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Arts note

Pianist, actor praised in New York

By Times Staff Writer
Published December 14, 2003

Last year, actor Michael York and Tampa Bay area pianist and writer John Bell Young recorded Enoch Arden, composer Richard Strauss' long-obscure musical embellishment of Tennyson's epic poem. Now the two men have taken their show on the road and performed Enoch at the Metropolitan Museum of Art on Dec. 5, earning a positive review in the New York Times.

Wrote reviewer Anne Midgette: Enoch "rests as much on the text as on the music - Tennyson's poem is more dusted with Strauss's music than leavened by it - and the decline of the genre can be ascribed to changing literary tastes and the resistance of a modern audience to listening to highly sentimental verse for more than an hour and a quarter.

"Still, Enoch Arden occasionally emerges as a vehicle for a star actor. On Friday it was Michael York, who has recorded the piece with the able young pianist John Bell Young and is now taking it around with him as a kind of calling card.

"Mr. York, known for films like Cabaret and The Three Musketeers, trained as a Shakespearean actor, and he did a wonderful job of bringing the poem to life. He created out of its tale of rural English life a love triangle and a shipwrecked sailor, an early antecedent of Tom Hanks' Cast Away. He was supported by Mr. Bell, whose performance seemed a little muted against the intensity of Mr. York's miked voice. But then, the work is a little muted: as dated as a leaf from a Victorian scrapbook and dismissed by its composer as a "worthless occasional piece.' At best it's what Mr. York and Mr. Bell were able to make of it: a pleasant and enjoyable curiosity."

Young, whose classical CD reviews frequently appear in the St. Petersburg Times, wrote about his experience recording Enoch Arden in these pages last year.

[Last modified December 11, 2003, 12:21:05]

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