The theremin was invented in 1919 and became the first electronic musical instrument that had a career in the XX-century and it is still the only instrument which can be played without any mechanical touching. The theremin-player moves his hands near two antennas. The proximity of the right hand to the vertical antenna changes the electromagnetic field thus changing the pitch of the sound over a six-octave range. Left hand controls the volume. Theremin's sound remembers sometimes the cello or violin, sometime the flute and often the human voice. The instruments circuit uses a beat frequency oscillator, in which an audible musical tone is derived from the beating between two high-frequency oscillators. The frequency of one of the oscillators is fixed. The frequency of the other is altered by the performer's proximity to the pitch antenna.
The narrators are two gifted children, the pianist Alezandre Tharaud, whose acute playing has sparked the series. Set for narrator and small ensemble and originally improvised to please the composer's three-year old cousin, the tale of Babar the Elephant receives a charming performance from Alexandre Tharaud and friends with child narrators on this fifth instalment of Naxos's chamber-music series.
Jordi Savall's exemplary performance of Handel's Water Music and Music for the Royal Fireworks is among the finest available on disc: refined and precise, but very big, with blood-stirring grandeur. This is just the kind of extroverted, rousing presentation that best highlights the music's open-air ceremonial function. Savall's Le Concert des Nations is essentially a chamber orchestra with double or triple winds, but the sound he elicits from the group is majestic and surprisingly powerful. The playing is crisp and the rhythmic articulation bracing, but the sound is never brash. In fact, more often than not it is seductively sensual, a heady integration of precision and supple, shapely phrasing. Handel left no authoritative edition of the score of Water Music and it has traditionally been divided into three suites, but Savall reorders the material into two suites, a decision that makes more sense in terms of key relationships and that sounds entirely satisfying.