MusicWeb International One of the most grown-up review sites around 2024
60,000 reviews
... and still writing ...

Search MusicWeb Here Acte Prealable Polish CDs

Presto Music CD retailer
Founder: Len Mullenger                                    Editor in Chief:John Quinn             


Some items
to consider

new MWI
Current reviews

old MWI
pre-2023 reviews

paid for

Acte Prealable Polish recordings

Forgotten Recordings
Forgotten Recordings
All Forgotten Records Reviews

Troubadisc Weinberg- TROCD01450

All Troubadisc reviews

FOGHORN Classics

Brahms String Quartets

All Foghorn Reviews

All HDTT reviews

Songs to Harp from
the Old and New World

all Nimbus reviews

all tudor reviews

Follow us on Twitter

Editorial Board
MusicWeb International
Founding Editor
Rob Barnett
Editor in Chief
John Quinn
Contributing Editor
Ralph Moore
   David Barker
Jonathan Woolf
MusicWeb Founder
   Len Mullenger

CMS Studio Recordings

Amy Cheney BEACH (1867-1944)
Piano Quintet in F sharp minor, Op.67 (1908) [28:23]
Alan Louis SMITH (b.1955)
Vignettes: Covered Wagon Woman (2006) [32:45]
Anne-Marie McDermott (piano); Escher Quartet (Quintet); Stephanie Blythe (mezzo); Warren Jones (piano); Ani Kavafian (violin); Priscilla Lee (cello) (Vignettes)
rec. Rose Studio, Lincoln Center, New York, May 2008 (Quintet), February 2008 (Vignettes)
Experience Classicsonline

That Amy Beach is an important figure in musical history there can be no doubt. As the first American woman composer of any note, she enjoyed great critical and public acclaim with a string of works, a handful of which are slowly becoming repertory pieces again. The Piano Quintet is possibly among the best examples; it was a great success in her lifetime before being relegated, like many of her works, to obscurity through being considered old-fashioned or outdated. The Diane Ambache Ensemble rescued it – as they have done with so many other women composers – and their live performances and 1997 recording for Chandos put it firmly back on the map for a new audience. It has now a number of other good recordings, of which this present release is the latest.

Beach was largely self-taught, learning her craft by consuming the great classics. It’s obvious from the outset that she knew her European Romantics, with that long-arched opening unison melody immediately recalling the Brahms Piano Quintet. The finale has a vivacious energy worthy of Schumann, though tinged with moments of regret and melancholy. The melodies really are memorable and the whole thing is beautifully constructed in a tight three-movement form. The slow movement is the expressive centre of the work, and has a sensual quality that recalls Wagner – indeed, the climactic interrupted cadence at 8:21 could be straight out of Tristan. This is a marvellous performance, full of passion, superbly played by all and doing the piece full credit.

Alan Louis Smith is a pianist, teacher and composer now based at the University of Southern California. His Vignettes: Covered Wagon Woman is a half-hour setting of words by another important and largely unsung woman in American history, Margaret Frink. She kept a diary of her family’s pioneering and arduous journey across the huge continent in 1850, an adventure into the unknown that she documents with an engaging mix of frankness and poetry. Smith’s liner-note gives details of his musical thoughts when setting the text, and he admits to adopting quite a simple, syllabic approach for clarity and understanding. There is no avant-garde experimentation here; in fact, it complements the Beach perfectly in its simplicity and Romantic celebration of America’s past. The opening whole tone flourish – which appears at intervals - recalls Debussy, and there are many moments where, almost inevitably, the neo-classical techniques and pungent harmonies of Copland and Virgil Thomson come to mind. The second section, ‘There’s a Lady’, is one such, a simple waltz that uses chromatic side-stepping and little Prokofiev-like harmonic puns to great effect.

It was first performed by the musicians on this disc, and they are obviously thoroughly intimate with the piece, particularly the mezzo Stephanie Blythe who, to her credit, enunciates the words so clearly as to make the text in the liner-note virtually redundant. It’s not an earth-shakingly original piece, but very heartfelt in its word-painting and superbly played and sung. It may not find an easy life in the concert hall but is very welcome on disc as an interesting filler to the Beach, and the sound quality is exceptional.

Tony Haywood


Advertising on

Donate and keep us afloat


New Releases

Naxos Classical
All Naxos reviews

Chandos recordings
All Chandos reviews

Hyperion recordings
All Hyperion reviews

Foghorn recordings
All Foghorn reviews

Troubadisc recordings
All Troubadisc reviews

all Bridge reviews

all cpo reviews

Divine Art recordings
Click to see New Releases
Get 10% off using code musicweb10
All Divine Art reviews

All Eloquence reviews

Lyrita recordings
All Lyrita Reviews


Wyastone New Releases
Obtain 10% discount

Subscribe to our free weekly review listing




Making a Donation to MusicWeb

Writing CD reviews for MWI

About MWI
Who we are, where we have come from and how we do it.

Site Map

How to find a review

How to find articles on MusicWeb
Listed in date order

Review Indexes
   By Label
      Select a label and all reviews are listed in Catalogue order
   By Masterwork
            Links from composer names (eg Sibelius) are to resource pages with links to the review indexes for the individual works as well as other resources.

Themed Review pages

Jazz reviews


      Composer surveys
      Unique to MusicWeb -
a comprehensive listing of all LP and CD recordings of given works
Prepared by Michael Herman

The Collector’s Guide to Gramophone Company Record Labels 1898 - 1925
Howard Friedman

Book Reviews

Complete Books
We have a number of out of print complete books on-line

With Composers, Conductors, Singers, Instumentalists and others
Includes those on the Seen and Heard site


Nostalgia CD reviews

Records Of The Year
Each reviewer is given the opportunity to select the best of the releases

Monthly Best Buys
Recordings of the Month and Bargains of the Month

Arthur Butterworth Writes

An occasional column

Phil Scowcroft's Garlands
British Light Music articles

Classical blogs
A listing of Classical Music Blogs external to MusicWeb International

Reviewers Logs
What they have been listening to for pleasure



Bulletin Board

Give your opinions or seek answers

Past and present

Helpers invited!

How Did I Miss That?

Currently suspended but there are a lot there with sound clips

Composer Resources

British Composers

British Light Music Composers

Other composers

Film Music (Archive)
Film Music on the Web (Closed in December 2006)

Programme Notes
For concert organizers

External sites
British Music Society
The BBC Proms
Orchestra Sites
Recording Companies & Retailers
Online Music
Agents & Marketing
Other links
Web News sites etc

A pot-pourri of articles

MW Listening Room
MW Office

Advice to Windows Vista users  
Site History  
What they say about us
What we say about us!
Where to get help on the Internet
CD orders By Special Request
Graphics archive
Currency Converter
Web Ring
Translation Service

Rules for potential reviewers :-)
Do Not Go Here!
April Fools

Return to Review Index

Untitled Document

Reviews from previous months
Join the mailing list and receive a hyperlinked weekly update on the discs reviewed. details
We welcome feedback on our reviews. Please use the Bulletin Board
Please paste in the first line of your comments the URL of the review to which you refer.