Readers Review Stereophile's Poem LP Third Runner-Up
What is good music? What is a good recording? The music should awaken some emotion in you and bring your soul to life. The recording provides transportation for the music. It can be a Volkswagen or a Rolls-Royce, the difference being the comfort of the trip. Who left the window open? And who is eating Rice Krispies in the back seat?
Crackle is along for the ride on side one. (Pop and Snap decided to hang out at the used record store.) I even stopped at a car wash before the trip, but Crackle didn't seem to take the hint. Thank goodness he fell asleep before side two.
Ignoring our unwanted passenger, everything seems to be natural on this recording (no plastic seatcovers on the fine leather). My only complaint is that there is too much room in this performance, or maybe these pieces would be better served by a smaller room. The impact of the piano's lower registers suffers the most. The impact is there, but it requires concentration to separate it from the room (like having an intimate conversation at a heavy metal concert).
I have a different problem with the performance the record conveys. There was a mechanical quality in the way the pieces were played. The music did not flow naturally. There was no magic. The Prokofiev piece was better than either the Griffes or the Reinecke, but this feeling may have more to do with my musical preference than the performance, because it, too, danced like a robot.
Two examples of this awkwardness come to mind. Griffes's Poem produced a tension in me similar to dreams of walking to school and realizing that the term paper you have not started is due today. And on Reinecke's Allegro, a vision of some impish Puck appears skipping down a rocky road. As you watch, you realize that he is going to fall and you sit by powerless to help.
If the goal of these works is to provide tension and thereby an emotional response, then they are highly successful. However, they poke emotions I would rather not have disturbed. I find enough tension on Highway One, thank you.—Eric Watterson, Lexington, SC