Mont Alto's new CD, Love Betrayal & Redemption, is available at the Mont Alto website, and now also from CDBaby, where you can listen to excerpts or buy mp3s.
The cue sheet for a Mont Alto score will be a succession of pieces by the likes of Zamencik, Borch, Bergé, with a few recognizable names such as Dvorak and Saint Saëns thrown in when the on-screen mood requires it or a touch of “respectability” arises. All these composers, along with and many others with wonderful names Poldini and Pintel, can be heard on the group’s latest CD Love, Betrayal & Redemption, whose title pretty much sums up Hollywood until this day. What makes this CD so appealing is not only its period charm, but the sense that these representations of emotion and cinematic action have attained a kind of universality which endures over several generations. This music may evoke the movie-going experience of my grandparents’ youth, but it plays on my feelings as expertly as it did theirs, and I’ll bet even the hard hearts of Lady Gaga’s devotees would feel a few palpitations.
The Mont Alto players (Britt Swenson on violin, Brian Collins on clarinet, Dawn Kramer on trumpet and David Short on cello, along with Sauer on piano) know how to draw the most out of the sweeping melodies for the Love part of things, then sharpening their tone for the Betrayal and then surrender to the lush embrace of Redemption. What the Mont Alto Orchestra also continually demonstrates is the nearness of these movie scores to dance music—dance and movies, being the main forms of entertainment for the young of the 1920s. The group treats these pieces with a keen sense of style, especially in the way they expand the measure with touches of extra time, resisting the modern, sterile temptation to play perfectly in time. These masterful and varied demonstrations of ensemble rubato give to their music a rare suavity, without which it might seem merely quaint.