More than just pianos
The piano will be the first thing you'll hear at 9:00 in Wednesday's NEPR classical music. A Steinway piano, to be more specific, played by Italian-American pianist Antonio Pompa-Baldi. It will be his own transcription for solo piano of French composer Francis Poulenc's haunting love song, "Les chemins de l'amour," which we've broadcast previously in renditions by such great singers as Susan Graham, Véronique Gens and Beverly Sills. Like much of Poulenc, this song would be equally at home in the concert hall and the cabaret; indeed, one could easily imagine it being sung by the likes of the legendary Edith Piaf.
Which is the point of not just this performance, but of the whole CD it leads off, "The Rascal and the Sparrow — Poulenc Meets Piaf." You see (and you will hear), Mr. Pompa-Baldi interweaves on his new album piano works by Poulenc with stylish arrangements, by the delighfully-named composer Roberto Piana, of Piaf's hit songs. One of each will turn up later in the 9:00 Wednesday, and we'll make our way through the whole thing over the next several days. What an imaginative, well-executed concept!
But then, imaginative and well-executed concepts has become the norm for the piano-maker's excellent new CD label, "Steinway & Sons." Since its founding in 2010, the label has practically showered us with terrific new albums by such pianists as Andrew Rangell, Jeffrey Biegel, Jenny Lin, Lara Downes, Mirian Conti, along with non-piano projects by the likes of the Canadian Brass and German chanteuse Ute Lemper...see the entire list at Arkivmusic, the invaluable classical retailer (and Steinway subsidiary) that produces them. They're not just more Beethoven Sonatas and Bach Partitas — not that there's anything wrong with those. No, these new albums are really albums, programmed with care and creativity, and giving each pianist full rein to explore a pet corner of the reperoire, and to show us in music what makes them who they are. They're nicely annotated and packaged too; very classy all around. And when you put them together, you get one of the happiest additions to the classical discography in years. To all involved, bravi! And to you, dear listener: stay tuned.