SACD & Other Hi-Res Reviews

Everything You Wanted to Know About Harpsichord, But Were Afraid to Ask – Works by SHOSTAKOVICH, KHACHATURIAN, MENDELSSOHN, SCHUBERT, CRAMER & SCHUMANN – Olga Martynova, harpsichord – Caro Mitis

I would have jumped to cover this SACD just from its wonderful title even if I didn’t own a harpsichord myself.

Published on September 4, 2008

Everything You Wanted to Know About Harpsichord, But Were Afraid to Ask – Works by SHOSTAKOVICH, KHACHATURIAN, MENDELSSOHN, SCHUBERT, CRAMER & SCHUMANN – Olga Martynova, harpsichord – Caro Mitis

Everything You Wanted to Know About Harpsichord, But Were Afraid to Ask – Works by SHOSTAKOVICH, KHACHATURIAN, MENDELSSOHN, SCHUBERT, CRAMER & SCHUMANN – Olga Martynova, harpsichord – Caro Mitis Multichannel SACD CM 0102006, 61:08 ***** [Dist. by Albany]:

I would have jumped to cover this SACD just from its wonderful title even if I didn’t own a harpsichord myself.  Ms. Martynova is a leading harpsichordist in Russia as well as Europe and has appeared on other Caro Mitis releases.  She studied in France and has long had an interest in expanding the interest in and the repertory for the harpsichord by performing works other than those composed in the 17th and 18 centuries. However, she has not been that attracted by the works of most contemporary composers for her instrument (and I share her opinion on this).

Martynova was moved to find works for the piano by Romantic period and modern composers which seemed to work well when played on the harpsichord.  Works inspired by the Preludes and Fugues of J.S. Bach as well as music for children by modern composers are the focus of this very enjoyable collection.  In her notes she goes into what she was looking for and discoveries she made in putting together such a program. She mentions the limitation of the harpsichord in achieving gradations of loudness which come naturally to the piano.  Composers for the harpsichord get around the “terraced dynamics” of the instrument partially by writing more notes into their chords, since denser chords sound louder.

Shostakovich created his series of Preludes & Fugues specifically in emulation of Bach, so the four Preludes & Fugues from his Opus 87 work well on the Baroque instrument. So does one of Mendelssohn’s Songs Without Words – due to its simplicity – and four pieces from Schumann’s Children’s Album.

Compare the stereo layer with the multichannel if you want a good demonstration of the efficacy of surround reproduction for a strictly solo instrument.  You may not even be aware of the hall acoustics in the surround version, but the harpsichord merely sounds more real. This is the fourth volume in a series of Harpsichord Gems by Martynova for Caro Mitis.

 - John Sunier




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