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Desire in Spring, Edmund Connolly, baritone; Maxine Thévenot, keyboard "Air & Hammers" - [OAR-973] $15.98

Fine Review in The American Record Guide. Please see at the bottom of the page.

Desire in Spring - Air & Hammers

Air & Hammers was formed in 2012 by baritone Edmund Connolly and concert organist and pianist Maxine Thevenot. The duo's purpose is the performance of both standard and contemporary piano- and organ-accompanied song repertoire, balancing the familiar with the new, including world premieres. Air & Hammers has performed across the US and in the UK, giving recitals in concert halls and major church venues. In 2014, Air & Hammers devised a program, The Great War in Poetry and Music, which is centered around music by composers whose lives were touched by the First World War, interspersed with poems by the great war poets. This program, which has seen performances in many and varied venues, has been enthusiastically received and continues to tour. Desire in Spring includes some music featured in The Great War program, but spreads its wings rather more broadly, including rarely-performed repertoire for voice and organ and new works by Andrew Ager and Frederick Frahm.

Gerald Finzi: Childhood among the ferns
Gerald Finzi: When I set out for Lyonnesse
Gerald Finzi: To Lizbie Browne
Gerald Finzi: In a churchyard
IvorGurney: Desire in spring
Andrew Ager: Take, oh, take those lips away *
Josef Rheinberger: VaterUnser
Josef Rheinberger: Ave Maria
Hugo Wolf (tr. Max Reger): Ach, des Knaben Augen
Hugo Wolf (tr. Max Reger): Herr, was tragt der Boden hier?
Ralph Vaughan Williams: Love bade me welcome
Ralph Vaughan Williams: Easter
Ralph Vaughan Williams: The Call
Benjamin Britten: Little Sir William
Benjamin Britten: The Salley Gardens
Frederick Frahm: Pastorale *
Gabriel Fauré: Apres un reve
Robin Milford: The Moor
Robin Milford: The Fiddler of Dooney
* World premiere recordings

THE INSTRUMENTS
This program was recorded in two venues: the Cathedral of St. John, Albuquerque, New Mexico(organ) and the Auditorium in Simms Center for the Performing Arts at Albuquerque Academy (piano). The Reuter Organ (op. 918/2210, AD 2002) of the Cathedral is the largest pipe organ in the state of New Mexico and a fine and versatile instrument, well suited to performing music of all periods and styles. The mid-20th-century Baldwin Concert Grand Piano in Simms Auditorium was given to Albuquerque Academy by the family of concert pianist, composer, and former Dean of the Berkshire Music Center at Tanglewood, Ralph Berkowitz (1910-2011). The piano, used only for special concerts at the school, is remarkable for being almost entirely original and in fine playing order. The unique tone and character of this historical instrument are noticeably different from the sound of a 21st-century piano, providing a distinct colour palette for this program, much of which dates from the early- to mid-20th century.

Writes Robert A. Moore in The American Record Guide:
This program includes mostly gentle pastoral songs, most accompanied by piano. 12 of 19 songs are by 20th Century English composers (Finzi, Gurney, Vaughan Williams, Britten, and Robin Milford). The album takes its name from Ivor Gurney's song Desire in Spring, but not all of the songs are about spring. Three of VW's Five Mystical Songs supply the most contrast of tone and dynamics and add more vigor to the program. Two "world premiere recordings" are included: Take, Oh Take Away Those Lips by Canadian-born Andrew Ager and Pastorale by Frederick Frahm of Albuquerque, New Mexico. The songs with piano were recorded at Simms Center for the Performing Arts at Albuquerque Academy. Halfway through this program is a group of four songs—two by Rheinberger and two from Wolf's Spanish Songbook (as arranged by Reger)—recorded in the more spacious acoustical environment of the Cathedral of St John in Albuquerque and accompanied on a 2002 Reuter organ. Most of this music is gentle and rarely rises to dramatic heights, and Connolly's light lyric voice is well suited to it. His reading of Faure's Apres une Reve is lovely. When the music does become more dramatic, as in VW's Easter; Connolly meets the challenge well. Connolly and Thévenot, who perform as Air and Hammers, are colleagues in the music staff of the cathedral. This winsome and enjoyable survey of songs is well performed and recorded. Notes about each song or group precede printed texts. Translations are supplied for three German texts and one each in Latin and French.

Desire in Spring, Edmund Connolly, baritone; Maxine Thévenot, keyboard \"Air & Hammers\"
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