“Prelude Cocktail” = Preludes by BACH, DEBUSSY, SHOSTAKOVITCH and others [TrackList follows] – self

“Prelude Cocktail” = Preludes by BACH, DEBUSSY, SHOSTAKOVITCH and others [TrackList follows] – Zara Lawler – flute, piccolo/ Paul Fadoul – marimba, vibraphone – self, 78:03 ****: 

“Prelude” is an interesting word, derived from the Latin words “prae” for “before”, and “ludere” meaning “to play” as with a musical instrument.  The meaning has shifted over time, from necessarily preceding another piece (e. g. a fugue) or pieces in Bach’s time, to more recently being a separate concert piece usually for piano or orchestra and based entirely on a short motive.

“Cocktail” is an interesting word of much more uncertain origin. Indeed, in his book The American Language, Henry L. Mencken reported and analysed no fewer than eight theories as to its source. The most plausible one links the word to the French coquetier – a two-ended eggcup in which New Orleans barkeeper Antoine Peychaud served short powerful drinks to his patrons about 1800.

“Prelude Cocktail” is a most interesting and enjoyable album. Each of the 38 tracks is a world premiere, arranged or commissioned by the two principal artists. Flutist Zara Lawler and percussionist Paul Fadoul have partnered for a decade in what they call The Gronica Project (“gronica” appears to be a made-up word by the Lawler family to describe the main present a child receives at Christmas)

The Gronica Project aims to substantially increase the repertoire for the flute-marimba combination. Zara and Paul, who work in the National Capitol region, have commissioned the two concluding works on this disc, and themselves transcribed all the rest. These compositions further their work as teaching artists for the National Symphony Orchestra.

A Bach (1685 – 1750) Prelude is a good way to start anything, and this collection begins with three familiar ones – with their associated fugues, all from The Well-Tempered Clavier. The highly resonant sound from the marimba and flute strikes the listener immediately, but soon becomes part of the beautiful melodic picture these artists paint. Three Chopin (1810 – 1849) Preludes follow, then three by Scriabin (1872 – 1915), coincidentally both from collections called 24 Preludes, the Scriabin is all in major keys, the Chopin more melancholy.

Next come four Preludes from Debussy’s (1862 – 1918) two books of Preludes, and the Three Preludes of George Gershwin (1898 – 1937), all bluesy and Spanish. One get the feeling with each passing prelude that these could and should have been written for flute and marimba. The final composer whose works have been transcribed is Dmitri Shostakovitch (1906 – 1975) and he gets the biggest representation, with eight from his 24 Preludes Op. 34 and three Preludes and Fugues from Op. 87. Clarinetist Christopher Grymes joins the pair for the last two of the Shostakovich.

Katherine Hoover (b. 1937) is the first of the two contemporary composers represented on this album. She is a flutist, having performed with major orchestras, but she’s better known as a composer, with thirty CDs of her music produced, and performances of her work by fifty orchestras. The piece here is called Two Preludes, and the two are in contrasting moods – quirky and languid respectively. The final composition on the disc, Three Preludes, was commissioned from Roshanne Etezady (b. 1973) and they are all more mysterious in atmosphere. Both these contemporary works, I’m sure, make for an entertaining conclusion to a concert program by Lawler and Fadoul.

So what’s the verdict on the Gronica Project’s first deliverable? I think it’s been remarkably successful on several counts. First, it introduces us to an instrumental combination that deserves much more recording and concert exposure. Second, it caused the transcription of many classical standards that sound at least as good as (and in the case of the Scriabin and Gershwin, better than) the original. Third, two modern composers were given an opportunity to be heard. Fourth, it’s a top quality production, with excellent sound recording, booklet, photography, design and packaging. Finally, the album is great value for money – delivering almost eighty minutes of delightful music.

TrackList:

1. The Well-Tempered Clavier, Book 2: Prelude No. 12 in F Minor, BWV 881
2. The Well-Tempered Clavier, Book 2: Fugue No. 12 in F Minor, BWV 881
3. The Well-Tempered Clavier, Book 1: Prelude No. 10 in E Minor, BWV 855
4. The Well-Tempered Clavier, Book 1: Fugue No. 10 in E Minor, BWV 855
5. The Well-Tempered Clavier, Book 1: Prelude No. 15 in G Major, BWV 860
6. The Well-Tempered Clavier, Book 1: Fugue No. 15 in G Major, BWV 860
7. 24 Préludes, Op. 28: Prelude No. 4 in E Minor – Largo
8. 24 Préludes, Op. 28: No. 11 in B Major – Vivace
9. 24 Préludes, Op. 28: No. 12 in G-Sharp Minor – Presto
10. 24 Preludes, Op. 11: No. 15 in D-Flat Major – Lento
11. 24 Preludes, Op. 11: No. 23 in F Major – Vivo
12. 5 Preludes, Op. 15: No. 4 in E Major – Andantino
13. Préludes, Book 1: V. Les collines d’Anacapri – Très modéré
14. Préludes, Book 1: VIII. La fille aux cheveux de lin – Très calme et doucement expressif
15. Préludes, Book 1: IX. La sérénade interrompue – Modérément animé
16. Préludes, Book 2: V. Bruyères – Calme
17. Three Preludes: No. 1 in B-Flat Major – Allegro ben ritmato e deciso
18. Three Preludes: No. 2 in C-Sharp Minor – Andante con moto e poco rubato (Blue Lullaby)
19. Three Preludes: No. 3 in E-Flat Minor – Allegro ben ritmato e deciso (Spanish Prelude)
20. 24 Preludes, Op. 34: No. 2 in A Minor – Allegretto
21. 24 Preludes, Op. 34: No. 8 in F-Sharp Minor – Allegretto
22. 24 Preludes, Op. 34: No. 10 in C-Sharp Minor – Moderato non troppo
23. 24 Preludes, Op. 34: No. 11 in B Major – Allegretto
24. 24 Preludes, Op. 34: No. 16 in B-Flat Minor – Andantino
25. 24 Preludes, Op. 34: No. 17 in A-Flat Major – Largo
26. 24 Preludes, Op. 34: No. 18 in F Minor – Allegretto
27. 24 Preludes, Op. 34: No. 24 in D Minor – Allegretto
28. 24 Preludes and Fugues, Op. 87: Prelude No. 7 in A Major – Allegro poco moderato
29. 24 Preludes and Fugues, Op. 87: Fugue No. 7 in A Major – Allegretto
30. 24 Preludes and Fugues, Op. 87: Prelude No. 3 in G Major – Moderato non troppo
31. 24 Preludes and Fugues, Op. 87: Fugue No. 3 in G Major – Allegro molto
32. 24 Preludes and Fugues, Op. 87: Prelude No. 15 in D-Flat Major – Allegretto
33. 24 Preludes and Fugues, Op. 87: Fugue No. 15 in D-Flat Major – Allegro molto
34. Two Preludes: 1. Uptown
35. Two Preludes: 2. Out of Town
36. Three Preludes: 1. Stop
37. Three Preludes: 2. Drop
38. Three Preludes: 3. Roll  

—Paul Kennedy

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