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
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
(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.