CR057 Astro Dogs

John Carbon: Astro Dogs & Other Piano Works (CR057)

Review by Nick Boston, Classical Notes

Listen and buy now on Convivium Records

Chicago born pianist Steven Graff has performed and recorded many piano works by fellow Chicago composer John Carbon (b.1951), who I have to say was new to me. On his latest recording, he plays three sets of pieces, the longest, ‘Astro Dogs: 12 Zodiacal Pieces’ giving the disc its title. Before that come two shorter sets, the first of which, Madeleines, inspired by a trip to France with his sister when he was a student. As the name would suggest, these five short pieces are atmospheric, evoking memories and moods. There is a wistful improvisatory, almost Chopinesque feel to the opening ‘Mémoire triste dans un café’, and a darker, more funereal nostalgia in ‘François et ses yeux dangereux’, remembering the death of a boy they had met in Paris. The final piece, ‘Madeleine déteste les devoirs’, on the other hand, has a driving rhythm, with disobediently boisterous hints at children’s songs. The three Impromptus, clearly inspired by the pieces of the same name by Chopin and Schubert in particular, are dreamy and again nostalgia features highly, particularly in the wandering second. The third however is much livelier, with its almost mechanical syncopated dance reminding one of Prokofiev or Kabalevsky. Astro Dogs apparently follows an earlier guitar suite, Astro Cats (of course), and in the drily humorous notes, Carbon explains how each piece connects a particular breed of dog with each of the 12 signs of the zodiac. These are great little character pieces, from the quirky, even eastern-inflected melody of ‘Beagle (Aquarius)’, and the humorous rhythmically uneven ‘goofy gait’ of the ‘Labrador Retriever (Sagittarius)’, to the cartoonishly playful ‘Irish Wolfhound (Aries)’, with its energetic variations on ‘The Irish Washerwoman’ melody. ‘Saint Bernard (Leo) is slow and rhapsodic, whilst hints of Prokofiev return in the prancing ‘Standard Poodle (Libra)’. I’m not sure I get the zodiac references, not being an astrology expert, yet despite being a cat person (I must check out Astro Cats), the characters of the dogs are cleverly portrayed here, and Graff brings this out with great variety of articulation and expression. A great discovery – and always a good sign when a recording of a ‘new’ composer makes me want to seek out more of their music.

Nick Boston, Classical Notes, November 2020

Further information

Classical Notes

classical-notes

Nick’s Classical Notes is a blog containing reviews of recordings and concerts, as well as articles about composers, compositions and upcoming events.  The emphasis is on western classical repertoire, but Nick is open to many genres of music. Nick has an MA in Music, specialising in performance and repertoire. He is passionate about choral, chamber and orchestral music, and opera, with a particular interest in early music. He sings in a number of choirs in the south east of England, plays the piano and occasionally dusts off the violin. He also writes about music for Bachtrack and GScene magazine.

Visit website: Classical Notes

Convivium Records

Convivium Records

Convivium Records (est. 2009) is committed to working with exceptional artists and composers to record and share their music. It recognises that a great recording project needs to establish a balance between artistic aspirations and commercial expectations. In addition to commercial releases, the label takes on private projects for schools, charities and other institutions.

Convivium Records involves musicians and composers in all decisions relating to their projects. For instance, this may include initial discussions about a new album, to recording, distribution, promotion and marketing.

At the heart of Convivium Records is a dedicated team, each of whom bring their expertise to projects as required. Above all, the Label’s ambition is to exceed the expectations of their clients by creating recordings that reflect their true potential.

Media Enquiries, Review Copies & Contact
For press enquiries, information, or to request review copies of this work, please visit: www.conviviumrecords.co.uk/contact

Or contact Mike Cooter, Communications Director: mike@conviviumrecords.co.uk | T. 07941 871258

For latest news, follow Convivium Records on:

Facebook: www.facebook.com/ConviviumRecords

Twitter: www.twitter.com/ConviviumUK