Soliloquies – New Japanese and Chinese Music for Harpsichord and Organ = Works of MAKIKO ASAOKA, ISAAC NAGAO, ASAKO HIRABAYASHI, PEI-LUN VICKY CHANG, CHAN KA NIN, others – Calvert Johnson, harpsichord & organ – Albany

by | Jan 24, 2009 | Classical CD Reviews | 0 comments

Soliloquies – New Japanese and Chinese Music for Harpsichord and Organ = MAKIKO ASAOKA: 4 Pieces; ISAAC NAGAO: Ancient Cities; ASAKO HIRABAYASHI: Sonatina no. 1; PEI-LUN VICKY CHANG: Suite for Organ; CHAN KA NIN: Reflections and Promenade for Organ; WAN AN-MING: Fantasy for Organ; TORU TAKEMITSU: Rain Dreaming; KAREN TANAKA: Jardin des Herbes; REIKO ARIMA: ‘Miyabi’ Ballad for Organ – Calvert Johnson, harpsichord and organ – Albany TROY1049, 67:13 ****:

Don’t judge this CD by its cover—I cowered a bit at the idea of new harpsichord and organ music by Japanese and Chinese composer as well. Fearing the worst (and you can just imagine what I thought this all might sound like), I bravely put the disc on only to be captivated by what I heard. First of all, I cannot really sum up the contents—the music is creative and original, and a pure joy to hear. Not that it’s all milktoast and simple harmonies—far from it—but it does draw on the most idiomatic aspects of the two instruments while at the same time expressing an individuality in each work that strays about as far from Japanese and Chinese culture as you might imagine. In other words, you will not be inundated with variations on the pentatonic scale or fantasies on oriental flower drawings. This is music of substance and life that just happens to be by composers of Asian heritage, who also refuse to be pigeonholed into any inappropriate categories.

Calvert Johnson obviously loves this music as much as anyone and plays both the harpsichord and organ with panache and authority. The artist, who is the Charles A. Dana Professor of Music and College Organist at Agnes Scott College in Atlanta, along with being the organist at First Presbyterian Church in Marietta, Georgia, grabbed his Master’s and Doctorate degrees at Northwestern University, and is well known, performed, and recorded. The pieces were recorded at St. Bartholomew’s Episcopal Church in Atlanta (which features a 2003 Rosales organ, a real honey of an instrument captured to perfection by Albany) and in studio for the 1986 Anderson Dupree French doubleharpsichord works. This is definitely worth bypassing expectations and taking a chance on—you will not be disappointed.

— Steven Ritter

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