Bridging the Gaps

Copyright © Fred Flaxman, 1997

When my wife and I win the Publisher's Clearinghouse sweepstakes, the first thing we're going to do is to start our own compact discs company. We'll be the only employees, and the Compact Discoveries label will specialize in bridging the gaps in the repertoire. We'll record the most exciting music by new composers, unjustly neglected gems from the past, and notable new interpretations of the classics.

While awaiting our multi-million-dollar check, however, we'll collect CDs from a husband-and-wife operation which has been bridging musical gaps for the past 13 years. They're called, appropriately enough, Bridge Records, and they're doing a great job without winning, so far as I know, a single sweepstakes or lottery.

But they've won several other awards, including Best of the Year citations from The New York Times, Fanfare, Gramophone, American Record Guide and Opus. They have received a Deems Taylor Prize and been nominated for several Grammy awards.

In my opinion, Bridge really hit the jackpot with their recording of Sergei Taneyev's Duet for Soprano and Tenor after Tchaikovsky's Fantasy-Overture Romeo & Juliet (BCD 9034).

Just after Tchaikovsky died, Taneyev -- who was his pupil, friend, and musical executor -- discovered a draft of vocal parts to a love-duet for a Romeo & Juliet opera Tchaikovsky had barely begun. Taneyev combined this material with themes from Tchaikovsky's famous Romeo & Juliet Fantasy-Overture. The resulting composition sounds like an excerpt from the Romeo & Juliet opera Tchaikovsky might have written, but didn't. And it shows how operatic and lyrical the Romeo & Juliet Overture themes really are.

The Duet for Soprano and Tenor is only twelve minutes long. The rest of this fine, all-digital recording is devoted to Taneyev's Symphony No. 4 in C Minor, Op. 12, a Tchaikovsky-like, serious, melodious work which I'm also happy to add to my collection. Both works are performed by the Moscow Radio and Television Orchestra conducted by Peter Tiboris, the founder and music director of New York's Manhattan Philharmonic. Stella Zambalis is the soprano in the Duet. John Daniecki is the tenor. I thoroughly enjoy both of their voices and their interpretations.

The detailed and interesting brochure notes which accompany this CD point out that Taneyev (1856-1915) is "one of those 'lost' composers who -- thanks in major part to recordings -- is in the process of rediscovery. Russians so admire Sergei Taneyev that they cannot understand why he is not as well-known in the West as their other great masters."

Although this Bridge CD helps to correct this problem, my own discovery of Taneyev was through a Chandos recording of his Piano Trio in D Major, Op. 22. This truly first-class romantic chamber music work is beautifully rendered by the Borodin Trio on an all-digital recording with excellent sound (CHAN 8592).

Bridge certainly didn't introduce me to Gabriel Faure. But they did me and, perhaps, you a great service by compiling his Complete Music for Cello and Piano all on one CD (BCD 9038). This volume includes two of the most hauntingly beautiful and unforgettable cello tunes of all time: Sicilienne, Op. 78 and Elegie, Op. 24. And it also encompasses five other short Faure gems and two sonatas for cello and piano.

If I were to have any complaint about this CD at all, I d say it borders on being too much of a good thing, the way those compilations of Favorite Love Duets or So-and-sos Greatest Hits become like drinking melted orange juice concentrate after a few minutes. But the stunning performances by Steven Doane, cello, and Barry Snyder, piano, combine with the complicated nature of some of the Faure, works to keep this CD from ever getting too sweet or tiring.

Well, if my wife and I do win the Publisher's Clearinghouse sweepstakes, I doubt whether our Compact Discoveries label will be able to do any better than these two CDs from Bridge Records. In any case, its not too likely that we'll win any time soon. The rules say you must submit your name and address on a 3" by 5" index card if you're not ordering. We ran out of 3 by 5 cards years ago.

I figure the odds of our winning without sending in the entry form must be about the same as if we did submit one.

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