Saturday 20 April 2013

Tunes in Color - Yohanen Cinnamon

One of the things that I have commented on in reviewing CD's over the years it the absence of Light Music, that no-one seems to write it any more. We seem to have developed a rather siloed approach, with crossover by and large replacing Light Music. Then, once in a while, comes along a CD which confounds that. Tunes in Color is a disc of music written by Yohanen Cinnamon, a composer who lives in Jerusalem, has never received any formal training and whose day job is to teach Bible and Talmud studies. Cinnamon has gone to some financial lengths to produce this CD, investing both time and money. There are 18 tracks in total, played by musicians from major Israeli orchestras plus London Brass. The tracks were recorded variously in Tel Aviv, Jerusalem and Blackheath Concert Halls. The music was arranged by a trio of arrangers, Israel Edelson and Yonathan Goodman for the Tel Aviv and Jerusalem recorded tracks and David Louis for the two London tracks recorded by London Brass.

The fascinating thing about the music on the disc is that, listening to it cold you would not guess the composer's background. Many of the pieces have a folk or Celtic influence, with others evoking the English school of light music.

I have to confess that I have a purist's concern over the attribution of the pieces, given that arrangers are involved and occasionally when listening to these pieces I wondered how much was Cinnamon and how much was the arranger. But it has to be admitted that there is a very personable melodic talent running through all the works on the disc, evidently pure Cinnamon.

The disc opens with three of the most striking ones on the disc. Western Baroque for harpsichord, horn and strings, which is a lively neo-baroque piece. This followed by Grand Canyon and Lions on the Beach,  both for brass ensemble. The first is a rather fun up tempo piece with a big tune, the second slower and contemplative.

Out in the country for two harps, flute and viola is the first of the rather folky, Celtic influenced pieces. And this style continues in Day dreaming for harp, flute and viola. 

The accordion which opens the Russian Suite leads us into a very different world, one which is clearly influenced by klezmer with the three movement suite being scored for oboe, bassoon, clarinet, double bass, violin, accordion, trumpet and flute.

The central group of pieces on the disc all use piano as the main component, in combination with a variety of instruments. Winterlude for piano and cello is a haunting, long breathed tune with some lovely cello playing. Alive Again is a low key piece for piano and trumpet, relaxed but something of an ear-worm. China Girl for flute and piano, has definite folky influences and these continue into Bittersweet, for the curious but effective combination of piano, clarinet and flugel horn. This latter piece develops into something of a romantic ballad. And the same can be said of Taking Off for piano, cello and oboe.

Highlands is a rather catchy number, for piano, violin, horn clarinet and double bass. A gentle piano solo introduces Tree Theme with flugelhorn cello and flute being added. I am afraid to say that I found Ode to Beethoven another of the folk influenced numbers and hope that this is not an insult to the great composer. 

Pas de deux for strings alone has a rather English feel, it certainly would not feel out of place in a programme of English string music. Next comes a pair of pieces for piano and strings, Almost there is quite a dramatic piece and contrasts with the gentle, romantic, End of Days though this too develops some drama and a rather good 'big tune'. Finally comes Allegro in Springtime which is rather a catchy number with considerable rhythmic interest.

The performances are excellent all round, and London Brass in particular seem to be having great fun with Cinnamon's music. My only cavil is that the piano sound is sometimes rather artificial sounding and I did wonder what type of keyboard instrument was actually used.

The pieces all have interesting names, ones which hint at some sort of back story. The CD booklet gives nothing away and leaves us tantalised. 

Cinnamon has a clear melodic talent and has produced a charming disc of attractively melodic pieces. A disc of Light Music. The composer's website has free samples of some of tracks, along with links to sites selling both discs and downloads. 

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