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Liszt: Rhapsodies, Etudes & Transcriptions by Sophia Agranovich
- posted by Steve Sheppard on 11/6/2022
A formidable collection of great works
Sophia Agranovich is still basking in the success of her last major hit Celebrating Beethoven many months after its release, whilst its chart position may be waning, her influence over the world of piano and classical music is growing exponentially, and now with the release of a brand new album entitled Franz Liszt Rhapsodies, Etudes and Transcriptions, things have never looked brighter for the musician.
Franz Liszt Rhapsodies, Etudes and Transcriptions is a wonderfully strong and fluent album, and the opening piece is one of the most colourful yet impassioned performance pieces ever, in Hungarian Rhapsody No. 6 in D-flat Major. The intensity here is palpable; this was of course the sixth work of the 19 Hungarian Rhapsodies composed by Franz Liszt, the steady bass line and the fast moving melody is a real treat with which to start this voyage of classical delights with.
Our next piece is the creatively performed Hungarian Rhapsody No. 13 in A Minor, an arrangement with a colourful Hungarian Folk ethic within its realms of wonderment. Agranovich presents this so stylishly, and her performance has an artistic flourish that enhances this early romantic offering with such a crafted and intelligent enactment, this is without doubt a piece that contains a truly engaging musical narrative for all to enjoy.
Our journey finds us at the doorstep of the following piece entitled Ständchen (Serenade), and is without a shadow of a doubt the most heartfelt and emotive pieces from this new album. Agranovich brings this mood and passion into her moving performance; this once poem of yearning is textured perfectly by the artist.
Erlkönig (Elf King) would be one of my personal favourites off the album, Agranovich creates a mood so mysterious and deep that one just literally has to follow her bright burning lights of a passionate performance. Schubert originally composed this piece back in 1815, and Liszt would arrange this for solo piano, while one of my favoured composers in Hector Berlioz would later manifest this as well as an orchestrated composition, and this tale of a boy being pursued by a supernatural being lives on within the music forever.
As we move into the deeper pools of our musical river, we come across one of the most attractive and artistic tapestries of tone and timbre and called, Die Forelle (The Trout). Originally composed by Schubert in 1817, this clever composition tells the tale of pursuit, capture and morality. Agranovich gifts us a textured and persuasive performance, one that takes us to the very clear mirrored pools of the home of the trout itself, in a presentation that is simply breath-taking and sublimely intelligent.
So we find ourselves knocking on the portal to our penultimate piece off the release, it is Transcendental Étude Ricordanza in A flat Major. This has to be one of the best performances by the pianist; the composition demands a level of sensitivity and delicate finger work. Some would regard this as long form, but the actual term is Rondo form, with a relatively brief recurring principle theme in between lengthy episodes. Here we see Agranovich rising to her pinnacle on this dream like presentation.
Our concluding arrangement is sheer genius; it is a performance that is golden in texture and iron clad in structure and presentation, on Transcendental Étude Mazeppa in D minor. Rated to be one of the hardest Études to execute, and based upon a poem by Victor Hugo, Agranovich pulls off a masterful accomplishment and a simply majestic concluding achievement, one with great speed and endurance and sublime commanding finger movements.
Franz Liszt Rhapsodies, Etudes and Transcriptions by Sophia Agranovich is a recital that you would willingly buy tickets to watch, it is a formidable collection of great works performed by an artist who has a sublime sense of technical skill, and also the creative and artistic intelligence to make it happen, one so magical that it brings to the world a recital of such class and colour, it also opens the world of classical music up, and makes it accessible to anyone.
Rating: Excellent
Memories Through Birds by Chrissie Sheppard
- posted by Steve Sheppard on 11/6/2022
One you really need in your collection
There are somethings in life that take time to mature, take time to come to fruition, and need to grow with an expectancy with each passing day, until that moment comes that you feel you are now ready to finally complete your life’s dream, as Stephen King once said “Everything’s Eventual” sooner or later, but here we finally are, after years of growth, expectation and patience, the debut album from my lovely wife Chrissie Sheppard, Memories Through Birds has finally been brought into reality.
