Deutsches Symphony Orchestra Berlin
Charlie Chaplin: Smile (Modern Times). Nino Rota:Improvviso (Un diavolo sentimentale) Isaak Dunayevsky/Sergey Dreznin: Fantasy on the music to the film Circus. Astor Piazzolla: Tanti anni prima from the film Enrico IV. Takemitsu: Nostalgia in memory of Andrey Tarkovsky. Leonid Desyatnikov: Absalom's Death and Tango - Sketches to the film Sakat (Sunset). Shostakovich: Romance (The Gadfly). Milhaud: Le boeuf sur le toit (Cinema-Fantasie). Giya Kancheli: Rag-GIDON-time. Nino Rota: Improvviso in re minore from the film Amanti senza Amore.
At a first glance this might look like an album for the connoisseur for most of the pieces are for violin and piano only; however, although the names of many of the composers may be unfamiliar to most listeners, all these tracks are very accessible and definitely worth exploring. The most substantial item in the programme and one of the most familiar is Milhaud's Le boeuf sur le toit. Of it, Milhaud said: "Still haunted by my memories of Brazil, I assembled a few popular melodies, tangos, maxixes, sambas and even a Portuguese fado and transcribed them with a rondo-like theme recurring between each successive pair. I called this fantasia Le boeuf sur le toit, which was the title of a Brazilian popular song. I thought that the character of this music might make it suitable for an accompaniment to one of Charlie Chaplin's films. At that time, the silent films were accompanied by fragments of classical music, rendered by large or small orchestras, or even a single piano, according to the financial means available." The violin and piano version brilliantly played here is therefore very much of the spirit of the early cinema. Interestingly, the CD's programme opens with Charlie Chaplin's Smile from (according to the booklet) Modern Times (I may be wrong but I thought it was Limelight?) In this arrangement Kremer traces the famous tune wistfully and pleadingly over accompanying, rippling piano chords.
Nino Rota's Improvisio Allegro has a sense of silent cinema too; it evokes all the slapstick and pathos associated with the early clowns. Dunayevsky and Dreznin's Circus, starting coyly, goes on to echo Gershwin's jazz inflections; it is vivacious and full of fun, emulating, through part of its way, tap dancing with Kremer finger tap-tapping away most convincingly on the board of his instrument. The Piazzolla piece is very introspective with Kremer caressing its beautiful nostalgic melody and Maisenberg counterpointing it with an equally haunting refrain. The Takemitsu work uses strings in a sound that reminds one, at first, of Bernard Herrmann's Psycho music before the temperature rises as nostalgia takes over but there is an uncomfortable fluctuation between warm and cold as screen images of cruelty are contrasted with domestic harmony.
Desyatnikov's Death is again uncomfortable; the violin's intense, almost shrill hysterical mourning sounding over a dead and remote piano; while the following Tango has stark, staccato rhythms and the work fades quietly and distantly. Shostakovich's Romance from The Gadfly is well-known through the TV series Reilly Ace of Spies and the Kancheli item, specially composed for Kremer, is another comic item suitable for the silent era with witty, wiry glissandos and stumbling pizzicati.
The considerable talents of Kremer and Maisenberg complement each other perfectly in a rewarding programme for the adventurous.
- Ian Lace, MusicWeb International