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Album review: Lara Downes, Exiles' Cafe (Steinway & Sons)


Exiles' Cafe was inspired by hearing Michael Sahl's “Tango from the Exiles' Cafe”, after which Lara Downes fantasised the location as a source of comfort for transplanted composers, represented by this series of piano miniatures.

They can be location specific, as with Bartók's quizzically graceful “Hungarian Folksongs from the Csík District” and Rachmaninov's “Prelude in D minor”, one of the last pieces written prior to his exile; or more sentimental – the wistful homesickness of Chopin's “Mazurka in F sharp minor”, and Kurt Weill's “Lost in the Stars”, saturated with yearning. Especially moving is Prokofiev's “Pastoral Sonatina in C major”, written a year before his return to Russia after 20 years away.

Download: Mazurka in F sharp minor; Lost in the Stars; Pastoral Sonatina in C major