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Vittorio MONTI (1868-1922)
Czardas [4:59]
Deep River (arr. Heifetz) [2:32]
Danny Boy (arr. Kreisler) [4:30]
Fritz KREISLER (1875-1962)
Syncopation [2:00]
Miniature Viennese Waltz [2:59]
Jay UNGAR (no dates given)
Ashokan Farewell [5:18]
Sergei PROKOFIEV (1891-1953)
March from “The Love for Three Oranges” (arr. Kreisler) [1:29]
Zdenek FIBICH (1850-1900)
Poem (arr. Harrington) [2:06]
Phil COULTER (b. 1942)
The Battle of Kinsale [3:37]
John WILLIAMS (b. 1932)
Theme from “Schindler’s List” [4:32]
Dmitri SHOSTAKOVICH (1906-1975)
Prelude No. 24 in d minor op 34 (arr. Tsiganov) [1:15]
Astor PIAZZOLLA (1921-1992)
Chiquilin de Bachin (arr. Lewis/Harrington) [5:21]
Milonga en Re [4:18]
George GERSHWIN (1898-1937)
Summertime (arr. Heifetz) [2:08]
Aram KHACHATURIAN (1903-1978)
Sabre Dance (arr. Heifetz) [2:23]
Gregory Harrington (violin)
William Lewis (piano)
rec. 16-17, 30 June 2005, Sommer Center, Bronxville, New York; 22 Aug 2005, Sean Swinney Studios, New York
ESTILE RECORDS 783707248905 [52:22]


Record labels and talent managers are getting savvier in marketing classical recordings to the listening public. One of the most tried and true avenues used by pop music is sex appeal, of course. Classical music hopped on the sex-appeal bandwagon rather late in the game, but with the CD covers of the Eroica Trio, pop-chamber ensemble Bond, and compilations such as Sensual Classics it appears to be here to stay. It caused quite a flap among purists who, in some arguments ended up looking rather prudish when what many appeared to be trying to say was that the music is the thing. People see very well that sex sells, and what those protesters saw was a view from the top of a slippery slope. If sex ends up being the button pushed to sell the recordings, the glossy picture may be the only thing of worth in the package.

We have here the debut disc by Gregory Harrington, who is dashing, handsome, and young. The disc is a collection of short pieces, some sentimental songs from the past, some from the realm of “serious music” and adaptations of popular standards.

The recording quality of this disc is very good and the balance between Harrington’s violin and the piano of William Lewis is just about perfect at all times, though the recording ambience takes a one-song detour from the intimate warmth to that of a cavernous concert hall for the three minutes of Kreisler’s Viennese Waltz, then goes right back to its regularly-scheduled recording aesthetic for the last piece on the disc. Harrington is spot-on regarding pitch and harmonics. What hurts the whole show is the consistent lack of depth. There really is no penetration into the works being played. Though the playing is pleasant, as are the pieces, the performance slides along the top surface leaving nary a scratch. The opener, the famous Czardas of Vittorio Monti, for all the technical fireworks, sounds studied and detached. All the notes are there, but where is the spark that turns the notes into a performance? Even pieces that practically drag performers into schlocky over-sentimentalization such as Danny Boy (Danny Boy!) feel disconnected from the heartstrings. Other comparisons are easy to make. One need only hear the opening theme of Schindler’s List and compare it to the fire and passion of Perlman’s recording of it on the soundtrack. The music here merely comes from fingers and strings, rather than from the heart.

Where Harrington does have more of a connection to the music is in his own arrangement of Jay Ungar’s Ashokan Farewell and, to a lesser degree, Piazzolla’s Chiquilin de Bachin — it is here that we actually get the impression that Harrington doesn’t have the sheet music within arm’s reach. There are moments on the disc, however, where the material seems beyond him — the closing Sabre Dance sounds at best tentative and just on this side of controlled. I actually stopped writing notes while listening just to see if he made it through without breaking something.

This does sound harsh. This is not, however, an offensive record; the tunes here are pleasant tunes, played in a pleasant way. People listen to music for different reasons. For those that enjoy something to play in the background while doing housework or reading, this disc won’t disappoint. For those out there that listen for interpretations, for performances, this disc will sound like a series of run-throughs of familiar material that are given great performances elsewhere.

David Blomenberg




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