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Eiji Oue Conductor
Minnesota Orchestra

Review by Karl Lozier
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Reveries: Eiji Oue Conductor, Minnesota Orchestra

CD Number: Reference Recordings RR-99CD


  The fine liner notes for this recent album (recorded in May 2002) discusses the probable need for a subtitle for this album. One of their possible choices (all were discarded obviously) was "Journey Music", a journey in mind, a journey on foot, or journey into the human heart. It was discussed that almost 400 hundred years ago musicians agreed that music should have a certain beat. The standard was sixty per minute, the typical rate of the human resting heart and the number of steps typically paced by humans. Thus human pace was appealing to all the composers for all the compositions on this recording. They all have the same pace/tempo and musically the term "andante" which implies a walking tempo is applied to many of these compositions even though they differ in character. Also nearly all these compositions were from the same general time period, the late eighteen hundreds. Personally I consider this recording to be "mood music or music for the quiet hour". If you would like music to help you relax, if this doesn't do that, you are probably out of luck, musically speaking.

Debussy is the featured composer on this disc. His Reverie is used for the recording's title and the longest track is his particularly well known, Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun. Debussy's arrangements on two of Erik Satie's famous Gymnopedie piano compositions are the initial and finale tracks. In the liner notes Sandra Hyslop mentions something about Erik Satie that I had never heard, and am passing it on to you. At the Paris Conservatoire, Satie's piano teacher described him as the laziest student in the institution! As many of you know he turned out to be a uniquely creative composer. Many have adapted his piano compositions for other instruments. Literally while writing this review article, I had an idea and have decided to challenge our readers. Here goes, without scrolling past the following section, which is your challenge; match the other selections on this fine disc with their composer. Correct answer will be found as an addendum at the end: No cheating allowed:


Composers              Selections
1. Faure                   A. The Swan of Tuonela
2. Grieg                   B. Andante Cantabile
3. Massenet             C. Pavane for a Dead Princess
4. Wolf-Ferrari          D. Juliette's Sommeil
5. Gounod               E. Intermezzo (Jewels of Madonna)
6. Ravel                  F. Last Sleep of the Virgin
7. Tchaikovsky         G. Solveigs Song
8. Sibelius               H. Pavane


For those of you who consider the above matching quiz too easy, try the following that applies to any of the twelve total selections on this recording. Which selection features the cello, which features the flute and which the English horn?

I've mentally written this review three times. None bear much resemblance to the other two. The conducting and ensemble playing are fine, how could they not be? I would think that any top-notch orchestra could almost do these in their sleep which is not to detract from the fine performances of rather subtle though beautiful music. Neither can I believe that Keith Johnson had any problem with the recording of this orchestra and venue he knows so well. Writing the preceding reminded me of a small, but unique event that happened in August of 2001. Every other year, the London Symphony Orchestra returns to Daytona Beach for a couple of weeks of varied musical events. Two or three guest conductors usually share duties and Kunzel leads a pops program the final night. They will be back in July 2003. Returning to my tale, the morning after a concert a newspaper reviewer chided the conductor for "over-conducting" a well-known composition, saying "the orchestra could have done fine without any conducting, they're that good". At the end of the following night's performance the conductor gave the down beat for an encore and as the orchestra played, he sat down facing the audience until the piece ended as he got up, stifled a little yawn and walked off stage.

Though all the compositions are string based there are plenty of sections featuring almost all orchestral sections and instruments except much of the percussion section gets to take it easy most of the time. For whatever the reason or reasons might be, I find maximum enjoyment from this recording when listening at volume/gain control settings slightly lower than usual for my full orchestra listening. I also found it truly relaxing at almost "background listening levels". All selections on this CD were either originally scored for orchestra or here are in arrangements for full orchestra. This HDCD recording is playable on any CD or DVD player with fine sound quality though it will sound even better on any player that has the HDCD decoding chip. So far it seems as if many upsampling CD players do outstandingly well with Reference Recordings HDCD discs. Though generally very full and rich sounding, with beautiful unforced detail one in awhile there was hints of highlighting of some instruments but it sounded more like the players not being able to restrain themselves in some passages not technical or recording flaws. Listen very closely for some particularly beautiful sounding sections featuring the woodwinds; they are very naturally reproduced here. The relatively brief louder passages about halfway through Debussy's Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun is an excellent demonstration of the excellent audio quality on the entire disc including excellent soundscape depth. Highly recommended for those relaxing or quiet hour listening times. Most all, if not all, selections will be familiar to you, but for music to liven up the next party you throw - look elsewhere.

Addendum: The Quiz Answers:
1) The selections are in exact reverse order, i.e. - first selection is by last composer and so on. 
2) In order of Last Sleep of the Virgin, Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun and The Swan of Tuonela which featured the English horn.













































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