Words can get in the way. I'm not too sure what the real differences between adagios, largos, and nocturnes are supposed to be. They're all in slow tempi, tend to or dwell in minor chord pitch, and evoke evening or night-time sentiments, meditational thinking, wistfulness, that sort of thing. William Blake opined that the season of Fall was synonymous with the fall of man in Western liturgies and allegory, and I've always looked at adagios, nocturnes, and largos in that fashion. I do know that Chopin is one of the key figures in nocturne classicality, that Albinoni and Barber are exemplary adagiastes, and so on. When I listen to Dan Chadburn's Nocturnes, though, I get a distinct Scott Cossu / Liz Story / George Winston vibe and palette, not the Satie / Ackerman / Mompou laconics the sobriquet would seem to infer.
This is definitely chamber music, especially when Helen Hausmann joins in on strings and Carole Libelo and Marty Hackleman add English and French horns respectively, but there's only perhaps a late afternoon sense through much of the affair, a little too often not even that. Chadburn's playing is stately while not grave, filled a bit too much with light and freshening to be nocturnal, a trifle too easily reaching for hope rather than plumbing the darker depths of the soul. The problem, I think, lies in Chopin's work in mazurkas, waltzes, polonaises, and scherzos. The residue of the upbeat natures of those forms remained too clearly when he attempted reverie, and that has carried over to his acolytes, unfortunately.
Another part of the dilemma lies in the fact that my discontent is not just with perhaps-mistaken semantics but matters of depth as well. Chadburn's kindredness slants too much to the aforementioned Story and then to Suzanne Ciani, Spencer Brewer, and Robin Spielberg, with whom he's appeared, and perhaps David Arkenstone, though I'll take Dan over David seven days a week. Too, when considering Once Upon a Time, which is a lovely pastorale, or Peter's Theme, the track I most enjoy and a Merchant Ivory movie thematic at that, one finds a bit too much derivativeness even despite the formalism, not enough of Dan's own inner nature, too much, as Barbara Ehrenriech coined it, 'bright-siding', a patterned artistic Quimbyism rather than flesh and blood.
Nocturnes does contain pretty and reflective music, but I kinda look at that this way: give me William Ackerman not David Lanz, Erik Satie not George Winston, and perhaps a melancholy Philip Glass not, God help us, Steven Halpern. In other words, there's plenty of decorous sincerity here, but I have to wonder if Chadburn's ever known despair. Even if only glancingly, that's what lies at the truest heart of any lament music, which adagios, largos, and nocturnes really and truly are, despite the presence of lullabyes and however consensus opinion might wish to frame it otherwise.
Edited by: David N. Pyles
Copyright 2014, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
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