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If I Were A Bird - A Piano Aviary / Michael Lewin

Rameau / Lewin
Release Date: 03/30/2010 
Label:  Sono Luminus   Catalog #: 92103   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Jean-Philippe RameauJosef HofmannCharles Tomlinson GriffesEdward MacDowell,   ... 
Performer:  Michael Lewin
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
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Notes and Editorial Reviews

IF I WERE A BIRD: A PIANO AVIARY Michael Lewin (pn) DORIAN DSL-92103 (73:04)

RAMEAU The Gathering of the Birds. HOFMANN Woodbird’s Delight. GRIFFES The White Peacock. MacDOWELL To a Humming Bird. MESSIAEN The Dove. Read more class="COMPOSER12">GRIEG Little Bird. GRANADOS The Maiden and the Nightingale. JENSEN Little Wood-Bird. LESCHETIZKY The Two Larks. RAVEL Sad Birds. GLINKA The Lark. SCHUMANN The Prophet Bird. SCOTT Water-Wagtail. DAQUIN The Cuckoo. SAINT-SAËNS The Swan. ALABIEFF The Nightingale. GUION Turkey in the Straw. HENSELT If I Were a Bird. NIEMANN Chinese Nightingale. STRAVINSKY The Firebird: Danse infernale; Berceuse; Finale

I am delighted by this collection of music inspired by our fine feathered friends. One might wonder whether all that chirping and fluttering would begin to pall after a while, but pianist Michael Lewin has carefully selected and assembled this program, and it hardly outstays its welcome. He appears to be a relatively young man, as pianists go. Nevertheless, Lewin seems to have what some might call “an old soul.” Both the repertoire and the pianist hearken back to the time when music came on 10- or 12-inch shellac platters, and when pianists, no matter how virtuosic they were, treated music-making as an intimate, unhurried activity. If this is corn, I’m having seconds.

There’s quite a stylistic range here, from the French Baroque to works from the century just past. Lewin is sensitive to the differences between Rameau and Messiaen, for example, but he doesn’t overplay his hand, and nothing is exaggerated. A piece such as Liszt’s transcription of Alabieff’s The Nightingale invites the pianist to impress listeners with technique. Lewin aims for something more satisfying, in my opinion, and that is musicianship, the quality that encompasses all other qualities. This pianist or that pianist might have you exclaiming “Wow!” over a particularly dazzling bit of fingerwork. Lewin, on the other hand, leaves you smiling broadly after the CD is done, and for some time after. I have not played the piano in many years. It says something about Lewin’s pianism that hearing him play the Siloti transcription of The Swan inspired me to renew its acquaintance. I swear I’ll learn this transcription while I still have the energy to move my fingers! The only item on this CD that is less than staggering—albeit in an intimate way—is the “Danse infernale” from The Firebird . It feels a little clunky, but this might have as much to do with the transcription as with Lewin’s performance.

This is my first encounter with this pianist, I believe. He has made several discs for Naxos and Centaur, but this appears to be his first mixed recital, and what a charmer it is. Dorian has given it deluxe, book-style packaging and comprehensive booklet notes. (Paintings of many of the birds depicted herein are included too.) The only problem with the packaging is that the envelope provided for the CD is a tight fit, so you might want to protect the CD with an LP-style inner sleeve. It also facilitates removal and replacement.

The engineering is as warm and lovely as the music and the performances. Strike a blow against big, dumb, competition-winning pianism—Lord knows nothing can kill it now anyway—by surrendering yourself to Michael Lewin for 73 minutes. He could have named this CD after a classic Sinatra album: Come Fly With Me.

FANFARE: Raymond Tuttle
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Works on This Recording

