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Non-Prog CD Reviews

Napa Valley Duo

A Soft Message to You

Review by Gary Hill

I reviewed another set from this act in the last issue and really enjoyed it. I like this one at least as much as that one. With just piano and cello, this music occupies a space between classical and jazz. It leans more toward the classical end of the spectrum most often, though. If you enjoy those types of music, you will find a beautiful and diverse ride here.

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Track by Track Review
A Soft Message to You
The mix of classical and jazz stylings on this works very well. I particularly love the jazz element brought about by the piano at times. The whole piece is quite pretty. At times there is a bit of a sadness to it. At other points it seems gently joyous.
Old American Songs: II. Zion's Walls
There is a real timeless quality to this. It wouldn't be a big stretch to imagine this in the background of some old western. The melodies here clearly feel suited to that time, and I am sure that's where they come from. The arrangement brings a classical music sensibility to it, but those melodies still live with much of their flavor.
Quiet Now
The powerful jazz stylings on this are classic. This is a beautiful number that seems to take the listener back to a different time. The beauty of this is surreal.
Gershwin Prelude No. 17: Sleepless Night
Classical music is on the agenda here. This is a dramatic and powerful piece that conveys a lot of emotion.
Suite Bergamasque, L. 75: III. Claire de lune
This piece is decidedly classical. It starts quite sedate, but does get more involved, particularly as the piano solo enters. This is complex, dynamic and very intriguing. At nearly five-and-a-half minutes of music, it's also one of the longest pieces here.
Etude Op. 10 No. 3, E Major: Lento ma non troppo
Another classical treatment, this is energetic and packed full of beauty.
Beau soir, L. 6
I love the interaction between the instruments here. They create such wonderful texture and seem to convey both motion and communication. This is pretty and stirring.
Terry's Tune
This short piece is less than a minute long. In fact, it's the shortest number here, and is a piano solo. It is quite jazz-oriented.
Deux Romances in D Major, L. 79, No. 1: L'âme évaporée et souffrante
We're back into more purely classical territory here. The piano starts the piece, but the strings join shortly.
Tosca, Act II: Vissi D'arte, Vissi D' Amore
Another beautiful and powerful number that's essentially a classical treatment, I like this a lot.
Pagliacci: Canio's Lament
Piano brings this into being. The strings join shortly as the number becomes less tentative. It's another full classical treatment and really teleports the listener to a much earlier age.
There is a decided jazz bent to this cut. That said, there are still classical edges to the piece. This is another that wouldn't be out of place in a film soundtrack.
Preludes, Op. 28, No. 6: Prelude in B minor
We're in more purely classical zones here, and this is another solid entry.
Sous tes voiles for Voice and Piano, L. 4: Nuit d'etoiles
While I'd land this is mostly classical in sound, there are some jazz elements at play, too.
14 Romances, Op. 34: XIV. Vocalise
This is incredibly pretty. It has some wonderful piano work, but you can't ignore the magic that the cello brings to the proceedings. The piece is classical music that is packed full of emotion and feeling.
Page d'Album, L. 133
Less than two minutes of music, this is a rather dynamic piece of classical music. It's fairly mellow and quite pretty.
Etude in C-Sharp Minor: Vocalise
Somehow there is a world music element at play here. It's a classical piece at its core. It's also quite powerful and evocative.
Sicilienne in E-Flat Major
More intricate and potent classical music is at the core of this effective piece.
11 Pieces, Op. 35, No. 7 in D Minor: Valse triste
The classical modes on this are very pretty and effective.
A Tender Time
This very sedate and slow moving. It's classically based and quite beautiful. It really feels like the best way to end this set.
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