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Classical: Impressionism Classical: Renaissance Moods: Instrumental
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Duo Orfeo

by Duo Orfeo

Music of enlightened melancholy and mysterious charm.
Genre: Classical: Impressionism
Release Date: 

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1. Scenes D'enfants: I. Jeux Sur La Place
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1:46 album only
2. Impresiones Intimas: Plany I. Lento Cantbile Espressivo
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1:09 album only
3. Impresiones Intimas: Plany II. Larguetto
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2:11 album only
4. Impresiones Intimas: Plany III. Gracioso
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1:15 album only
5. Impresiones Intimas: Plany IV. Agitato
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1:32 album only
6. Canon
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2:26 album only
7. Spagna
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1:43 album only
8. Suite Retratos: Anacleto De Medeiros, Schottisch
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5:09 album only
9. Danses De Travers: I
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1:44 album only
10. Danses De Travers: II
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1:26 album only
11. Danses De Travers: III
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2:35 album only
12. Nocturne, Op. 55: I
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5:56 album only
13. Nocturne, Op. 9: I
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7:07 album only
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ABOUT THIS ALBUM


Album Notes
In Federico Mompou’s (1893-1987) own words: “The best word is the unspoken word. I, as you all know, am a man of few words and a musician of few notes… I wish that [my music] should seem to come out of the shadows so to return to the shadows again. I find myself forced to find new forms; I believe that my music will never fit in a perfect world.” Mompou gave his first public piano recital at the age of fifteen but, perhaps due to his introverted disposition, abandoned a career as a soloist in favor of composing. During his study at the Paris Conservatory, he became familiar with the Impressionists, and Satie in particular seems to have inspired in him a penchant for miniaturist forms and economical means of expression. The pieces played here are among Mompou’s earliest works for solo piano, written when the composer was in his twenties. "Jeux sur la place" is a short movement from Mompou’s "Scènes d’enfants," while the four "Plany" that follow are from his "Impresiones intimas."
Contemporary accounts of the lute-playing of Franscesco Canova da Milano (1497-1543) traverse the laudatory gamut. He was written to be “the most eminent musician of all… superior to Orpheus and Apollo in playing the lyre and any other instrument whatever,” “the first player of our age,” and, even fifty years after his death, “a miraculous lute player.” The esteem in which he was held no doubt contributed to the widespread publication and dissemination of his music across Europe, the extant corpus of which surpasses that of any other lutenist of the time. His lute works consist almost entirely of free-ranging contrapuntal fantasias and arrangements of vocal pieces – chansons, madrigals and motets – of other composers. While he is sure to have improvised variations on the popular dances of the day, this setting of "La Spagna" is his only surviving dance.
The Brazilian composer Radamès Gnattali (1906-1988) enjoyed a long and prolific career as a composer and arranger of Brazilian popular music. His work bears the influence of Brazilian musical and folkloric traditions, jazz, and impressionism. Gnattali’s "Suite Retratos" for guitar duo pays homage to four Brazilian popular musicians, each movement drawing upon the style of its dedicatee. The third movement is written after Anacleto de Medeiros, who led a famous military band in Rio de Janeiro at the turn of the 20th century.
In an essay entitled “What I Am,” the eccentric French composer Erik Satie writes: “Everyone will tell you I am not a musician. That is correct. From the very beginning of my career I class myself a phono-metrographer. My work is completely phonometrical. Take my 'Fils de Étoiles,' or my 'Morceaux en forme de Poire,' my 'En habit de Cheval, or my 'Sarabandes' – it is evident that musical ideas played no part whatsoever in their composition. Science is the dominating factor. Besides, I enjoy measuring sound much more than hearing it. With my phonometer in hand, I work happily and with confidence. What haven’t I weighed or measured? I’ve done all Beethoven, all Verdi, etc. It’s fascinating. The first time I used a phonoscope, I examined a B-flat of medium size. I can assure you that I have never seen anything so revolting. I called in my man to show him. On my phono-scales a common or garden F-sharp registered 93 kilos. It came out of a fat tenor whom I also weighed. Do you know how to clean sounds? It’s a filthy business. Stretching them out is cleaner; indexing them is a meticulous task and needs good eyesight. Here, we are in the realm of pyrophony. To write my 'Pieces Froides,' I used a caleidophone recorder. It took seven minutes. There’s more variety in it. The financial return is greater, too. I owe my fortune to it.” Perhaps there is some sarcasm here, perhaps not. Satie’s "Danses de Travers" are one of two short piano works that also carry the title "Pieces Froides," or "Cold Pieces."
Though he’s rumored to have once said “the only thing more beautiful than one guitar is two,” Frédéric Chopin (1810-1849) never did write anything for the instrument. However, many of the 21 Nocturnes for solo piano that he composed over the course of his life feature a beautiful cantabile melody over an arpeggiated guitar-like accompaniment; it’s not surprising that they adapt well to guitar duo.


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Tyran Grillo

Duo Orfeo Review
Picture it: Two strapping young men sporting classical guitars. With years of study and performance at their fingertips, they roam the farthest corners of the earth (well, New England for now—but there’s still time) in search of the musically needy, only too willing to whet the appetites of those who might otherwise scoff at the notion of nylon strings in this age of electrified steel. By day, they are Joseph “No, Troubadourism is Not a Disease” Ricker and Jamie “Yes, My Guitar’s Soundhole is Supposed to Be There” Balmer; by night, they perform under the evocative moniker of Duo Orfeo, and with an attitude that seems to proclaim, “My other axe chops wood.” Still not convinced? Then read on.

In their self-titled studio debut, Duo Orfeo have assembled for our listening pleasure an eclectic and intuitively arranged assortment of delicacies. We begin with an appetizer of crostini topped with Mompou miniatures in five varieties. Though until recent decades virtually unknown outside of his native Spain, Catalonian composer Federico Mompou (1893-1987) produced a modest yet beautiful oeuvre of songs and piano music. Of the latter, Joe and Jamie have handpicked (pun intended) the delightful “Jeux sur la place” from Scènes d’enfants and paired it with a representative selection of Mompou’s Impresiones intimas (mainstays of the duo’s live repertoire, of which “Gracioso” is particularly captivating).

The salad course is a double helping of music by Italian composer and visionary lutenist Francesco da Milano (1497-1543), a figure shrouded in perhaps even more obscurity beyond the purview of the most fervent Renaissance pluckers. These are buoyant, vibrant pieces that revel in the joys of their own becoming.

Our soup is a creamy “Schottisch” bisque from Brazilian composer Radamés Gnattali (1906-1988). In keeping with the increasingly apocryphal spirit of the album thus far, Gnattali’s virtually unknown music spawns the sleeper hit of this already decadent meal.

Which brings us to our main course: the meticulously realized triptych that is Danses de Travers (“Crooked Dances”) of French provocateur (and thus brilliant melodician) Erik Satie (1866-1925). As their collective title implies, these vignettes seem to stagger on crutches through their motifs, all the while never losing their sense of destination. Each is a different gait, leaving its own distinctive trail in the sand of our attentions.

And finally, for dessert, we have two lovely nocturnes by Frédéric Chopin (1810-1849), both of which are played here as lovingly as they are reconfigured for two guitars.

Overall, but especially in those pieces originally scored for piano, these selections are arranged in such a way as to reveal previously opaque relationships through Duo Orfeo’s distinctively porous approach. Because the resonance of their instruments is enough to flesh out implied harmonies and dollops an entirely different mélange of overtones onto the menu, the recording is minimal in postproduction insofar as aftereffects have been applied. The space they delineate with their instruments is full but always close to our ears and hearts, honest and direct, as all good music should be.