This is the second CD from Navona of the music of American composer
Michael J. Evans; the first, released in 2009, was reviewed
One immediately apparent issue with this recording is the sound.
Usually "Olomouc, Czech Republic" is sufficient indication of
a good quality recording, but not on this occasion. The Haunted
Palace in particular sounds as if it might have been recorded
in Vit Micka's lounge using a couple of old Tandy microphones.
In fact, a photo on the 'enhanced' section of the CD of Evans
with recording producer Vit Muzik "in the studio" does little
to dispel this idea. It is just possible that the effect is
deliberate in the final movement, to add to the general otherworldliness,
but really the recording sounds under-resourced and over-processed.
Quality improves in the Piano Concerto and subsequent pieces,
but it never rises above average - there is a feeling of compressed
A second issue is that, though Evans's music is not difficult
to play, the Moravian Philharmonic Orchestra, usually a reliable
ensemble under old hand Vit Micka, sound frequently under-rehearsed,
especially in the string sections.
All of which does no great favours to Evans's music. On the
other hand, it is fair to say that these works are at best on
the border between art music and easy listening. Those in search
of innovation, profundity, complexity or virtuosity have come
to the wrong place. Instead there are formulas, predictability
and plainness. The simplicity of Evans's music - or the thinness
of his orchestration, depending on how one looks at it - is
evident from the swathes of blank space in the scores, which
are available in the 'enhanced' material.
Which is not to say that there is no value in Evans's music
- there is no denying that he has a remarkable gift for writing
atmospheric music full of easy, attractive melodies that would
be ideal for the undemanding mass markets of television and
There are also glimpses of greater potential. The Haunted
Palace, based on the poem of the same name by Edgar Allen
Poe, comes to life, as it were, in the final movement, which
presumably takes its cue from the last two stanzas of Poe's
poem: "But evil things, in robes of sorrow, Assailed the monarch's
high estate." Suddenly the cloying sounds of the first two movements
have been left behind and the listener is thrust into a phantasmagorical
world of half-remembered glories, childhood toys and freaky
fairgrounds. The burst of noise from nowhere from the electric
guitar right at the end is weird but inspired. And the brief
Dance, a taster from Evans's as yet unfinished ballet
Deirdre - she of Irish legend fame - is folk-like in
its rhythm and appropriated melody, but memorable enough to
suggest that the rest of the work may be worth investigation.
For those able to read music who would like a second opinion,
Evans has kindly made several of his full scores available to
download free from his website, including the Nocturne
with Sunrise. The CD-ROM also includes a couple of minute-long
videos of the recording sessions, unfortunately with worse sound
than the CD. The disc case, which is made of card - the booklet
has been digitised and put on the CD-ROM - has a printing error:
Polish-born Karolina Rojahn is listed as pianist for The
Haunted Palace, rather than the Piano Concerto.
Collected reviews and contact at reviews.gramma.co.uk