Vexed -- "Vexed, Series 1" opens with a landlord showing a couple an apartment. Then the camera reveals a dead body on the floor, over which the three carefully step. A moment later, we are aware that the couple are detectives sent to investigate the crime and that the woman is looking for a place for her husband (not her police partner) and herself. And that is where the lunacy takes off for the three episodes included in this Acorn Media set.
This a spoof of all police shows. Toby Stephens plays DI Jack Armstrong, a cop so totally inept that it is hard to believe he still holds his job. Lucy Punch plays DI Kate Bishop, who entirely shares the viewers’ feelings. Of course, some of this Odd Couple situation goes over the top; but there is still lots of clever comedy to compensate.
Another running gag in "Vexed" is Kate’s inability to win any argument either with Armstrong and with her husband (played by Rory Kinnear). What she does to this self-righteous spouse in the first episode, I leave to the viewer to enjoy. What she does to him the last is horrible but irresistibly funny.
I will make no mention of the crimes themselves, since they tend to fade into the background as the Punch-Stephens team does its thing.
Each episode runs just short of an hour, the picture is widescreen, and there are subtitles.
Abrams and Lin -- Two recent CDs are similar and yet deal with quite
Pianist Daniel Abrams is a keyboard luminary up in New York State, known through his concerts and his recordings. In his latest, "A Wagner Celebration," he interprets his feelings about the music in the form of "A Rienzi Rhapsody" (drawing mostly upon the Overture) and "Fantasy Variations of Tristan and Isolde." The latter has been done, if not overdone, by full orchestras that serve as introductions to the opera as a whole. Abrams, again, interprets in piano terms what emotions the music stirs within him.
As Abrams puts it in the program notes, "The works in my series are not transcriptions. They are piano music based on themes from the operas in the style of the composers had they written this music themselves as piano music." That might be a nebulous supposition; but I leave it to the hearer to be the judge.
"Musical Portraits from Wagner’s Ring" consists of a Prelude and variations of the Leitmotifs for several of the characters who turn up in the tetrology, finishing with "Immolaton" and the fall of Valhalla. I can see a great educational use for those who lecture on opera.
In another musical world, we have "Get Happy" on the Steinway & Sons label. Here the young pianist’s specialty is to play original popular tunes in "serious" arrangements. (I wonder at times about statements like this in liner-notes interviews.)
This CD holds 18 selections from stage and screen musicals. Among them are "Blue Skies," "I Got Rhythm," "Begin the Beguine," "Blue Moon," "Cheek to Cheek," and non-vocal sequences such as "Carousel Waltz" and "March of the Siamese Children."
The program notes indentify the arrangers. It is all familiar stuff, delightfully played.
Lang Lang -- There isn’t a pianist in the world that excludes Chopin from his concerts and recordings. Lang Lang is no exception, but the Sony Classical CD titled (with studied simplicity) "The Chopin Album" is the first disc from Lang Lang that is devoted entirely to that composer.
The program notes (as program notes do) make a big deal of the influence of Chopin on this keyboard artist; but ultimately one must judge if his approach meets whatever standards the listener imposes. In cases like this, I merely report what is available.
The program consists of the "Etudes, op 25," "Grande values brillante in E-flat major, op 18," "Andante spianato & grand polonaise, op. 22," three Nocturnes, a waltz and a short "Tristesse." And, yes, it worth a hearing.
Frank Behrens reports on classical and Broadway music as well as recordings of books and plays for the Arts & Entertainment section.