Fantasies and Impromptus
Gabriel PIERNÉ (1863-1937)
Impromptu-Caprice, Op.9 [6:11]
Louis SPOHR (1784-1859)
Fantaisie, Op. 35 [8:41]
Variations on a theme [6:28]
Camille SAINT-SAËNS (1835-1921)
Fantaisie, Op. 95 [10:56]
Gabriel FAURÉ (1845-1924)
Impromptu, Op. 86 [8:50]
Une châtelaine en sa tour, Op. 110 [5:19]
Gabriel VERDALLE (1845-1912)
Impromptu No. 2 [6:08]
Johannes SNOER (1868-1936)
Fantasie über das Niederländische Volkslied [8:29]
Albert ROUSSEL (1869-1937)
Impromptu, Op. 21 [5:46]
Reinhold GLIÈRE (1875-1956)
Lavinia Meijer (harp)
rec. November 2010, Doopsgezinde Kerk, Deventer, The Netherlands
CHANNEL CLASSICS CCS SA 31711 [72:04]
I had to smile as I read these liner-notes, as they spoke of ‘raving reviews’ for Lavinia Meijer’s earlier discs; my reaction to Visions - review - might just qualify, as I all but lost my critical marbles praising the performances and recording. I was so impressed I went out and bought Meijer’s debut album, Divertissements, so you can imagine how eager I was to sample Fantasies and Impromptus. Would this be another Recording of the Month, or even the Year?
The dark, oaken sound at the start of Pierné’s Impromptu-Caprice suggests it might. It’s hard to imagine harp playing of such refinement and character, or a recording that better serves this glorious instrument. Remarkably, producer/engineer Jared Sacks has ensured the standard CD layer sounds every bit as seductive as the Super Audio one, with a wonderful ‘bloom’ to the sound, the notes allowed to decay and diminish with great naturalness. Indeed, it’s that ‘air’ that helps this music to breathe, that brings us one step closer to the liver performance.
Technical wizardry wouldn’t count for much if the playing weren’t so distinguished, those grand flourishes apt to raise a few goose bumps. Just sample Spohr’s Fantaisie, to which Meijer brings a jewelled loveliness; I defy you not to be spellbound by this or the Variations on a theme, the latter essayed with what one can only describe as easeful elegance. Such a consistently high level of musicianship is rare indeed, and I doubt the Saint-Saëns Fantaisie has ever seemed so lustrous, those bell-like figures so like the sound of distant chimes.
But this isn’t just ‘pretty’ music, the Fauré pieces played with a masculine energy that I enjoyed immensely. It’s so easy for themed collections such as this to pall after a while, the ear starved of variety, but Meijer invests each of these pieces with enough personality to distinguish one from the other. That said, in terms of programming Visions was nothing short of inspired; that more diverse menu will surely appeal to those with a sophisticated palate, whereas Fantasies and Impromptus will tempt those with a sweet tooth. Still, there are some unusual dishes here, the Verdalle Impromptu and Snoer’s variation on a Dutch folk tune both new to me. Needless to say, they’re charming, the Verdalle possessed of a Satie-esque circularity that is most engaging.
As for the Roussel, it’s like a tart sorbet after a rich main course; one can only marvel at how Meijer brings out the distinct and individual flavours of each work. She rounds off with Glière’s florid little Impromptu, the harp’s lower strings resonating most beautifully in the mix. So, despite the tiniest of caveats about the menu I’m delighted with this new disc and so will be all who enjoy this fare.
I’m delighted with this new disc.