Message to the Future

John Williams (guitar)  
Richard Harvey (recorders, ocarina, mandolin, clarinet, percussion, flutes, psaltery, baritone ukulele, African thumb piano, pan pipes, bowed psaltery, tin whistle and 3-hole pipe)
rec. live, John Williams and Richard Harvey’s World Tour, EXPO Dome, Aichi Japan, 21 September 2005.
Picture Format: PAL 16:9
Sound Format: PCM Stereo/Dolby 5.1 (re-mastered)
Region Code: 0
Extras: Photo Gallery
ALTUS ALU0008 DVD [71:28]

I’m sure that John Williams needs no introduction at this late date.  I’m an inveterate fan, especially of his collaborations with my other favourite guitarist, Julian Bream: Together: The Ultimate Collection, RCA 74321201342, 2 CDs, a budget-price must-have set.  In 2005 he teamed up with Richard Harvey for a world tour on which, as you can see from the YouTube extracts here and here, the stage was filled with Williams’ guitars and even more with Harvey’s multitude of instruments, some of which he plays in pairs.  I was going to use that overdone cliché and call him a renaissance man except that some of the instruments that he plays are pre-renaissance and others, such as the African thumb-piano and baritone ukulele were undreamed of by Europeans at the renaissance.

Born in 1953, Richard Harvey is both a performer and composer – he composed the beautiful Concerto Antico for John Williams, the Sony recording of which seems to be out of stock at some dealers* – but in the latter capacity his talents are mostly limited here to arranging.  For those who wish to explore his music further, Rob Barnett thought his Reflections for viola and small orchestra ‘a lovely piece’: Dutton CDLX7295, with Bax and Vaughan Williams – review.

John France thought his Concerto Incantato, performed by Michala Petri, ‘reasonably impressive and virtuosic’ (OUR 6.220606, with Arnold and Jacob – review) and John Whitmore was very impressed with his oratorio Plague and the Moonflower: just the opposite of what he had expected from the word ‘plague’ in the title (Altus ALU0001 – review).

I recently reviewed an Altus reissue of a recording of recorder concertos by Vivaldi and contemporaries which he made in 1982 with the London Vivaldi Orchestra (ALU0002 – review).  Though there is strong competition in those concertos, I enjoyed hearing that recording and his collaboration with John Williams is equally enjoyable.

The music is very varied indeed and the programme very satisfying.  The closing arrangement of Nada Sousou is somewhat sentimental – an oriental composer trying to produce the sort of Eastern-sounding music that Westerners expect.  I normally like conflations of this sort, such as the Butterfly Lovers Concerto (Naxos 8.557348 – review and review), but thought this rather insipid.  I had to play the Naxos straight afterwards as a corrective – it’s sweet but not cloying though you might not want to indulge too often.

That’s my only reservation, however, though I should warn those who dislike applause that there’s plenty of it.  The rest of the programme makes an entertaining hour of listening: I shall probably listen more often than watch.  Played in stereo on my blu-ray player via my audio system the sound is good: though not outstanding, it gives a realistic impression of what the concert must have sounded like on the night from a seat a few rows back.  The choir in the final item sound a little backward but that was probably a conscious decision of the engineers not to swamp the instruments.  I can’t vouch for the 5:1 re-mastering.

The picture is odd: though it plays on my blu-ray player as 16:9, it’s really a stretched 4:3, best played at that ratio to avoid the performers and their instruments looking too fat.  It’s somewhat grainy, too, by current standards.  Speakers of the brand who sponsored the concert are rather prominently displayed on stage.  If you wanted to know what an ocarina or a thumb piano looks like, here’s your opportunity.  The camera-work is fairly busy, with a good deal of cross-fading and superimposition.  The Photo Gallery doesn’t add much.

The DVD is housed in a gatefold cardboard triptych of the kind more commonly used for CDs, though larger.  There is no booklet and the notes are somewhat sparse.  A careless typo has Pedro Gutierrez living from 1807 (recte 1870) to 1954 – quite an achievement.  On the other hand, it is inexpensive.

Not all dealers seem to stock this DVD: all the more reason to purchase the varied and entertaining programme, expertly performed, at a competitive price via the MusicWeb-International button.

Brian Wilson
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Turlough O’CAROLAN (1670-1738) arr. Richard HARVEY Carolan’s Concerto [3:58]
Anon C14 France arr. Richard HARVEY Gothic Suite:
Trotto [1:55]
Saltarello [1:25]
Danse Real Sixte [2:07]
Saltarello 2 [2:57]
Jacob van EYCK (1590-1657) Wat zal men op den Avond doen? [3:47]
Frederic W HAND (b.1947?) Prayer [4:35]
Johann Sebastian BACH (1685-1750) arr. John WILLIAMS Prelude in G from Suite for Cello BWV1007 [2:45]
Turlough O’CAROLAN arr. Richard HARVEY O’Carolan Suite:
Bridget Cruise [3:16]
Planxty Drew/Henry Mac Dermott Roe [1:29]
Carolan’s Farewell to Music [3:40]
Anon trad. Irish arr. Richard HARVEY O’Carolan Suite:
Jigs and Hornpipe [3:58]
Pedro Elias GUTIERREZ (1870-1954) Alma Llanera [2:56]
Astor PIAZZOLLA (1921-1992) Café 1930 from Histoire du Tango [6:04]
Richard HARVEY Suling Bandung [5:10]
Francis BEBEY (1929-2001) Engome [3:30]
Richard HARVEY Enfield Dances [7:00]
Ryoko Moriyama (b.1948) arr. Richard HARVEY Nada Sousou # [5:53]

# with Nagoya University of Arts Choir