Moments, by Junyan Natasha Liu (cello) and Katryna Tan (harp)
I was loaned this particular album by someone who did not find it quite what they expected it to be upon purchase and who wished to give it as a gift to someone else, which put a bit of a time pressure on reviewing this album. This may seem all the more ironic, in that the album consists of very peaceful songs, many of them somewhat familiar, including adaptations from Brahms  to multiple songs from Gabriel Faure, to tunes by Strauss, Debussy, and Saint-Saens. Given that much of my music is considerably more slanted towards pop  or alternative  music, this particular album makes for a contrast that puts it most closely to the more relaxing music I enjoy reviewing from time to time  as potential cures for my chronic insomnia.
In pondering whether this album would likely be to one’s tastes or not, one has to determine if one likes very peaceful and gentle albums with sparse instrumentation that tends towards the quiet and sentimental. To the extent this is so, this album will be enjoyed. Those looking for more dynamic variety, or loudness in general, will likely find this album far too sedate, even to the point of boredom, but for those who appreciate gentle instrumentation, this is a lovely sort of work that is just right for accompanying reading or fine dining some other sort of tranquil activity. A track by track review follows:
L’heure Exquise: Performing this piece by Hahn, the duo plays a touching and often very soft performance that is exquisite in its sensitivity, and immensely gentle.
As If Melodies Were Passing By: In listening to this Brahms song, it is not as if melodies are passing by so much as sailing by, in a gondola seeming to glide along a lazy canal.
Songs My Mother Taught Me: In performing this Dvorak song, the duo sounds much as they do in the previous songs, with gentle plucking of the harp strings going along with romantic playing of the cello. By this point in the cd one has a strong idea of what one is going to get, since it has been consistent so far.
The Swan: Like the preceding songs, this particular rendition, this time of a Camile Saint-Saens number, is done with lovely cello stylings and elegant plucking of harp strings, although it is a bit more lively than the songs before it, and the sort of performance that one would enjoy hearing in concert or on classical radio.
L’enigme Eternelle: Here, in this brief and enigmatically titled song by Maurice Ravel, the cello is a bit more noir-ish than usual, although the harp playing is as soft and delicate as it has tended to be so far.
Tristesse: This song, the first of three in a row composed by Gabriel Faure, is played with a great of sentimental feeling, although it does not reflect the sort of sadness that the title of the song would indicate. It is lovely, but not nearly melancholy enough.
Apres Un Reve: This particular song has the sort of feel that one would get after a party, when one is watching a film and is listening to a song that captures the feeling of wanting to get back to normal and back to one’s affairs after a lovely but slightly headache-inducing light. In other words, this is lovely classical filler that would support a compelling narrative.
Les Berceaux: This song fits nicely into the general pattern of songs so far, with romantic strings, subtle harp playing, and a generally sedate mood.
Nocturne: This song by Tschaikovsky comes off, like the previous songs, as being lovely and touching and romantic even though it is played at a somewhat faster tempo than previous songs, although with the same feel and mood.
Elegie: This song from Jules Massenet is played with somewhat more loud and well-defined harp plucking than usual, but although the piece is played with suitable subtlety, it does not sound particularly elegiac.
Vocalise-Etude En Forme De Habanera: This song from Maurice Ravel is played with skill and loveliness, and even manages to come off as a bit playful with the tremolo of the cello, making this a nice change of pace from the stateliness of the last few tracks.
Sicilienne: This Italian-named song from Maria-Theresa V. Paradis is played with aching and touching sentiment by the cello with more peaceful harp plucking, and comes off like the sort of Sicily that is imagined in fond nostalgia rather than the island’s often turbulent and violent history.
Nocturno: This night-themed song by Franz Strauss is by far the longest track in the album at over 6 minutes, but despite the difference in the song’s length, it is played with the same sort of sweet and romantic stylings as the rest of the songs on this album, although the bowing technique from Liu on the cello shows some variation that is a bit distinctive from other tracks.
Beau Soir: This touching and romantic album closes with a song by Claude Debussy that is played the same way that nearly every other song on this album is played, making this among the more tonally and stylistically consistent albums I can remember ever having listened to before.
Coming in at under 45 minutes, and an average length per song of barely more than three minutes, this album is certainly a cohesive work with a consistent romantic and sensitive mood that is consistently gentle and never particularly melancholy or gloomy. The album is proof that two talented Singaporean musicians can make music that captures the feel of what many American and European fans of light classical music want to listen to as far as music from string instruments are concerned. One wonders if the musicians involved would play in a more dynamic fashion with a different sort of theme in mind for an album, or if they would be less sedate if they were playing Asian music, for example, instead of European music from the 19th and 20th centuries.
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