Michael Hoppe is comfortable composing in many popular and romantic musical styles. Simple Pleasures is a bouquet of Hoppe styles, from the ballroom fox-trot on "Roses on Toast" to the bittersweet lullaby of "The Children's Waltz" to the rhapsodic "Silver Screen Romance," featuring violinist James Sitterly. "Lincoln's Lament," like a simple country hymn, is based on a letter of sympathy the president wrote to a Mrs. Bixby, who lost five sons in the war. Hoppe wrote a description of each piece, and every one matches the music's mood perfectly. "Moonlight Bossa," I thought, sounds like music written for European films from the '60s; exactly, he writes. Hoppe plays piano throughout, backed by keyboard strings, percussion, and breathy voices. The trapset sounded too automatic on a few of the pop cuts; the album's show-stoppers are the lush and wistful romantic pieces: "Through the Window," "Silver Screen Romance," "October," "Homeland Theme," "The Parting" (recorded by many other artists), and the sad and inky "Elegy." Movie producers should be lining up to use these themes. Joining Hoppe and Sitterly is Tim Wheater on flute. Many of these pieces can be found in other arrangements on Hoppe's album Homeland.
(CD - Spring Hill Music #SHM 60692)
Review by Carol Wright