoyable
music on the disc and the best recorded too. Ewald’s rather wishy-washy
late 19th century Romanticism is OK but does not make one
want to go back for more. The recital opens with a nod towards the Baroque.
Two sonatas by Antonio Bertali arranged for modern brass, and Contrapunctus
7 from the Art of Fugue which, since Bach did not specify
what it was to be played on, can be played on anything. The American
Brass Quintet do a fine job, though I prefer Robert Simpson’s version
for string quartet (Hyperion CDA67138).
It is hard to imagine for whom this CD is produced.
Those who enjoy the Quintet by Victor Ewald may find themselves hiding
under the sofa when Gilbert Amy arrives in their lounge. Those who enjoy
William Lovelock’s Suite may well decide that Victor Ewald is simply
without musical interest for them.
The notes are arranged in a bizarre way that requires
one to turn the one folded sheet over to find the remaining programme
notes on the other side because the folder designer decided to put the
biography of the ABQ in the middle of the music commentary. But since
Crystal decided it was more important to say who thought of the "cover
concept" than to tell us either where and when the recording was
made or whether it is AAD or ADD I guess this fits their approach. It
is also hard to find out exactly who is playing. My header is, I think,
correct. The music notes have been partly revised to bring the said
biography up to date but St Petersburg (Ewald’s home town) is still
listed as Leningrad.
Note from Crystal
I usually refrain from commenting on reviewers comments,
no matter how inane. However, some of Mr. Billinge's comments about
the packaging are just plain inaccurate soI feel a comment is appropriate.
If he had read the folder, he would have noticed that
the dates for the recording and the release of the original LP are listed
in two places. There is a list of credits right under the program that
says the recordings were originally released in 1984 (and Mr. Billinge
comments on that and then says we don't say when it was made). Also,
the last paragraph of the blurb on the American Brass Quintet clearly
states that the recordings were made in 1984 and originally released
as Crystal LP S214. Is there some way we could have been clearer in
saying when the recording was made? I don't see how.
It would seem that it would do your readers no good whatsoever to have
inaccurate information, so I hope you can change this on your web review.
I am sorry the reviewer does not like our accordion-fold folder. This
is a style we adopted many years ago because our surveys showed that
most of our customers prefer that layout to a booklet. We receive many
letters each year from customers who appreciate being able to unfold
the notes to read them without turning too many pages. It is interesting
that Mr. Billinge objects to turing one page to see a continuation of
notes. If he had a book format he would have to turn at least one and
probably two pages to finish. It is clearly noted in the folder where
the notes are continued. I am surprised he had such a hard time finding
the continuation, that he had to comment on it. Has he never read a
magazine article that continues on a non-adjacent page?
Fortunately few of our customers care about ADD or AAD, so we stopped
putting that information in. One would think a listener, especially
a reviewer, could tell whether he likes the sound without having to
know whether the second step is digital or analog. Most listeners these
days don't even know what that means, anyway.
The type of program on this CD is a very popular one for people that
want instrumental CDs (and is the usual format for concerts and recitals
of many types). They want to hear their favorite ensembles or soloists
in a variety of works. I realize that this goes against the grain of
a person who wants to pigeon hole everything into one category or the
other, or to a person who can only appreciate a program with one composer.
How unhappy he must be when he goes to symphony concert, where rarely
is only one composer or style represented.
Incidentally the "cover concept" recognition that Mr. Billinge
seems to dislike so much was my way of recognizing a dear friend who
just passed away and who designed the first 200 or 300 covers for Crystal
(including the original LP of this recording). It sure seems petty to
pick on this one small line of recognitiion out of 8 pages of notes.
But then many things in that review seem petty.
Crystal Records Inc