Geoffrey Simon’s London Sound series started many years ago with the first London Cello Sound. This unlikely idea (since adopted by many others) simply took one instrument, multiplied it by 8, 12 or 16, and produced an orchestra of instrumental siblings. We’ve had three or four cello discs, as well as discs of nothing but trumpets, horns, violas (there’s revenge for you), violins, basses and now harps – at least eleven discs so far.
In this latest offering there are no fewer than 16 of these magnificent instruments – each one an orchestra in its own right – playing really clever arrangements of everything from Edith Piaf (and no they don’t regret it) to music originally written for the instrument. Of course this stuff must be played at the highest level to work, and so it is. The players are some of the world’s finest, from Skaila Kanga, Professor Emerita of Harp at the Royal Academy of Music and Principal Harp of the Academy of St Martin in the Fields, to Virginie Gout-Zschäbitz, solo harp at Deutsche Oper Berlin, who also moonlights with the Berlin Philharmonic. You get the idea.
My favourite piece from this very unusual smorgasbord is an arrangement of Andalucia by Lecuona. If that doesn’t make you smile, well…
The sound is also superbly captured. This whole series has been remarkable, and it’s down to Geoffrey Simon, yet another immense Australian musical talent who was driven out of this country in the mid-1970s by the dreary, dead hand of the then musical establishment. He made his own way, and his record label Cala is just one of his many considerable achievements. Our loss.