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Charles CHAPLIN (1889-1977)
Smile from Modern Times (1936) (adapted Claus Ogerman) [3:22]
Arvo PÄRT (b. 1935)
Spiegel im Spiegel (1978) [7:09]
Astor PIAZZOLLA (1921-1992)
Introduction et Angel [4:38]
Milonga en Re, ‘Tango’ [3:43]
Olivier MESSIAEN (1908-1992)
Fantaisie (1933) [7 :48]
Franz SCHUBERT (1797-1828)
Fantasy in C major Op. posth. 159 D934 [25:05]
Michio MIYAGI (1894-1956)
Haru no umi (Sea in Spring) (1929) (arr. Hideo Shimazu) [5:15]
Rentaro TAKI (1879-1903)
Kojo no tsuki (Moonlight over the Ruined Castle) (1901) (arr. Anne Akiko Meyers and Shigeaki Saegusa) [3:58]
Harold ARLEN (1905-1986)
Somewhere over the Rainbow (adapted by Makoto Ozone) [2:47]
Anne Akiko Meyers (violin)
Akira Eguchi (piano)
rec. Performing Arts Centre, Theatre A, Purchase, New York, August 2008
Experience Classicsonline

Smile is the title of a relatively well known song composed by the occasional, left handed fiddle player Charlie Chaplin and it was used in the soundtrack to his 1936 film Modern Times. Those unaware of Chaplin’s unorthodox but persistent and genuine enthusiasm for the violin should seek the recent article on him in the Strad. He was hardly the first boy, nor the last, from the Elephant and Castle and its environs to seek out music and the stage to escape poverty. The song is wistful, bittersweet and heard in the arrangement made by Claus Ogerman. It prefaces an intriguing programme, anchored by Schubert’s Fantasie, and I’ve noticed other similar recitals in which the ensemble challenges and taut intellectual disciplines of the Schubert are used to cement a more freewheeling series of clustering, satellite works.

This one for instance wheels out Arvo Pärt’s by now surely classic Spiegel im Spiegel. It’s surely not the composer’s fault that this work appears on almost every soundtrack of vaguely Holocaustal implications; in that respect it’s the Barber Adagio de nos jours. It’s still a beautiful piece of music, though, in its refractive simplicity. After Pärt comes Piazzolla and here I pocket my prejudices. Though I’ve long since tired of his schtik I do like Introduction et Angel for its evocative heat and the long piano introduction; Milonga en Re is typically sinuous and effusive. Messiaen’s Fantasie - the element of Fantasie in this disc is of course a strong and binding one - is proudly announced as an ‘U.S. Premiere Recording’, which is a pleasingly old fashioned boast in these days of downloads and the like. The work was only relatively recently unearthed and in its urgency, expressive song and explicitly virtuoso formulations it makes for an unsatisfying, though fascinating, mélange.

There are two Japanese traditional pieces to leaven the selection. Haru no umi (Sea in Spring) was written in 1929 for shakuhachi, the Japanese flute, and koto by the blind composer Michio Miyagi. It’s an impressionsitic study, languid and becalmed but moves off into more tensile waters too. The companion piece is Rentaro Taki’s Kojo no tsuki (Moonlight over the Ruined Castle), composed for koto in 1901. It’s played solo. The composer studied in Leipzig but died at the age of twenty-three. It’s a reflective lied, played with burnished lyricism by Meyers. To end we have something to balance the Chaplin; Arlen’s evergreen, which is here flecked with expressive finger position changes and a Golden Age ethos; it’s cocktail lounge pretty.

It’s an interesting programme, and well recorded, though whether you go for it will depend on your ability to assimilate the good performance of the Schubert with the surrounding pieces, disparate as they are.

Jonathan Woolf  



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