SOUNDS OF AMERICA
‘Songs of Love and Despair’ Beaser Mountain Songs Beyoncé Pray you catch me Boccherini Sonata No 6, G4 (arr Dešpalj) Brantley Filles de l’Élysée Budoš A New York Minute Debussy Arabesque No 1 Lennon/ McCartney Blackbird. Eleanor Rigby Messiaen Quatuor pour la in du temps – Louange à l’éternité de Jésus (arr R Mosher) Price The Deserted Garden Radiohead Daydreaming Schubert Gretchen am Spinnrade, D118 (arr Coste) Boyd Meets Girl (Laura Metcalf vc Rupert Boyd gtr) Sono Luminus F DSL92255 (66’ • DDD)
The intimate character of Boyd Meets Girl’s new album is apparent right from the outset of the first track, their beguiling arrangement of Debussy’s Arabesque No 1. A husband-and-wife cello-and-guitar duo,
their mutual understanding is manifest in every bar, not least the way they listen to each other. The intimacy comes from the album’s premise, being ‘conceived, arranged, rehearsed and recorded during the Covid-19 pandemic’, and one can easily imagine them playing these pieces for their own mutual enjoyment in their living room. Most of the arrangements are theirs, with Debussy, and Florence Price’s sombre The Deserted Garden, rubbing shoulders with some surprising non-classical neighbours: Beyoncé, McCartney’s ‘Blackbird’ and Radiohead. These all work rather well (indeed, ‘Blackbird’ is enchanting), often conjuring quite different characters from the originals. By contrast, those by other hands – Napoléon Coste’s wonderfully evocative version of Schubert’s ‘Gretchen am Spinnrade’ and Valter De≈palj’s of Boccherini’s delightful A major Cello Sonata – are unobtrusive, staying close to the source works. In between lies Robert
Beaser’s Mountain Songs, four arrangementscum-fantasias (listen to the driving guitar part in the second, ‘The House Carpenter’) on American folk songs – here comes the despair of the album’s title – or ‘Louange à l’éternité de Jésus’ from Messiaen’s Quartet for the End of Time, which concludes the programme in an emotional state quite other from the one it started with.
The two wholly original pieces are even more fascinating, bringing forwards composers to a wider public most likely unaware of either or the geography linking them. Paul Brantley’s Filles de l’Élysée is a delightful duet written as a birthday present, based at a few removes on the ‘Ode to Joy’ and celebrating a walk down the iconic Paris boulevard with two sisters: ‘Tochter aus Elysium’ indeed. Rupert Boyd met Brantley in the Big Apple, which city inspired Marián Budo≈’s A New York Minute, which rather curiously brought Villa-Lobos to my mind. Nice sound, if very close-miked. Guy Rickards
Our monthly guide to North American venues Troy Savings Bank Music Hall, New York
Year opened 1875 Architect George B Post Capacity 1175
George Szell was famous for his fierce devotion to clarity and precision, which he instilled in the Cleveland Orchestra, as well as his distaste for exaggeration. So it might be wise to listen closely to a statement he made in 1959: ‘I never really heard my orchestra until I played in the Troy Music Hall. Acoustically, it is the finest auditorium in the United States.’ Many other major artists have expressed similar sentiments about the historical Troy Savings Bank Music Hall, the pride of Troy, a city of 50,000 just north of – and across the Hudson River from – Albany, the capital of New York State. In the mid-19th century, Troy stood at the top of the world for its cast iron products (such as horseshoes used in the Civil War) and shirt collars. Buoyed by financial success and filled with cultural aspirations for their community, the city’s leading business lights decided to build a world-class concert facility within a bank building.
New York architect George B Post, who would later design the New York Stock Exchange building, fashioned the six-story edifice to house the Troy Savings Bank on the ground floor and a Beaux Arts-style concert hall above. The shoebox shape, thick plaster surfaces and open spaces around and above the auditorium promised healthy resonance. But it was only after the installation, in 1890, of an Odell concert organ, whose case and coving added an extra pinch of reverberation, that the acoustics became magical. (The instrument is no longer functional.)
Theodore Thomas conducted the inaugural concert on April 19, 1875, and Hans von Bülow played two piano recitals the following year. Since 1894 the hall’s classical performances have been presented by an independent organisation, Troy Chromatic Concerts, which has imported a who’s who of eminent soloists (Rachmaninov, Paderewski, Horowitz, Nordica, Heifetz, Kreisler, Rubinstein and Ma, to scratch the surface), chamber ensembles and orchestras. This season’s guests were the Schumann Quartet, The Knights, Orpheus Chamber Orchestra, and Apollo’s Fire. In addition to Troy Chromatic’s long list of legendary classical musicians, the Troy Savings Bank Music Hall Corporation has presented popular jazz and folk artists since 1979, starting with the Benny Goodman Band.
The hall has been a magnet for recording and filming. Yo-Yo Ma, Emanuel Ax and Isaac Stern recorded there. The Albany Symphony, a frequent visitor, made its two Grammy-winning recordings in the hall. And the auditorium can be seen in the Julian Fellowes television series The Gilded Age as a stand-in for Manhattan’s Academy of Music, which was razed in 1926.
The bank itself hasn’t been in operation for a decade, and the corporation’s executive director, Jon Elbaum, is eager to develop the space for programming and educational activities – whatever it takes to foster a love for music and the hall’s special qualities. Donald Rosenberg gramophone.co.uk
GRAMOPHONE MAY 2022 V