Andreas Vollenweider's Grammy-winning effort is dominated by the Swiss musician's electrically modified harp. Its distinctive sound runs throughout the album, supported by the usual tinkering synthesizer effects and light percussion. After an extended introductory interlude, the title track zips into a vaguely Caribbean-styled rhythm. "Water Moon" features a different, more organic harp sound; it's mixed with the windy tones of a flute, suggesting ghostly moonshafts lancing through falling rain. Vollenweider plays the harp strings off of guitar strings on the surprisingly twangy (for new age, anyway) "Drown in Pale Light." The composer weaves the album's instrumentals together with a goody bag of pan-ethnic influences; the album's margins are full of these little touches that nevertheless make a big difference. Down to the Moon will appeal to anyone looking for music that's as interesting as it is soothing.
It's been conventional wisdom for several generations that Solomon, great oratorio though it may be, contains a lot of deadwood; conductors have regularly cut some items and changed the order of others. (Even John Eliot Gardiner's excellent recording cuts about 30 minutes of music.) Leave it to Paul McCreesh to give us the complete score–and demonstrate that Handel's original structure makes plenty of sense and that every number is worthwhile.
The young cellist Andreas Brantelid, often accompanied and perhaps guided by the much older Bengt Forsberg, has gained notice for sheer virtuoso chops. But in this recital covering all of Gabriel Fauré's music for cello and piano, it's his way with a sheer melody that impresses the most: the two Berceuses (cradle song), the flawless unfolding of the two sonata slow movements from simple opening material (sample that of the elegiac Cello Sonata No. 2 in G minor, Op. 117), the remarkable, 54-second Morceau de Lecture (originally for two cellos, and the only arranged work here). Brantelid certainly delivers a smooth performance of the popular Papillon, Op. 77, and all the music here – some of it well known, but most of it not so much – is a pleasure. Fauré was one of the few composers who had a real knack for writing for the cello and did so without complaining about it. The best is saved for last: the Andante for cello and harmonium is the original version of the opening Romance, Op. 69, and it's really an entirely different work, spooky and inward, with the harmonium contributing a unique wash of sound. The harmonium was an extremely common instrument in the second half of the 19th century, and it's good to hear a work played on the instrument for which it was intended. BIS contributes fine Swedish radio sound to this recommended cello recital.