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CD Review


A Songbook Companion

Julianne Baird, soprano
Madeline Kapp, treble
Mela Tenenbaum, violin & vocal
Richard Kapp, keyboards
ESS.A.Y CD1054 60:39
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Summary for the Busy Executive: A charmer.

I'm a sucker for this repertoire and this kind of music-making, evocative of the parlor and the family of the 19th century . Family music I find among the most enjoyable. When my sister and I were kids, my family used to take long driving trips in the summer, and we whiled away the time singing in parts – rounds, show tunes, pop, folk songs, camp songs, and so on. Conveniently, there were four of us, suitably arranged into soprano, alto, tenor, and bass. In fact, it became so much a part of our life, my sister made it into high school without realizing that other families didn't necessarily do this.

The program consists of traditional lullabies from all over, as well as items like Godard's "Berceuse" and Elgar's "Chanson de nuit." Brahms' lullaby – that odd combination of art song and folk song – and "Rock-a-bye, Baby" show up as well.

We tend to divide musicians into professional and amateur subspecies, but professionals have families, too. Some of them may even enjoy making music off the clock. That's the feeling here. Richard Kapp – conductor, pianist, impressario, and entrepeneur – has brought together friends and family (the young Madeline Kapp just has to be related) for a music party. Mela Tenenbaum, a superb violinist and violist (check out her Bach violin works and Mozart and Klebanov concerti, also on ESS.A.Y), manages to kick back without compromising her tone or phrasing. She's always been good in light repertoire. She can make her violin sing without condescension. She also actually sings one number, "Rosinen und Mandeln," in a soothing croak. I suspect her family sang this Yiddish classic in her native Ukraine. It's a great moment on this disc, mainly for the contrast with the sweet-voiced Julianne Baird, who handles most of the vocals. Baird, a classical musician who communicates as strongly as the best folk singers, also phrases like an angel. Tenenbaum reminds us where we hear these songs, mostly from people we love who haven't the best voices in the world.

Madeline Kapp links us to childhood. She's got a good kid voice – true intonation, natural phrasing. Best of all, she doesn't sound like Charlotte Church. There's no hint of "I will now become a child." She doesn't pretend or slip into the role. She really is a kid, singing.

Richard Kapp has always been a fine accompanist. Here, he also recites "Little Boy Blue," again reminding us that this is as much a party as a recording.

If you're looking for something to give a very young music lover or hoping to interest a kid with music, this disc makes an excellent present, as does Caedmon's Lullabies and Night Songs, Alec Wilder settings of traditional and other texts, sung by Jan DeGaetani (probably still available through Berkshire Record Outlet).

Sound is fine.

Copyright © 2000, Steve Schwartz