This sojourn of reflection and serenity starts with the opener and former number one single Song of the Skylark and containing the keyboard skills of M.G recording artist Andy Rogers, who you will find on other tracks on this album as well, the Skylark for me always represents fair weather and warmth, and here with the natural sounds and the sultry tones of her flute, Chrissie creates an idyllic moment, fond memories can be found within the refrains of this song, of watching the lark disappear high into the sky and beyond on a cloudless day in June.
This 8 track album is full of pleasant surprises, one of them was Sparrow: Childhood Memories, a delightfully cheerful composition, with the flute imitating the birds energetic musings, the children’s happy chatter added to that mood, whilst the skill use of synth chords to push forward and pull back, made this track for me one of the cleverest from the release.
The master thief is upon us, as The Cuckoo Awakens, I always used to love hearing my first Cuckoo, a sign that summer was close, here Chrissie brings a really creative process to the fore, and manufactures a wonderfully warm and almost sultry moment for us to enjoy, the notes here are delightfully long and mood filled, as indeed are the very gentle keyboards within the back drop of this most artistic offering.
I have my own memories of this track, I guess when you all listen to this album each of you will have your own special thoughts and reflections, here on Blackbird Memories, a very poignant memory comes forward to be acknowledged, a moment on in the hill sides of the Isle Of Wight at sunset, and as Chrissie stood under a tree playing her flute, the Blackbird sang out his heart above her in the branches of an old Oak, also listen for the bell, what a very crafted inclusion indeed.
Another huge hit single is now upon us and called Raven Cove, this single obtained an award for its art work, but the music contained within, is a magical representation of a small bay at the bottom of our road, one we go to when summer is done and the pool is too cold, this is a haven away from all the scurries and hassles of life. Here Chrissie draws a fine narrative of a lonely mystical place, where the ocean, nature and birds are the masters; the hovering intensity in this piece reminds me to this day of Gheorghe Zamfir’s music for the movie, Picnic at Hanging Rock.
Interestingly enough here in Cyprus this bird is a constant vocalist, it’s even in two of my tracks as well, Laughing Dove swirls and moves around the listener in an almost mysterious way, listen very careful to the natural sounds in this track, it is a true work of art. The overall piece is rather moody and simply blissful with headphones. For us, this is an early morning reverie of peace, with a mysterious flavour to the arrangement.
There is a tale of the legend of Zeus’s temper here, with his penchant for turning people into animals or birds, in this case The Kingfisher and Persephone are one in the same, it is said that if you see two kingfishers on Christmas Eve, then luck will follow you forever, this has happened twice for us so far here in Cyprus, it seems to work! Chrissie’s imploring flute dances with the natural sounds, floating keyboards move slowly across the mist filled scene, where magic is real and anything is possible, another sublime performance of great colour can be found here in this picturesque offering.
The concluding piece is truly fun, and may remind some of you of a certain time of year, the use of electronic wizardry and chimes added so much to this clever arrangement entitled Robin Redbreast. Listen carefully to the light percussive elements here, they all add to the pastiche of the piece, and hover perfectly to end the album with an utter flourish, in the same way Kevin Kendle once did with a track called Awaken on his release First Light.
Memories Through Birds by Chrissie Sheppard, the question must be asked, was it worth the wait? The answer an emphatic yes! Contained within this album are 8 artistically manifested tracks, all with a reflective moment contained within, it also allows you to add yours as well. This debut album from flute performer Chrissie Sheppard has set the bar incredibly high, but with complete unbiased honesty, this is an album destined for the higher echelons of the charts and perhaps, even an award, it is that good, and you w.
Rating: Excellent
Chaos In Premonition by Desensitized
- posted by Robin B. James on 10/21/2022
Exploring the Mysteries
There is plenty to listen to, electronics with harps and flutes and bells and all manner of percussion. Cool sounds. Something to try to focus on as you wait for the daylight.

