ALBUM TITLE: Collection: Happy Birthday
WORKS: Works by Schnittke, Heidrich, Kakhidze, Ghys/Servais, Bor,
PERFORMER: Gidon Kremer (violin), Louis Lortie (piano), etc; Kremerata Baltica
CATALOGUE NO: 7559-79657-2
With Gidon Kremer as master of ceremonies and a grimacing Schnittke polka to launch the proceedings for Kremerata Baltica’s fifth birthday celebrations, it is clear from the start that this will be no fondant-fancy collection of encores. True, there are straightforward delights: Scottish fiddling sits easily within Teddy Bor’s McMozart’s Eine Kleine Bricht Moonlicht Nicht Musik, while Georgian Vato Kakhidze’s Blitz Fantasy will please both the easy listeners with its ethnic singing and the easy weepers with the Romantic overdrive towards which its first movement aspires (I thought at first this was some kind of Romantic spoof, but quickly decided it was in earnest). The mid-19th-century variations on ‘God Save the King’ by Ghys and Servais are just plain boring, though they give us the chance to hear the outstanding cellist Marta Sudraba.
Variations come off best when Heidrich, Waxman and their first-rate interpreters take their pastiches seriously. Heidrich’s half-minute devoted to ‘Happy Birthday’ à la Dvorák American Quartet is delightful, and Waxman’s chamber diversions on ‘Auld Lang Syne’ do a poetic job on adding to Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata before ‘Shostakofiev’ makes a ghostly appearance. That it sounds in earnest is partly thanks to the focus of Kremer and company. Forget the ponderous booklet notes and the pretentious wielding of a Daniil Kharms (very) short story; this is worth considering as a birthday gift for children which adults can enjoy into the bargain. David Nice