Pièces de clavecin: no 6, Le rappel des oiseaux by Jean-Philippe Rameau
Performer:  Michael Lewin (Piano)
Period: Baroque 
Written: circa 1724/1731; France 
Waldvögeleins Lust, Op. 55 by Josef Hofmann
Performer:  Michael Lewin (Piano)
Roman Sketches (4), Op. 7: no 1, White Peacock by Charles Tomlinson Griffes
Performer:  Michael Lewin (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1915; USA 
Fancies (6) for Piano, Op. 7: no 2, To a Humming Bird by Edward MacDowell
Performer:  Michael Lewin (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1898 
Preludes (8) for Piano: no 1, La colombe by Olivier Messiaen
Performer:  Michael Lewin (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1929; France 
Lyric Pieces (6), Book 3, Op. 43: no 4, Little Bird by Edvard Grieg
Performer:  Michael Lewin (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1886; Norway 
Goyescas for Piano, Op. 11: Book 1 - no 4, Quejas ó la maja y el ruiseñor by Enrique Granados
Performer:  Michael Lewin (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1914-1916; Spain 
Little Wood-Bird by Adolf Jensen
Performer:  Michael Lewin (Piano)
The Two Larks by Theodore Leschetizky
Performer:  Michael Lewin (Piano)
Miroirs: Oiseaux tristes by Maurice Ravel
Performer:  Michael Lewin (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1904-1905; France 
The Lark by Mily Balakirev
Performer:  Michael Lewin (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1864/1900; Russia 
Waldszenen, Op. 82: no 7, Vogel als Prophet by Robert Schumann
Performer:  Michael Lewin (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1848-1849; Germany 
Water-wagtail, Op. 71 no 3 "Bergeronnette" by Cyril Scott
Performer:  Michael Lewin (Piano)
Written: 1910; England 
Premier livre de pièces: Troisième Suite - Le coucou by Louis-Claude Daquin
Performer:  Michael Lewin (Piano)
Period: Baroque 
Written: by 1735; France 
Carnival of the animals: no 13, The swan by Camille Saint-Saëns
Performer:  Michael Lewin (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1886; France 
The Nightingale by Alexander Alyabyev
Performer:  Michael Lewin (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: Russia 
Notes: Arranger: Franz Liszt. 
Turkey in the Straw by David Guion
Performer:  Michael Lewin (Piano)
Etudes caracteristiques (12) for Piano, Op. 2: no 6, Si oiseau j'etais by Adolf Henselt
Performer:  Michael Lewin (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: by 1837 
Alt-China, Op. 62: Chinese Nightingale by Walter Niemann
Performer:  Michael Lewin (Piano)
Firebird Suite: Danse infernale by Igor Stravinsky
Performer:  Michael Lewin (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1909-1910; Russia 
Notes: Arranger: Guido Agosti. 
Firebird Suite: Berceuse by Igor Stravinsky
Performer:  Michael Lewin (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1919; Switzerland 
Notes: Arranger: Guido Agosti. 
Firebird Suite: Finale by Igor Stravinsky
Performer:  Michael Lewin (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1919; Switzerland 
Notes: Arranger: Guido Agosti. 

Sound Samples

Pieces de clavecin: Suite in E minor: V. Le rappel des oiseaux
Waldvogeleins Lust, Op. 55
Roman Sketches, Op. 7: No. 1. The White Peacock
6 Fancies, Op. 7: No. 2. To a Humming Bird
Preludes: No. 1. La colombe (The Dove)
Lyric Pieces, Book 3, Op. 43: No. 4. Little Bird (Voglein)
Goyescas, Book 1: No. 4. Quejas, o La maja y el ruisenor
Abendmusik, Op. 59: No. 3 Waldvglein (Little Wood-Bird)
2 Pieces for Piano, Op. 2: No. 1. Les Doux Alouettes (Two Larks): Impromptu
Miroirs: No. 2. Oiseaux tristes
Glinka: A Farewell to St. Petersburg: Glinka - A Farewell to St Petersburg: No. 10. Zhavoronok (The Lark)
Waldscenen, Op. 82: No. 7. Vogel als Prophet (The Songster-Prophet)
Water-wagtail, Op. 71: No. 3. Bergeronnette
Premier livre de pieces de clavecin, Suite No. 3: No. 15. Le Coucou
Carnival of the Animals: XIII. Le Cygne (The Swan) (arr. A. Siloti)
2 Melodies russes, S250/R102: No. 1. Le rossignol, air russe d'Alabieff
Turkey in the straw (arr. D. Guion)
12 Etude caracteristique, Op. 2: Etude caracteristique, Op. 2: No. 6. Si oiseau j'etais
Alt-China (Old China), Op. 62: No. 2. The Chinese Nightingale, "Elegy"
The Firebird Suite (arr. G. Agosti): II. Dance infernal du roi Kastchei
The Firebird Suite (arr. G. Agosti): VI. Berceuse (Lullaby)
The Firebird Suite (arr. G. Agosti): VII. Finale

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