CD of the Month: Love's JoyMisa and Steven Mead - euphoniums
The Childs Brothers might have made the euphonium duet a family art form, but here’s a new CD that comes with a crucial difference. Not only is Love’s Joy the first CD to be devoted wholly to duets by Steven Mead and his wife Misa, but it is also (to our knowledge) the first CD of euphonium duets to be recorded by a marital, as opposed to a sibling team. As such, Love’s Joy is also very much a first amongst Steven Mead’s own substantial and impressive array of solo discs.
The repertoire spans a wide range of originals and arrangements, but perhaps most importantly includes only one work that has been recorded before - Philip Sparke’s Two-Part Invention, composed for the Childs Brothers. Elsewhere, Carmen Fantasy has figured in Steven’s concert programmes for many years, but here receives a successful reworking for duet by Luc Vertommen and Misa Mead that works to perfection. Misa Mead’s arrangement of Mendelssohn's Three Songs are sung with lyrical grace and freedom, as is Steven Mead’s attractive arrangement of Two Faure Duets, which are imbued with a touching sense of French refinement and subtlety in the first number, and a dashing dance style in the ensuing Tarentelle.
The contrasts, however, are striking. Works such as the funk and groove of Xavier Denis’s catchy Batipopo Duo are despatched with a real sense of rhythmic vigour and energy, with Franz Cibulka’s A New Day Suite and Steven Verhelst’s Devil’s Waltz also receiving performances of impressive synchronicity and unanimity. Yet it is the pieces that you sense are most personal to the performers that perhaps make the greatest impression, including the sheer joy and fun of the title track, Fritz Kreisler’s Liebesfreud, and the concluding track of Eric Whitacre’s touching The Seal Lullaby, which ends the disc in a mood of gentle reflection and peace.
In the true spirit of marital equality, the first and second parts are divided through the disc, although you would be hard-pressed at times to tell, as both players demonstrate their technical and lyrical gifts with élan.
As always with Steven Mead’s releases on his own Bocchino label, the attention to detail and the sheer quality of presentation is an integral part of the overall product, and the engineering is also of a high standard. Ultimately, however, it is the music that shines through, allied with the unique musical personalities and relationship of the two performers.
CHRISTOPHER THOMAS - CHIEF CONTRIBUTOR
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