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.
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.
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.
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
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.