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Monday, July 6, 2020

William Walton & Constant Lambert, Facades, James Geer, Andrew West, Ronald Woodley

An unexpected twist in repertoire, interesting composer pairings--those sorts of things can be refreshing and worthwhile. Today we have such a case--a disk of piano music and song by the likes of William Walton (1902-83) and Constant Lambert (1905-51) on the recent Facades (SOMM CD0614). What makes this program enjoyable and winning is the way the musical examples set each other off and so too the performances convince nicely. And it is especially notable for how the Constant Lambert music is of a very creative and inventive bent, keeping up with Walton's works in all senses.

Clusters of works alternate in ways that keep you interested. And we feel a certain astonishment (or I do anyway) as we hear the playful brilliance of Lambert, beginning with his piano duet "Trois pieces negres, pour les touches blanches." Immediately thereafter we get reaffirmation in something perhaps not-all-that-well-known but very worthy, something by William Walton, such as in this case the songs "The Winds," "Daphne," and "Tritons."

So the program alternates Lambert to Walton and back, piano duets to songs and back, culminating in Lambert's somewhat neglected piano duet arrangement of two Suites from Walton's "Facade," bringing all full circle, by ending in an expression of the natural synonymy and friendship of the two composers in a fitting collaboration.

In the process we get almost lighthearted expressions with very modern tangy spans that bristle with intelligence and wit. Tenor James Geer along with pianists Andrew West and Ronald Woodley make of it all a joyous thing. There is a wry quality to much of it, yet heartfully serious it is nonetheless.

Listen to Lambert's various "Songs of Li Po" and get the drift, the rather rare drift of it all, nature in the natural sequence of tones that nevertheless keep us guessing, culture in the expressive significance of it all, how it hangs together as art,  definitely as art. It is all crisply current, contemporary without calling attention to its originality that is nonetheless ever there. And that is a definite something very good indeed.

Check this one out, do! Highly recommended.

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