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Elizabeth Anderson plays Harpsichord
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Elizabeth Anderson - Harpsichord

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Yeah, baby! The sequel to Elizabeth Anderson’s marvelous CD Bizarre or baRock (reviewed in Fanfare 34-5) has arrived and is marked by an even greater variety of music and instrumentation. As with the first volume, not every piece is a runaway success, but there is enough music of quality here to hold one’s interest, and plenty of surprises along the way.

Rather than give you a complete rundown, let me touch on what were for me the highlights of the disc. Anderson’s “recital” opens with the vigorous Chocolate Boogie of Franzpeter Goebels (1920-88), based on an improvisation by Vaclav Nelhybel. The Fuguedelic for harpsichord, vibraphone and bass of Andrew Koll (b.1975) is a relaxed, urbane study in jazz counterpoint. Alec Templeton’s Bach Goes to Town is a fairly standard “swing” treatment of Bach, but entertaining nonetheless. The Concerto in D major of Vivaldi, as arranged by Bach, is the most conventional piece on the program but quite exciting in Anderson’s hands. The incredibly clever Don Angle (1943-2004), who figured so prominently in the first volume, here contributes an animated arrangement of “Foggy Mountain Breakdown” by Earl Scruggs. A group of pieces tinged with Polish flavor includes Couperin’s La Princesse Marie, Air dans le goût polonois (20th Ordre), Telemann’s Polonaise and Trio, and the Bourée and Polonaise of Thaddeus Kosciusko (1746-1817).

Since Elizabeth Anderson is once again costumed as Morticia Addams on the booklet cover, it begs the question: Where’s the music from the TV show? Well, Australian Vaughan McAlley (b.1970) comes to the rescue with his quirky piece The Addams Family Virginall, based on the famous theme of Lurch. The most ambitious Australian piece on the program, however, is This Beauteous Wicked Place by Ron Nagorcka (b.1948). Commissioned by the Australia Council and written for harpsichord, didgeridoo, and “Australian bush sounds”, it is quite magical and atmospheric—a musical trek through the Outback.

A set of fairly conventional English pieces comes next; the standouts here are George Malcolm’s witty Bach Before the Mast, the melancholy The Fall of the Leafe by Martin Peerson (c.1572-1651), and Purcell’s Round O’, the theme of which was used by Britten in his Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra. I don’t care to hear Ligetti’s Continuum a second time, but I might anyway just to hear Anderson’s amazing high-energy treatment of those wicked ostinato passages. The CD concludes fittingly with two snappy “Turkish” numbers: Mozart’s Rondo alla turca and Brubeck’s Blue Rondo à la Turk.

As with the first CD, Anderson plays the harpsichord with great proficiency and spirit, and manages to inject a fair amount of period awareness into the older, more “normal” pieces. Her sidemen and -women back her to the hilt, and it’s all been captured in state-of-the-art sound. My problem in recommending this disc is that it’s easily the equal of the first. I’d love to nominate both for the 2011 Want List, but in fairness to all the other outstanding releases out there, I’ll have to pick one or the other. But if you’re a lover of the unusual and offbeat, definitely consider the acquisition of both CDs for your library.

Christopther Brodersen, Fanfare Magazine, May 2011

Copyright © 2011 Elizabeth Anderson. All rights reserved.