Classical CD Reviews


"Sous les Votes, le Serpent . . . "

(M.A. Recordings)

This fascinating, impossible to classify recording spotlights the serpent, a valveless instrument that dates from 1590. A snakelike ancestor of the modern-day tuba, the serpent features a wood mouthpiece that is partly responsible for its deep primal sound. Featuring serpent virtuoso Michel Godard, the disc begins with music from the time of the instrument's emergence, as a female vocalist and others on trumpet marine, gongs, bells, and Tibetan singing bowls join in Godard's wordless arrangement of the traditional plainchant "Victimae Paschali Laudes." From there, the music journeys to even deeper mystical realms. Recorded in a resonant Spanish monastery using two omnidirectional mikes, the mostly original compositions create an otherworldly, time-suspending experience of mind-expanding dimensions. Jason Serinus


Schubert Sonatas

(Harmonia Munci)

This commendable midprice debut disc offers fine performances of two of Franz Schubert's greatest piano sonatas. Shortly before he died of syphilis, Schubert (1797-1828) wrote a slew of works that reflect deepening sadness over his impending demise, including the Piano Sonata in C minor. The earlier Piano Sonata in A minor, written in 1823, seems to presage the pain of this late period.

Lewis is a relatively young British pianist who regularly coached with the great Alfred Brendel before winning second prize in the 1994 World Piano Competition in London. Compared to Brendel's early analogue performance of the C minor, Lewis' tempi are less extreme, his approach sweeter and less driven. These winning renditions are well worth investigating. Jason Serinus


Favourites Vol. 1


No tenor better captures the Austro- German spirit of the interwar era than the irreplaceable Richard Tauber. Justly famed for his Mozart, Tauber is equally treasured as a singer capable of turning sheer schmaltz into high art. There is an extraordinary ease to Tauber's vocalism; music seems to flow from his throat in a stream of unparalleled joy. His gifts included the ability to sing sotto voce and float high notes in sweet falsetto.

The tenor first met operetta composer Franz LehᲠin 1924; their partnership became so indispensable that LehᲠbegan to call his new tenor arias "Tauberlied." In addition to eight LehᲠtracks recorded from 1927-1939 (two are conducted by LehᲩ, this marvelous disc includes 10 other recordings of lighter fare; among them are Strauss' "Tales From the Vienna Woods," conducted by Erich Wolfgang Korngold, and Sieczynski's "Wien, du Stadt Meiner Trame." The accompaniments are as priceless as the singing. Jason Serinus

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