The Free-Reed Review
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CD Review: Alphen Opus 2
A Musical Explosion
Total Time: 57:12
This CD is the live recording of the April 27, 2000 concert which the Dutch classical accordion ensemble Alphen Opus 2 performed in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. I was there and, in fact, had organized their Pittsburgh itinerary. (The full story of how they came to the United States is explained in my review of their first compact disc, Two For You.) Since I already wrote a review of their concert (see Alphen Opus 2 Concert Review) from which this CD is taken, I will briefly reiterate what I wrote previously.
The program was a joy to hear: transcriptions as well as original works written for the accordion. My favorite piece on the program was Rudolf Wuerthner's Variationen fuer Akkordeon-Orchester, a masterpiece which showcased the group's extensive tonal palette and technical abilities. Wuerthner was the conductor of the professional Hohner accordion orchestra of Germany, which toured in dozens of countries throughout the world. He also arranged and composed much music for the accordion orchestra. Just as a fine orchestral composer exploits the various tone colors of a symphony orchestra, Rudolf Wuerthner exploited the dozens of tone colors in the accordion symphony. And the fugue! Superb writing. I was in bliss.Unfortunately, listening to the CD was not as rewarding for me as listening to the live concert. For one thing, WQED-FM recording engineer used only two microphones and placed them about fifteen to twenty feet from the ensemble. While this does give an accurate and honest recording, especially regarding instrumental balance, dynamics and the acoustics of the hall, the details are not as crisp as on a recording which also included close miking of the individual instruments. The performers sound like they are playing at a distance. Contemporary audiophiles have been spoiled by the magic of modern technology, recordings often sound better than what most of the audience hears in the concert hall. Closer microphone placement puts us in the conductor's seat, not in an audience seat in rows 50 or 60, or even rows five or six.
The program was varied and interesting. The late romantic era was represented by transcriptions of the popular Asturias by Isaac Albeniz (1860-1909), as well as the organ work Cortege written by Louis Vierne (1870-1937), who served as the organist of Notre Dame in Paris.
The rest of their program was by twentieth-century composers. Of special mention was Divertimento Ritmico, written in 1988 by Wolfgang Russ-Plötz. It is a fascinating and attractive piece in 7/4 time which includes lots of percussion.
I was impressed by conductor Sergé Latychev's finesse and the ensemble's response to his subtle baton. Truly they were well-rehearsed, articulate, as well as lovers of great music.
I discovered that I could partially compensate for this audio realism by turning the volume on my stereo up to a level which duplicated the actual sound of the orchestra. The fortissimo sections were extremely loud, but at least I could more clearly hear the pianissimo sections. (Perhaps this is why they titled the CD "A Musical Explosion?")
On the plus side, the editing is excellent. I am still amazed how the engineer removed the applause. In conclusion, I believe this CD will be a welcome addition to the audio libraries of all lovers of the classical accordion. As I mentioned earlier, the performances are well-rehearsed and articulate; truly great music-making.
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