Monday, July 18, 2016

On the threshold of a dream


That is John Field above and a new CD from Decca of Elizabeth Joy Roe playing his Nocturnes is something to be cherished. Field is hailed as the father of the Nocturne, a musical form that has come to be associated with the demure etiquette of the salon. But as Elizabeth Joy Roe points out in her studious sleeve essay, for the Romantics nocturnal darkness unleashed dreams, hallucinations, nightmares and visions. A post here several years ago explored the links between hypnagogia and music. Hypnagogia is the transitional state between sleep and wakefulness during which lucid dreaming, hallucinations and out of body experiences occur, and Elizabeth Joy Roe's interpretation looks beyond the demure towards those states.

Universal Music takes a lot of stick on this blog, so it is pleasing to be able to recommend this CD so strongly. It is particularly pleasing at a time when recorded sound quality is too often sacrificed on the altar of streaming and download speed to commend the exemplary sound captured by tonmeister Philip Siney in Potton Hall, Suffolk. And for those aging dinosaurs who like me still collect music in physical formats, it is worth noting that improvements in CD mastering technology mean the complete Nocturnes now fit onto a single CD with a playing time of 86 minutes 8 seconds, whereas Michael O'Rourke's account on Chandos spans 2 CDs. Schubert's String Quintet and Schoenberg' Verklarte Nacht with Janine Jansen also on Decca has a playing time of 83' 11" and was a previous contender for the title of longest classical CD. At the risk of descending into response whoring trivia, has Elizabeth Joy Roe recorded the longest Red Book standard* classical CD? And again well done Universal Classics/Decca, because on both the the Field and Schubert/Schoenberg discs you can feel both the quality and the width.

* An overlooked benefit of the sadly neglected SACD format is the greatly increased storage capacity of the discs: for instance a now deleted BIS release of the complete Mendelssohn String Symphonies fitted more than four hours of music onto a single SACD disc. No comped goods or services used in this post. Any copyrighted material is included as "fair use" for critical analysis only, and will be removed at the request of copyright owner(s). Also on Facebook and Twitter.

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