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Simply Summer
Felix MENDELSSOHN (1809-1847)
Nocturne from A Midsummer Night’s Dream
Cleveland Orchestra/George Szell
Claude DEBUSSY (1862-1918)
Prélude à l’áprès-midi d’un faune
London Symphony Orchestra/Michael Tilson Thomas
Antonio VIVALDI (1678-1741)
The Four Seasons – ‘Summer’: Adagio
Giuliano Carmignola (violin)/Venice Baroque Orchestra
Edvard GRIEG (1843-1907)
Summer Evening from Lyrische Stücke
Gerhard Opitz (piano)
Johannes BRAHMS (1933-1897)
Intermezzo No. 2 in A Major, Op. 118
Emanuel Ax (piano)
Pyotr TCHAIKOVSKY (1840-1893)
June (Barcarolle) from The Seasons, Op. 37b
Yefim Bronfman (piano)
Aaron COPLAND (1900-1990)
Midsummer Nocturne 
Leo Smit (piano)
George GERSHWIN (1898-1937)
Summertime from Porgy and Bess
Jean-Pierre Rampal (flute), Michel Columbier
Arthur HONEGGER (1892-1955)
Pastorale d'été
New York Philharmonic OrchestraLeonard Bernstein
Edward MACDOWELL (1860-1908)
To a Wild Rose from Woodland Sketches, Op. 51, No. 1
Philadelphia Orchestra/Eugene Ormandy
Giacomo PUCCINI (1858-1924)
Manhattan String Quartet
'Tis The Last Rose Of Summer
Wynton Marsalis (trumpet)/Eastman Wind Ensemble/Donald Hunsberger
Peter WARLOCK (1894-1930)
Pieds-en-l'air from Capriol Suite
English Chamber Orchestra/Jose Luis Garcia
Frederick DELIUS (1862-1934)
In a Summer Garden
Philadelphia Orchestra/Eugene Ormandy
The Summer Knows from Summer of '42
Mancini Pops Orchestra/Henry Mancini
No recording dates or locations given.
SONY 82876 82849 2 [73.44]

Recently I reviewed a Naxos release entitled A Bride’s Guide To Wedding Music, and I received it initially with scepticism: another marketing ploy for re-selling the back catalogue.  However, I had to recant my cynicism principally on the basis of the effort put into the booklet.  As a consequence, I feel that I should not judge this next compilation CD that has dropped into my letterbox for review by its cover - if you’ll pardon the paraphrase.
Sony has dipped into its considerable and impressive back catalogue to find a collection of fifteen pieces, mostly well known, and mostly with a summer theme in their title.  A few pieces seem to have been picked without a direct summer connection – e.g. the Brahms Intermezzo - but they fit stylistically.  The performances are from some of the great names – Bernstein, Ormandy, Marsalis, Ax, Szell – so no problems there.
A problem did arise, however, when I played the disc.  The over-the-top blurb on the back cover had been a warning with its “blissful Brahms, delightful Debussy, gorgeous Gershwin”, but I was determined not to prejudge it. It exhorted me to play it “at the beach, in the car …”.  Well, I did receive the disc in the middle of an Australian winter, so the beach wasn’t a possibility, so I played it in the car.  I was lucky not to have had an accident, since I almost fell asleep at the wheel, lulled by the almost complete absence of anything beyond pianissimo and adagio; the Tchaikovsky barcarolle does raise the volume and tempo level slightly but only briefly.
The disc quite clearly is not aimed at the serious collector, but I very much doubt that even the casual listener to the UK’s ClassicFM would find their interest held for very long here.  You could not hear it over the waves at the beach, I’ve already described the hazards of playing it in the car, and as for “at an evening get-together with friends”, the least of conversations would drown it out.
By plucking bits and pieces out of their original context, and placing slow movements – e.g. the Vivaldi - alongside slow complete works – e.g. the Delius - Sony have created tedium from great music: the sum is much less than the parts.
However, the marketing divisions of the record companies obviously feel there is a market, since this is the second release of “summer” music to have emerged this season (see review). Before sending this review away I checked the sales ranking for Simply Summer on AmazonUS – it was at number 259,154: I rest my case.

Simply summer?  Simply soporific! 

David J Barker


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