Fryderyk CHOPIN (1810-1849)
Nostalgy: Chopin for Flute and Marimba
Prelude in A major op.28 no.7 [0:55]
Waltz in A minor op. posth. [2:54]
Nocturne in B flat minor op.9 no.1 [5:34]
Waltz in B minor op.69 no.2 [4:08]
Nocturne in C sharp minor op. posth. [4:24]
Mazurka in B flat major op.7 no.1 [2:11]
Prelude in E minor op.28 no.4 [2:26]
Waltz in D flat major op.64 no.1 [2:05]
Waltz in A minor op.34 no.2 [4:33]
Prelude in D flat major op.28 no.15 [5:06]
Prelude in C minor op.28 no.20 [1:56]
Nocturne in E flat major op.9 no.2 [2:39]
Variations on Non più mesta from Rossini's La Cenerentola [5:28]
Prelude in A major op.28 no.7 [0:52]
Krzysztof Kaczka (flute)
Nicholas Reed (marimba, vibraphone)
rec. Hochschule für Musik, Freiburg, 28 July 2011. DDD
About eighteen months ago Acte Préalable - a champion of Polish music in spite of the French name - released a recital by Jolanta Stopka and Magdalena Blum of Chopin in mainly late-Romantic transcriptions for violin and piano. In the event, Chopin's magical music lent itself rather well to the violinistic resprays undertaken by masterly hands like Saint-Saëns, Kreisler and Sarasate.
This review of that CD states: "The E minor Prelude op.28 no.4 works well with the violin, although the melody is so hauntingly beautiful that it would probably succeed even on a tuba." Lo and behold, here it is on the flute and vibraphone! In fact, two other pieces heard on that earlier disc also crop up in this intriguing new recording by Polish flautist Krzysztof Kaczka and British percussionist Nicholas Reed: the Nocturnes in E flat major, op.9 no.2 and the posthumously published C sharp minor.
'Nostalgy' seems a curious title to give the album - can anyone feel nostalgic about music that has never previously been heard performed by such an ostensibly odd combination? On the one hand, the flute and marimba/vibraphone make for a very dreamy combination, and given the programme's emphasis on minor-key, melancholic Nocturnes and Preludes and slowed-down tempi, listening to this disc is in fact a very relaxing way to pass time. As background music for a candlelit dinner or a game of cards with a maiden aunt, it is unbeatable.
The transcriptions were all made by Kaczka and Reed. In fact, these are better described as arrangements, given the changes in tempo, dynamics and phrasing that rewriting for their instruments necessitated. At any rate, it is highly unlikely that arrangements of any nature could manage to add anything to Chopin's perfect piano writing. The only real debate here is whether or not Kaczka and Reed's endeavours will prove to be musically worthwhile in themselves.
Without doubt, these easy-on-the-ear items would go down well in a live performance, especially if cherry-picked. On balance though, most people will probably shrug their shoulders: would Kaczka and Reed not be doing musical posterity a greater favour by concentrating on recording original works for the combination? And if the corpus available to them is - as is probable - rather minuscule, by commissioning new works? Chopin's music was meant for the piano, after all. Better, surely, to leave it be, or failing that, to make sure that the piano at least plays some role.
This is Kaczka's fourth recording for Acte Préalable (0141, 0145, 0185) but Reed's first. Both give a decent account of the music, although in truth this is not really a recital calling for a great amount of expressive detail or technical virtuosity.
As for sound quality, it is never easy to capture the flute's range for CD, but Acte Préalable's engineer has done a good job, even minimising the intrusion of the flautist's sharp intakes of breath. The Polish, English and German booklet has a glossy, quality feel, with photos of thoughtful-looking artists - apart from the one where Kaczka is buried up to his face in autumn leaves!
The notes are no more than an account by Kaczka of the difficulties met by the transcription and arrangement project and how they were overcome. His English is not perfect, but despite a few odd turns of phrase is more than serviceable. Kaczka reports that original plans had to be changed in the face of problems turning piano lines into something for the marimba, and perhaps therein lies an excuse for the brevity of the programme. In fact, it is even a minute under the forty-five given, in that the Prelude in A op.28 no.7 that opens the programme also closes it.
For newcomers there is nothing in the notes on Chopin or his original piano pieces. There are a few orthographical errors in the English version. Strictly speaking, "Frederick Chopin" is not one of them, but it is ironic that a Polish product should uphold such a humorous Victorianism. Putting Chopin's op.9 no.1 Nocturne in B flat minor into the wrong key - "B minor", according to the track list - is more of a capital error.
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Unbeatable as background music for a candlelit dinner or a game of cards with a maiden aunt.