What I hear is a celebration of the individual and a creed of nonconformism, exercising every freedom of choice, giving limitless value to individual dignity, personal love, and creative effort. Perhaps this music is about examining the individual’s knowledge and perception of reality, as well as the individual’s relationship to society, the universe, and God, I am crazy about this, so I am unreliable and hopelessly prejudiced on this matter. What I love are elemental collages exercising granular
control of the content, that gets me every time.

Is there a philosophical connection between surrealism in art and existentialism? What would that sound like?

The first track leaves sonic artifacts in an atmosphere of stereo emotions, "Ionic Realms" [Victronomy Plubonius] (4:52) presents two combined musical narratives, wordless stories or amazing ideas; there is a juxtaposition of a complex duality on several levels. The landscape is regal, a slow circle reveals castles and huts. The wanderer is represented by a malfunctioning time machine that brings melting realism.

With bowed metallic shimmers and a harp, eventually the ticking of the clocks, "Abundant Time [Stemiostratamos]" (4:46) delivers mystery and relentless maddening ticking sometimes too close. Using the subconscious as a source of creativity and searching for an underlying epistemological view, perhaps pause to ponder abundant time, the harp is lit by breezes, across a glowing night sky, slowly haunted by ticking from more than one timepiece, mechanical fog fading in and past and out visiting several times. What is constant is the glowing night sky.

I hear a gong rumbling slowly in a distant cave, "Chaos In Premonition [Firestimo Mutato]" (8:54), a melody sparkles then flitters and in places new elements emerge, joyful and fast moving at times, flying in a sunny sky over fields of wildflowers. We might be inches off of the ground or we might be arcing high across the horizon, gentle so gentle, an atmosphere of constant change suspended and contrasting, flutes changing into fire, stimulating dancing cave worms glow red, but are not actually on fire.

There are distant night bugs somewhere out there, "Deep Chasm [Subliminostrum]" (10:40), down in the delicate darkness with lots of layered granular textures suggesting an atmosphere of gloom, caves and tunnels, a cathedral deep below very deep, sounding slowly in the darkness, ultimately creating an atmosphere of peace in gloom.

Now I think that there is a new part of a story here and it is frightening at times, there is a ghost choir very far away and rattles waddle, dry seeds shaking, rattles crunch while dry plant-based chimes ring and ghostly smallish bells tinkle. "Mutations Of The Highest Order [MOTHO]" (8:47) fosters an atmosphere of silence with mild imperfections, metal ringing, signaling? I hear hand percussion rolling slowly in dream time, step by step steady jogging in the wilderness. For a moment a gigantic moth with wings the size of a football field struggles to right itself. I heard it clearly.

We are on a strange journey, right now we are in a very big old magic castle, there is a flute and there are hands keeping a marching beat, following the transverse wind melodics perfectly. "Logic Of Expression [Praetoreum]" (5:39) cultivates a simple continuous hand made beat or pulse, gathering the willing from all quarters, hands walking in a line. Yes it is spooky here.

"Immortals And Their Graves [Sacriligonus]" (7:38) with a flute driven dramatic flourish, whispers deep in the wood chant in fragments, day or night it does not matter, an atmosphere of danger with shadows. The cemetery location is always a constant refuge for the living, where the dead rest, nobody goes there; except for wood spirits, sometimes we remember that we all go below the surface of the Earth. "Crevices In Dark Places [Anexplicora]" (7:12) with night sounds in the wilderness and crickets crunching, I hear a drone melody on an organ that eventually emerges from a dark and gentle and delicate slow moving something. Something is taking form, yes, that is a ghost - I think so. A noisy crack in a distressed void, the atmosphere is all about night bugs. Some other parts of this track are darker with very scary horror music in miniature places, a crepuscular chorus and a haunted tableaux come to life.

For the closing track, "Sleep Of Innocence [Embulata]" (4:52) followers will find the great release, the gentle flow upwards. Does the dream have a false sense of confidence?

Never ask, just accept the gentle release, gentle clouds with voices singing lullaby tones floating in a night rainbow sky, and hidden layers of caliginous kaleidoscopic shadow spirits. It just is strange to listen to. This is the second of three albums by Desensitized.

Buy/Stream CHAOS IN PREMONITION by Desensitized:

Preview on YouTube:
Rating: Excellent
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