Légendes - Caroline Léonardelli

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LÉGENDES - Works for harp and organ - Caroline Léonardelli (Harp) - Matthew Larkin (Organ) - 829982131539 - Released: November 2011 - Centaur Classics CEN1110

Marcel Grandjany - Aria in Classic Style, Op. 19
Reinhold Glière - Theme with Variations (2nd movement Harp Concerto Op. 74)
Gustav Mahler - Adagietto (from Symphony No. 5)
Rudolf Ewald Zingel - Légende
Alfred Holy - Légende, Op. 32A
Leo Sowerby - Concerto for Harp, H123

A wonderful new collection of ear-opening music for harp and organ, presented either as new arrangements or transcriptions, and some as world première recordings. First and foremost, let me extend plaudits to Caroline Léonardelli and Matthew Larkin for putting together a program that scores very low on the sickly-sweet meter usually associated with these types of collections, and opting instead for pieces with musical substance. And also, allow me to award them and recording engineer Anton Kwiatkowski a perfect 10 for instrumental balance and superlative sound reproduction. It's the closest thing to being there that I've heard in a while.

As in her previous release (El Dorado), harpist Caroline Léonardelli once again clearly demonstrates the multi-layered musical and emotive capabilities of this instrument, and dives deep within the music to expose each piece's unique character and idiosyncrasies. From the melodic beauty of the Grandjany, to the time-suspending open intervals of the Mahler, to the originality of the Sowerby, she defies her instrument to capture and reproduce each one's unique essence. And organist Matthew Larkin's intelligent, minimal and complementary organ registration, always acts as the perfect companion or backdrop to the harp. Although he does get to spread his wings during the Sowerby, as that work contains a few extended organ solo sections.

Most of the pieces on this CD were composed as is, although the Sowerby, Mahler and Glière are organ transcriptions from the original orchestral versions, the Glière's fine organ arrangement by Matthew Larkin himself. Out of all this, the only minor disappointment for me is the Mahler Adagietto. Even though the pipe organ is often considered to be a one-man orchestra, it falls flat when it comes to reproducing the infinitesimally small and varied degrees or levels of expressive subtleties a well-oiled string orchestra can generate. In Mahler's creation, the strings ebb and swell, and breathe like a living organism. As much as one may try controlling the organ's expression pedals, it can't match the expressive power of a stringed instrument. But this is just nit-picking on my part, as the piece sits well within the context of this CD, and elicits great musicianship from the two players involved.

Harp fan or not, this recording has lots to offer anyone interested in expanding their musical horizons, and beautifil sound to boot.

Jean-Yves Duperron - December 2011