Multiple CD Players

Copyright © by Fred Flaxman, 2001.

When compact discs first came on the market the players were relatively expensive and I counted myself lucky to have one. Gradually the prices came down and the number of players in my household went up. Now I have one at bedside, one in my computer, and one in my car in addition to the original location with the stereo system in our family room.

At first my CD collection was housed entirely in the family room. But I have found it more convenient to have mini-collections next to each CD player, and those little collections have ever so naturally adapted themselves to those very different listening situations.

Take the bedside player, for example. It turns out that the music my wife and I want in that location is gentle and soft with no abrupt loud passages. This favors strings, guitar and some piano, and eliminates brass, percussion and most vocal CDs. We want music that will serve as background for yoga exercises and bedtime reading, music that will relax us as we fall asleep, that will wake us up gently in the morning, and that will serve any other purpose to which we might put the bedroom.

Our night table doesn't have much room for CDs, but there is enough for the following bedroom-friendly compact discs:

* "Royal Strings" -- Charles Rosekrans conducts the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra in arrangements for strings of Mendelssohn's "Allegro moderato" from the Octet in E-flat, Op. 20; Vaughan William's "Fantasia on Grensleeves;" Dvorak's "Moderato" from the "Serenade in E, Op. 22;" Albinoni's "Adagio for Strings;" Tchaikovsky's "Waltz" from the "Serenade in C, Op. 48;" Purcell's "Dido's Lament" from "Dido and Aeneas;" and works by Brahms, Schubert and Beethoven. (Telarc CD-80562)

* "Guitar for Relaxation" -- Julian Bream performs works by Granados, Mozart, Walton, Ravel, Villa-Lobos, Bach, Diabelli, Tarrega, Haydn and others. (RCA Victor 09026-63675-2)

* "Satie for Relaxation" -- Includes the famous "Gymnopédies" and "Gnossiennes," "Je te veux" ("I Want You"), and several other pieces for piano, chamber group, recorder and guitar. Artists include pianists Peter Dickinson, John White and Ikuyo Kamiya; clarinetist Richard Stoltzman, harpist Nancy Allen, recorder player Michala Petri and guitarist Lars Hannibal. (RCA Victor 74321-66153-2)

* "Night Air: The Relaxing Side of Classical Music" -- Ravel's "Pavane for a Dead Princess" starts this orchestral collection off on the right track, followed by Bizet's "Intermezzo" Prelude to Act III from "Carmen;" Fauré's "Pavane," Satie's "Gymnopédies" 1 and 3, Debussy's "Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun," and works by Respighi, Tchaikovsky, Borodin, and -- once again -- the "Fantasia on Greensleeves" by Vaughan Williams. (Telarc CD-80558)

* "Quietude" -- The music of Satie (yes, the same Satie as above), Salzedo, Debussy, Respighi, Chopin, Sibelius and Mendelssohn softly rendered by harpist Yolanda Kondonassis.

The CDs on top of my computer keep changing. Since I spend so much of my time here, new CDs often make their Flaxman House début in this venue. As I write now I am enjoying pianist Arnaldo Rebello perform light, mostly joyful, sometimes melancholy music by Brazilian composers. The Brazilian CD, volume six of a series on the "Grandes Pianistas Brasileiros," is a digitally remastered historical recording, so the sound is not the latest, but the music is delightful and it inevitably boosts my spirits when I am paying bills. (Master Class MC017)

I'm also listening to a new Hyperion release as I work in my home office. Alkan's "Symphony for Solo Piano" and the world premiere recording of Alkan's "Trois Morceaux dans le genre pathétique" with Grammy-nominated pianist Marc-André Hamelin (Hyperion CDA 67218) are welcome new additions to my Alkan collection. Very few pianists care to tackle Alkan's technically demanding pieces, which is why these deeply moving and interesting works are not heard more often. But I'm an unrepentant Alkan fan, since it is much easier to listen to his music than it is to play it.

I have even less space for CDs in my car than I have on my night table or computer. I generally select enough CDs to get me where I'm going, and change them each trip. My wife and I find the car an excellent place to really listen to music, as opposed to having it on in the background as we do something else. It is a good environment for listening to CDs with words, musical comedies, audiobooks, music appreciation CDs and the like. Recent automobile compact discoveries include:

* "Der Bloyfoygl of Happiness/The Bluebird Fun Freyd" -- The highly skilled artists of the group Klezamir bring klezmer music up to date in this superbly recorded and performed compact disc. The CD contains both new and traditional klezmer melodies, and the new tunes are a most welcome addition to the repertoire. This is the third Klezamir CD, but the first to feature their new lead actress-rabbi-singer, Felicia Shpall. I would rave about her voice, except that you might think I'm biased. She's married to my nephew. Nevertheless, this CD makes traffic jams almost tolerable. (Klezamir KL103)

* "American Works for Flute and Orchestra" includes Griffes beautiful "Poem for Flute and Orchestra" and works for flute and orchestra by Thomson, Kennan and Siegmeister. The CD starts with the newest composition of the bunch: Lita Grier's "Renascence (Concertino for Flute and Orchestra)." She is a first-class orchestrator and I love her use of rhythm. The melodies may not sink in immediately, but they are very pleasant. Nothing to turn off the listener here, as in so much contemporary orchestral music. And the flute playing by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra's Mary Stolper is superb. Here she is accompanied by the Czech National Symphony Orchestra conducted by Paul Freeman. (Cedille CDR 90000 046)

My most serious listening is still done on my original CD player in the family room. I find that's the best place to listen to Messiaen's "Quartet for the End of Time." It may not be my favorite piece, but it is definitely my favorite title.

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