Even though the music contained therein is no less intended for adults, these CDs are dedicated to young children. Kubalek's disc is a gift to his daughter Karolina, who was born in December 1994, and is an opportunity for "my child – our children – […] to hear what kind of music we, their parents, grew up with as children, and link this musical experience to their own choice of what their most treasured music will be throughout their lives." Lullaby Journey is "dedicated in loving memory of the life of Ian Craig Dory (July 22-26, 1994)" – an infinitely more melancholy dedication.
The melancholy nature of the latter dedication is not untrue to the spirit of the lullaby, which is more than just a song for children at bedtime; think of Richard Strauss's "Beim Schlafengehen" and of Hamlet's "to sleep, perchance to dream." Death is not far from several of these songs. "Lovely Willy" is murdered by the singer's father, the "l'il lambie"'s eyes are pecked out by birds and butterflies in "All the Pretty Horses," and in "My Eyes are now Closing to Rest," "… My body must soon be removed,/And mould'ring lie buried in dust,/No more to be envied or loved." Uh, could you folks leave the night-light on, please?
LaRue and Norman are members of the popular Baltimore Consort; the Consort, and LaRue and Norman separately, have already released several excellent Dorian CDs. As usual, the mix is eclectic: this journey visits the musical traditions of America, Canada, and Great Britain; calls on Stephen Foster; and includes two original numbers by Norman. Most of the songs feature all three musicians, but there is some variation.
I hope you can stay awake for all of this journey, at least for the first listen, so you can appreciate how lovely this CD is. Even so, children (and adults) who fall asleep to it will be well-served. LaRue scales her characterful yet pure-sounding voice down to maternal levels, and Norman and Robertson match her with gentle atmosphere and great tenderness. Lullaby Journey is a tasty musical pacifier.
My Gift to You is Kubalek's eighth solo disc for Dorian, and one of his most lovable. Kubalek was born in 1935, and these twenty encores typify the music that he, as a musical Eastern European, would have heard during his childhood and youth. Some of these encores are simple (Beethoven's Minuet in G and Fur Elise) and some are difficult (Rachmaninoff's C Sharp minor and G minor Préludes). Some are timeless, and some smell like the bottom of your great-great-Aunt Edith's armoire – Godowsky's harmonically convoluted arrangement of Saint-Saëns's "The Swan," for one.
Programs entirely consisting of encores rarely are more nutritious and satisfying than a box of chocolates. Kubalek avoids this pitfall by playing the music with charm and simplicity. He sounds as if he'd rather earn a little sigh of delight from the depths of the armchair than a roar from the mezzanine. His gift is most gratefully accepted by this listener (who is childless).
Copyright © 1998, Raymond Tuttle