“Seascapes” – Janice Weber, piano [TrackList follows] – Sono Luminus

JANICE WEBER – “Seascapes” – Janice Weber, piano [TrackList follows] – Sono Luminus DSL-921288, 1:15:55 (4/28/15) [Distr. by Naxos] ****:

Seascapes is a nicely thought out ‘theme’ collection of music inspired by the sea. There is certainly a rich musical heritage to draw upon, and pianist Janice Weber has not gone for the cliche, but unearthed some seldom heard works that are worthy of an extended listen.

Each piece in this collection evokes a different sense of the sea’s limitless moods from the contemplative to the powerful. The collection of solo piano pieces includes Bedřich Smetana’s Am Seegestade (On the Seashore), Sergei Bortkiewicz’s Caprices de la mer, Eugène Guillaume’s At the Sea, Suite for Piano (Shining Morning, The Rocky Beach, Rough Sea), Alec Rowley’s Moonlight at Sea, Emil von Sauer’s Flammes de Mer (Meeresleuchten), Felix Blumenfeld’s Sur Mer, Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco’s Alghe (from Sea Pieces), Ernest Bloch’s The Sea Pieces: Waves, Chanty, At Sea, Marcelo de Manziarly’s Impressions de mer La grève (The Beach), Par une journée grise (On a Gray Day), Par une journée claire (On a Clear Day), Arthur Farwell’s Marine, Leo Sowerby’s The Shining Big Sea-Water, Cyril Scott’s Sea-Marge: Meditation for Piano, Theodor Leschetizky’s Jeu des Ondes (Play of Waves), and Alec Templeton’s Skye Variations. While I like the more popular impressions of the sea, it was refreshing that there was no Debussy or Vaughan Williams.

The piano artistry by Ms. Weber is fine indeed, and the recording is natural with just a hint of the recording venue. The image is a wide one, with the piano stretched between the left and right speakers. This is a matter of taste. This listener would prefer a more central image, but it still remains a fine recording.

A summa cum laude graduate of the Eastman School of Music, Miss Weber has performed at the White House, Carnegie Hall, Wigmore Hall, National Gallery of Art, and Boston’s Symphony Hall. She has appeared with the Boston Pops, Chautauqua Symphony, New Jersey Symphony, Hilton Head Orchestra, Sarajevo Philharmonic, and Syracuse Symphony in concertos of Hanson, Sowerby, Stenhammar, Bernstein, and Leroy Anderson as well as the standard repertoire. She has performed at the Bard, Newport, La Gesse, Husum, and Monadnock summer festivals and has twice toured China under the auspices of the American Liszt Society.

This is a most agreeable collection of pieces most are unfamiliar with. Generally when I think of the sea, I think of massed strings, but this CD works just fine in the realm of the piano. With an excellent performance, an interesting choice of evocative compositions, and a full sound, there is a lot to like here. A hi-res SACD would have been nice, but the standard CD resolution disc works quite well.

—Mel Martin

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