Coenraad Bloemendal / Erica Goodman

Reflections: Romantic Duets for cello & harp

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Unless you are a hard-core atonalist like Jean Barraqué or Sylvano Bussotti, the mere mention of the combination of cello and harp means only one thing: a dreamy, diaphanous landscape of sweet, angelic sounds. For those who are perhaps not so hardcore, but musically serious-minded, it can also mean something else: salon music. Marquis Classics' Reflections: Romantic Duets for cello and harp, featuring Dutch cellist Coenraad Bloemendal, harpist Erica Goodman, guest performer Winona Zelenka, and dedicated to Janos Starker, is something that falls in between; it is a bouquet of popular favorites with a handful of more musically ambitious nuggets nestled within to provide some variety. The title work, Reflections by Canadian jazz composer Don Thompson, is the only one here written expressly for the combination of cello and harp. The longest work on the program, it fits in with the rest of the album's contents and neither rises above the rest of the familiar material nor stoops below it. As an album, Reflections is very warmly recorded with a generous amount of reverb included, though in Ravel's Pavane pour une infante défunte one wishes to hear the lowest tones of the harp with a little more definition.

Bloemendal has a rich and very generous tone on the cello. While Goodman is mainly present to support Bloemendal, she's playing of her own transcriptions of the piano accompaniments of these cello pieces, in themselves mostly arrangements to start with, and her approach is assured, delicate, and full of color, albeit muted to some extent owing to the attention paid to the soloist. Reflections: Romantic Duets for cello and harp is a pleasant, none-too-musically challenging disc that will be best suited for putting up one's feet next to the fire at the end of the day, and it is impossible to note that it is little more than that. However, those who require more stimulation in their music can listen to Shostakovich; this item is for listeners who turn to music when they need a break from life's troubles.

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