Michael Hoppe – The Poet (Romances For Cello)

1 02 2009

front1Michael Hoppe – The Poet (Romances For Cello)
MP3 @ 192 Kbps | 32:33 min | 59.8 MB | 1997 | 10% Recovery Record

This multi-media album mixes music with poetry and classic photographic portraits of the poets. The connection comes through composer Michael Hoppe, who had recently rediscovered the 5,000 image collection of his grandfather, famed portrait photographer E.O. Hoppe (1878-1972). Each of the eleven pieces for solo cello (performed by Swiss cellist Martin Tillman) was inspired by a separate poem; the liner notes match poem to portrait. Hoppe’s compositions are classically romantic, the essence of a Schumann or Brahms, but without their churning storminess. Although the cello has a wide range, and can even growl when the occasion warrants, Hoppe does not lead the cello to those non-sonorous places; when people say they love the cello, it is this voice, this range, this romance, this timbre that they love. Most romantic concertos have dramatic and bombastic sections, a test of dexterity to be sure, but most listeners really cherish the tender passages of redemption, love, or purity. The orch…estra hushes and the cello cries tender tears. Hoppe offers a whole album of just those moments. Tillman plays with extreme warmth and sensitivity; Hoppe’s piano and string chamber ensemble arrangements on the keyboard present the cello like the a blue robin’s egg in the nest. Hoppe says that the pieces were fully rehearsed and played live in the studio, all the way through with no overdubbing; the album has that immediacy and integrity. Of course, each poem has its own ambience. “Some Other Time” (Carl Sandberg/”The Great Hunt”) expresses an achingly simple longing. “Moon Ghosts” (Aldous Huxley/”A Sunset”) offers a heartbreaking theme where the lonely poet rekindles a moment of desire. “Diamonds of Rain” (Edward Thomas/”It Rains”) also broods over lost romance. Hoppe’s Robert Frost poem “A Minor Bird” has the country simplicity of an Aaron Copland composition. The most rhapsodic piece (“Riddles”) is based on the shortest poem, a drowned-in-love conundrum titled “Juliet” by Hilaire Belloc. Other poets represented include Kahil Gibran, A.E. Houseman, Alice Meynell, Sara Teasdale, G.K. Chesterton, and Walter de la Mare. I put on the album for a friend who folded in a flood of tears by track two. She commented that this was the sort of album one would listen to over and over again and cry the whole day. I agree. Two other albums complete the Hoppe photography set: The Yearning and The Dreamer (due to be released by Teldec in the fall of ’97), both with flautist Tim Wheater.

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Michael Hoppe – Simple Pleasures

1 02 2009

600x6002Michael Hoppe – Simple Pleasures
MP3 @ 224 Kbps VBR | 45:43 min | 67.1 MB | 1998 | 10% Recovery Record

Michael Hoppe is comfortable composing in many popular and romantic musical styles. Simple Pleasures is a bouquet of Hoppe styles, from the ballroom fox-trot on “Roses on Toast” to the bittersweet lullaby of “The Children’s Waltz” to the rhapsodic “Silver Screen Romance,” featuring violinist James Sitterly. “Lincoln’s Lament,” like a simple country hymn, is based on a letter of sympathy the president wrote to a Mrs. Bixby, who lost five sons in the war. Hoppe wrote a description of each piece, and every one matches the music’s mood perfectly. “Moonlight Bossa,” I thought, sounds like music written for European films from the ’60s; exactly, he writes. Hoppe plays piano throughout, backed by keyboard strings, percussion, and breathy voices. The trapset sounded too automatic on a few of the pop cuts; the album’s show-stoppers are the lush and wistful romantic pieces: “Through the Window,” “Silver Screen Romance,” “October,” “Homeland Theme,” “The Parting” (recorded by many other artists), and the sad and inky “Elegy.” Movie producers should be lining up to use these themes. Joining Hoppe and Sitterly is Tim Wheater on flute. Many of these pieces can be found in other arrangements on Hoppe’s album Homeland.

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Michael Hoppe – Quiet Storms

1 02 2009

frontMichael Hoppe – Quiet Storms
MP3 @ 320 Kbps | 47:32 min | 121 MB | 2001 | 10% Recovery Record

Composer Michael Hoppe usually plays piano and keyboard on his recordings; on Quiet Storms: Romances for Flute and Harp, he turns the performing duties over to harpist Lou Anne Neill and flautist Louise Di Tullio. The flute and harp are relatively quiet, so you may be tempted to put the album on for background music. Don’t be surprised if the music suddenly carries you away through buried emotions to distant thoughts. Hoppe knows how to craft a moving melody, and he takes you there in style. “Quiet Storms,” “Andrew’s Theme” (from Misunderstood), the somber “October Poem,” “Waltz for Raphael,” and “Nocturne” are romantic, yet gripping. There are lighter contrasts: “Sand Castles” has a carefree, windblown touch with a cadence exactly like patting down sand; “Petite Giselle” springs through meadows buoyantly; “Avalon” is mysterious, and “Pieces of the Moon” is dreamy. Soft environmental sounds (thunder, rain) frame the album on “Eyes of the Wind Theme.” Here, the harp sounds like raindrops falling on a warm puddle or blowing in the breeze. A lovely album. (By the way, Hoppe added to the artistry of the album by contributing two stormy (visual) landscapes for the liner notes.)

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Michael Hoppe – Homeland

1 02 2009

600x6001Michael Hoppe – Homeland
MP3 @ 320 Kbps | 40:10 min | 102 MB | 2001 | 10% Recovery Record

A live Celtic ensemble, with vocalists, joins composer/pianist Michael Hoppe on Homeland, a musical remembrance of the music of European immigrants. Taken as a whole, the album could be a soundtrack for a movie about Western expansion. The opening credits would roll to “Homeland Theme,” a victorious, heartening march with bagpipes, flutes, whistles, guitar, and snare drums. The Celtic theme is continued on “Cal’s Lament”; the piece opens with thunder and a heartbreaking theme played by pennywhistle (Richard Hardy). Synclavier tympani take up the thunder roll (with bird songs) and the vast landscape seems to unfold in front of the speakers, giving a sense of destiny. Two pieces sound like old Western dance orchestras: the country-awkward “Tumbleweed Waltz” and the not much more graceful (but trying) “From Vienna With Love.” Several pieces are unabashedly romantic, be they rhapsodic love themes or sad remembrances (“Elegy”). The stately “Lincoln’s Letter” was inspired by a letter from the president to a mother who had lost five sons in the Civil War. The album ends as a movie might, with a pop version of the initial theme, “Homeland,” sung by a vocalist, in this case Eliza Gilkyson. The song is similar to “God Bless America,” but the lyrics both pine for the old land and embrace the new. Between lyrics and to end the track, bagpipes and drums play to increase the courage. Fade credits. Homeland is an engaging album; its mix of Celtic brashness and sentimentality, innocent folksy dances, and tender romance are a winning combination. Many of these pieces can be found in other arrangements on Hoppe’s album Simple Pleasures.

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