Wednesday, April 11, 2007

More Warbly, Etheral Sounds

In 1975 Theremin pioneer Clara Rockmore came out of retirement at the behest of Robert Moog and recorded several hours worth of repertoire, mostly encore-type fare. Twelve pieces were released by Delos; here are the remaining 16. If you can get past the Theremin's horror-movie connotations and oleaginous vibrato, you'll have no trouble appreciating Rockmore's intelligent musicianship and effortless mastery.

Like Fritz Kreisler and Vladimir Horowitz, Rockmore was a born encore player. Her feeling for nuance, sense of proportion, subtle dynamic inflections, and tasteful, varied portamentos convey character and dignity in a wide range of material, including Kreisler's Liebeslied, Dvorák's Humoreske, Schubert's Ave Maria, Chopin's Posthumous C-sharp minor Nocturne, Bach's Air (on the G-string), and the famous Aria from Villa-Lobos' Bachianas-Brasileiras No. 5. Even audience-baiting numbers such as Summertime and La Vie en Rose make the most sincere, unhackneyed impressions.

Rockmore's sister, pianist Nadia Reisenberg, hardly could be more sympathetic and stylish a collaborator. However, in three previously-issued selections, Reisenberg's piano parts are replaced by newly recorded accompaniments: a cello ensemble in the Fuliehan Pastorale and the aforementioned Villa-Lobos, plus Jorge Morel's guitar in Ponce's Estrellita. They work beautifully. Everything about this release constitutes a labor of love, including the booklet notes and photographs. The boxy sonics have dated somewhat, but that shouldn't deter theremin fans from an essential acquisition for anyone who cares about the instrument.

Clara Rockmore - Clara Rockmore's Lost Theremin Album

Clara Rockmore - Method for Theremin (book in PDF)


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