Not content to co-produce the DVD, and perform both the DVD and the CD, the multi-talented Carpenter also designed the album package, reflecting a balanced duality of two completely different discs in a single musical offering. It’s a fitting artistic expression from a young virtuoso who lives and performs in the 21st Century, but whose genre-bending compositions, arrangements, and virtuoso performances have placed him in the ranks of 19th and 20th Century greats like Horowitz, Paganini, and Liszt.
For CAMERON LIVE! The DVD – quite possibly the most exciting “serious” music DVD ever made – Carpenter performed on a four-manual Wurlitzer organ (from silent film’s heyday) in the Hardman Studio in front of three HD cameras. The DVD includes two world premiere recordings of his own works (Three Intermezzi for Cinema Organ and Will o’ the Wisp from Fifteen Inventions on Chopin’s Etudes), his now-famous arrangement of Sousa’s Stars and Stripes Forever (the first to faithfully retain each line of counterpoint to the end), and other works by Shostakovich, Schubert, Liszt and others. As a complement to the companion all-Bach audio disc, Carpenter even performs one work by Bach –– the Prelude and Fugue No. 5 from Book One of The Well-Tempered Clavier – on his own practice organ, which was transported to the Hardman Studio in Virginia for the recording. Performing repertoire that would be unusual for any organ, Carpenter also provides a welcome introduction to each work on the DVD.
In addition to Carpenter’s extraordinary new performances produced by Cameron and his director, Katy Scoggin, with 5.1 surround sound audio by MobileMaster, the DVD also includes footage from Berlin and New York live concerts, and a clip of Chopin’s Revolutionary Etude, from which Carpenter’s Grammy®-nominated REVOLUTIONARY (Telarc, 2008) draws its title.
The second disc, CAMERON LIVE! The CD, is a live concert recording from The Church of Saint Mary the Virgin, one of the most famous churches in New York, whose top-notch acoustics and Carpenter’s ground-breaking performances make this disc perhaps one of the most intriguing Bach CDs recorded today. Aspiring to excellence in every aspect of this project, Carpenter’s superb performances on the audio disc were recorded on an organ that sits among the greatest, unparalleled in quality (except perhaps among 21st Century virtual pipe organs): a large Aeolian-Skinner from 1933, which was generously added to in the 1990s according to the original design by G. Donald Harrison, its designer and the creator of the “American Classic” organ.
On this disc – produced by Robert Woods and engineered by Robert Friedrich, both long-time Telarc geniuses – Carpenter brings his own unique perspective to Bach works like Toccata and Fugue in F Major, (BWV 540), which he chose to play in F#, a viciously difficult key—for anyone except Carpenter. (The CD program notes, included in a deluxe, full-color 12-page booklet, will explain his choice.) Five Bach preludes and fugues, continuing the “circle of fifths,” follow: B Minor, E Minor, A Minor, D Major, and G Major, the last one with an improvised contemporary cadenza that makes this piece unmistakably his own. For the completion of this live recording, Carpenter composed Serenade and Fugue on B.A.C.H. with a lovely, lyrical, almost popular first movement and a complex fugal second movement—within which the B.A.C.H. theme is stated, in various forms, more than fifty-five times.
What could possibly contain three and a half hours of sublime music, a project that is so exorbitantly special, as is the artist? A double-thick “butterfly” album case and artwork designed by Carpenter himself that manages to balance both projects equally with a startling accomplishment of two front covers, equally as disparate. For the DVD, the cover is suitably outrageous: Noel Coward meets Janis Joplin in her backstage dressing room (actually, Carpenter photographed in his New York East Village apartment). Flip the album over to find the other front, in stark contrast: Carpenter in jeans, silver boots and a t-shirt that proclaims MUSIC IS IT, reminding the listener that despite his attention to detail on the outside, it’s what they see and hear on the discs inside that matters.