Evening Songs – Debut Album
Preview and Purchase (mp3 or CD through CD Baby)
About the album
The soulful violin and tender guitar of the Lyrical Strings Duo combine in the duo’s first album: Evening Songs. The duo’s passionate performances and original arrangements breathe new life into the dark, melodious and mysterious music of the 19th and early-20th centuries.
Anchored at the beginning, middle and end by three Chopin Nocturnes, the album is a journey that weaves together a diverse yet cohesive collection of music: a set of Felix Mendelssohn’s Songs Without Words, Manuel Ponce’s Mexican-folk-inspired Estrellita, Fritz Kreisler’s nostalgic gypsy-infused La Gitana, introspective works by Erik Satie, the post-Romanticism of the rarely-heard Italian composer Franco Margola, and more.
"These new arrangements, beautifully chosen and executed, are both intimate and exciting. Lucia's customary pathos in precise duet with Stephen's unambiguous guitar make this album a treasure."
- Flora Sussely, writer and singer
"Sometimes a duo is just meant to be. The day Stephen and Lucia first played together at a Classical Revolution concert, I knew it was something special. Ever since, they've been riveting our audiences with their nuanced arrangements and performances that are both subtle and full of flourish."
- Mattie Kaiser, director of Classical Revolution PDX
"The Lyrical Strings Duo is a unique ensemble with elegance, a passionate sound, and extraordinary programs."
- Tatiana Kolchanova, former First Violin for the Glinka State String Quartet and teacher at the Moscow Conservatory
"To my mind the playing on this album is as good as it gets - articulate, well-phrased, passionate and soulful. We hear the dynamic and explosive contrasted with tender moments of lyricism. Truly a landmark recording for the violin and guitar duo combination. It is a recording lovers of classical music will want to revisit for years to come – I know I will."
-Philip Rosheger, master guitarist and composer
The heart of the Evening Songs repertoire is dark, melodious and mysterious Romantic era music originally composed for solo piano. While this repertoire has been mostly unexplored by the violin and guitar combination, the genre is not entirely foreign to either the violin or solo guitar. Chopin’s Nocturnes and Mendelssohn’s Songs Without Words have both been a source of inspiration for violinists for over a century, and some guitarists have stretched the instrument’s capabilities to play this genre’s soaring melodies, rich rhythms, and complex harmonies as well.
The violin and guitar combination featured here delivers something new. With violin realizing the melodies, a wide range of otherwise unplayable repertoire is opened to the guitarist, creating richer possibilities in the arrangements and requiring fewer compromises. Accompanied by guitar, the violin can explore more of the subtleties, dark textures and intimate touch of the music than is possible with the traditional accompaniment of piano.
This intimate interplay is present in the album’s opening Chopin Nocturne (posthumous) –the first of three Nocturnes which frame Evening Songs at the beginning, middle, and end. This Nocturne’s primary motif is a hauntingly lyrical melody that flows above ostinato harmonies in the guitar.
A set of four Mendelssohn Songs Without Words follows, beginning with the nostalgic, pure, long-flowing lines of Op. 30 No. 1. The dance-like and more playful Op. 67 No. 2 features a constantly evolving push and pull between the two instruments. Op. 67 No. 5 provides a moment of reflection before the set closes with the driving and dramatic Op. 30 No. 4.
Manuel Ponce’s Mexican-folk inspired Estrellita, while still at home within the unabashed lyricism of the Chopin and Mendelssohn works that precede it, takes the album in a different direction. Over the one hundred years since its composition, Ponce’s song has been recreated time and time again, by folk singers, opera singers, orchestras and soloists. Jascha Heifetz’s arrangement of the song for violin and piano – which adds complexity to the original through new modulations and harmonic and rhythmic dissonance – provides the basis for the Lyrical Strings Duo’s version.
After Estrellita, the album returns to its Romantic era core with Gabriel Faure’s famous Berceuse, Op. 16 – originally for violin and piano. The Berceuse is paired with Faure’s Prelude Op. 103 No. 3 for solo piano – which expresses the more ambiguous, subdued, and pained late Romanticism of the composer’s later years. Emerging from this fragmented and dark work is the second Chopin Nocturne of the album (Op. 9 No. 2), with its major tonality and increasingly embellished melody above a gentle waltz-like accompaniment.
Between this mid-point Nocturne and the one that closes the album, the album moves away from Romanticism, while still building on elements of this earlier music. La Gitana (“the gypsy” in English), by the famous violinist Fritz Kreisler, introduces the influences of a second popular tradition. While neither the Mexican-folk inspired Estrellita nor the Iberian-infused La Gitana feature guitar in the original score, the guitar is right at home in each of these folk traditions.
After La Gitana’s explosive ending, the introspective character and complex tonalities of Faure’s Prelude reemerge in the little-known Quattro Episodi, by mid-20th century Italian composer Franco Margola. This work, originally for guitar and flute (the only piece on the album originally scored with a guitar) expresses Margola’s unassuming post-Romantic style. Though these four vignettes are more modern than any other work on the album, their tantalizing melodies and disjointed but accessible rhythms give them a warm familiarity.
With Erik Satie’s meditative Gnossienne I and Gymnopédie I as its penultimate set, the album returns to melodic clarity. Satie’s beautiful simplicity transitions smoothly into the tonally ambiguous opening phrase of the album’s final Nocturne – Op 27. No. 1. Unlike the others, this Nocturne is defined by its contrast. The soft-spoken opening is furiously interrupted with a burst of energy before succumbing to a chorale-like coda that draws the album to a peaceful close.
Frank and Robin Conrad
Patrick and Yukari Kane
Alan and Nancy Loose
Mark and Beth Perlman
The duo would also like to thank all of our other generous supporters on kickstarter.com.