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Debut - Reinfeld, Nuss

Debut - Reinfeld, Nuss

Ars Produktion  ARS 38 268

Stereo/Multichannel Hybrid

Classical - Chamber


Works by Bach, Korzyński, Nuss, Bartók, Pixinguinha, Reinfeld, Hamauzu, Corea, Wada, Do Bandolim

Konstantin Reinfeld (harmonica)
Benyamin Nuss (piano)

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Review by Adrian Quanjer - October 21, 2018

Many unusual combinations have gone through my music system, but so far this one is new to me, and to my ears as well. Toots Thielemans is probably the best known harmonicist. And who doesn’t know the whining sound, like a Buzzard hovering over its pray, from the film ‘Once Upon a Time in the West’ (played by Franco de Gemini and not, as might be thought, Charles Bronston, nicknamed ‘Harmonica’).

Reading the liner notes I learned that Konstantin Reinfeld started his career as a jazz player, soon becoming one of its premier league with international recognition. Always exploring new avenues he subsequently teamed up with Benyamin Muss to form the duo that has now recorded its first semi-classical disc made up of a variety of music ranging from Bach to own improvisations; a mixture of classics, jazz, film, cross-over and things in between. In other words: to each their own.

It has always baffled me how someone can play so many different tones on such a small instrument. But that’s because I know so little about modern harmonicas and even less about harmonica playing. In fact, the only one I know is a cheap one which I owned, long ago, when boy scouts were still doing their sing-along around a camp fire. That’s why I could have done with the liner notes giving more information about Reinfeld’s instrument than the (for me and possibly others) somewhat mysterious information: “..chromatic playing on a diatonic Hohner harmonica”, and “.. on the 10 hole instrument”. If, indeed, he plays on a ten hole harmonica, resembling in size the little one I had, then he must be devilishly good.

I must admit that I had to adjust myself to the unusual sound of the harmonica in Bach’s BWV 1020, contradicting my firm believe that Bach can be transposed to and played on any other instrument. However, in the second movement Reinfeld proved that ‘dolce’ is also in his palette. In the following two short pieces, one of them being a brain child of the accompanying pianist, Nuss, the combination sounded natural as it did in Béla Bartòk’s ‘Romanian Folk Dances’. However, and probably due to the fact that the harmonica has been (too) prominently recorded in order to even out the difference in sound produced by the concert grand, disturbing noises surfaced, even to the extent that breathing and possibly other (internal mechanical?) discords became unhappily apparent.

I will not dwell too much on each of the compositions, with the exception of both ‘Variations’ giving as far as I’m concerned all the sounds one can possibly produce with the harmonica (and which to some purists may get closer to noise than music), as well as the only composition that isn’t an arrangement or adaptation, but was specifically written for this duo by Masashi Hamauzu with the simple title: ‘Op.6’ (1, 2 and 3). Here the balance in tone and force is ideal, giving a splendid example of film inspired composing. And certainly more than good enough for the Werner-Richard – Dr. Dörken Foundation to give, together with others, generous financial support to bringing about this recording.

I assume that harmonica addicts will want to have this disc, if only to find out what an experienced player can do with this instrument, or else to find out how they themselves measure up to it. And if have made people curious, I suggest they sample before buying as it may not be every classical listener’s cup of tea.

Blangy-le-Château,
Normandy, France.

Copyright © 2018 Adrian Quanjer and HRAudio.net

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