Friday, April 29, 2016
We get throughout in varying degrees the Spanish folk tinge, along with an Eastern European folk influence--on the "Suite Helenica" and the "Aires Rumanos." There is also a pronounced jazz influence that forms an important part of his style, as in "Tribute to Trane," "Jazz Waltz" and others. The jazz aspect may sound vaguely Brubeckian, foundationally McCoy Tyneresque at times, something perhaps of the Bill Evans harmonic wealth, but also with traces of earlier jazz styles, so perhaps a bit of Gershwin, boogie-woogie and such.
There are in addition two pieces for piano solo the composer felt it important to include.
The saxophone parts are singing, sometimes rather virtuoso oriented, but always a prime carrier of melodic line, with the piano part forming an indispensable accompanying role. The liner notes mention the scarcity of available recordings of his work so this volume becomes even more worthy. All three performers studied Iturralde's style sets in depth before attempting these performances and it most certainly shows in the results. Both Jimenez and Delangle have beautifully projecting tones and Esteban Ocana gives us a bubbling exuberance in the piano parts, the combination bringing the music fully alive.
Iturralde comes across as a composer very much of his time and place, but not so much a modernist per se. This is music that takes on traditional Spanish, eastern and mainstream jazz tonalities and runs with them in a specially personal way. There is a kind of joyous demeanor to most of this music that one does not often counter today. If you set aside expectations and let the music have its way you are in for a very accessible musical ride that takes no shortcuts on musical substance and yet speaks with a straightforwardly infectious enthusiasm and tonal elegance. This is not meant to be cutting edge new music, but it succeeds via a kind of natural contemporary way, with a knack for vivid melodic songlike strains and lively rhythms.
Nicely done! It may well be essential listening for those who seek full coverage of contemporary Spanish new music or the saxophone repertoire, somewhat less so but very pleasantly so for others.
Thursday, April 28, 2016
Schoeck was well prepared via studies in the Musikschule in Zurich and then several years under the tutelage of Max Reger in Leipzig. The composer ultimately found a neo-classical modernist approach with a rhapsodic, yet expressionist flair.
His Complete Violin Sonatas (Brilliant 95292), as played with great charm and grace by Maristella Patuzzi on violin and Mario Patuzzi on piano, cover early and somewhat later periods of his work: the "Sonata in D Op. 16" from 1909, "Sonata in E Op. 46" from 1931, and the "Sonata in D Wo022," written in 1905 and revised in 1953. We hear in the "Sonata in E" a more modern approach. The other two sonatas are delightfully lyrical and romantically effusive though never gushingly so.
The works show both the youthful and the more mature Schoeck, a talent with substantial inventive abilities. It is music that is decidedly worthwhile and beautifully played. He was of his time yet not comfortably classed as a radically advanced stylist. Yet there is great beauty and substance to these works. The Patuzzi's give the music near-definitive performances. It is most certainly a good introduction to the composer if you do not know of him. And the music wears well.
Wednesday, April 27, 2016
The album is Shrouded Mirrors (Huddersfield Contemporary Records HCR10). On it six contemporary composers give us six fascinating high modern and/or postmodern works that reward with labyrinthian expressionism and fully idiomatic guitar passagework. These are the sort of things one would not trust to just any old classical guitarist. They require someone with great technical facility and a full understanding of the new music idiom.
Every work has something going for it, be it microtonalism/unusual tuning in Brian Ferneyhough's "Kurze Schatten II" (1983-89) or Wieland Hoban's "Knokler I" (2009), mesmeric repeating complexes with a kind of aural kaleidoscope feel as in Bryn Harrison's "M.C.E." (2010) , or complexes of jagged abstractions that extended what a guitar is usually called upon to do, as with Matthew Sergeant's "bet maryam" (2011), Michael Finnissy's "Nasiye" (1982, rev. 2002), and James Dillon's "Shrouded Mirrors" (1987).
It is music where both the performer and composer stand out as bringing the contemporary modern classical guitar to new levels of avant brilliance. A most impressive program. Anyone who revels in new music that expands the boundaries and enters fearlessly the frontiers will find this one exceptional. And even the novice will be mightily impressed, I would think, with the level of achievement. Bravo!
Tuesday, April 26, 2016
Cipullo's After Life imagines an afterlife meeting of the ghosts of Pablo Picasso and Gertrude Stein who struck up a warm and mutually productive friendship in pre-WWI Paris, then gradually drifted apart, culminating in a turn to the right for Stein and to the left for Picasso--and subsequent opposing stances regarding occupied WWII Paris. The opera is a ghostly dialog about those decisions, the role of art in desperate political and social circumstances, what they might reflect on looking back today and the personal vulnerabilities of each.
The music is modern neo, basically tonal, well wrought, a meditation on the horrors of the epoch and its available responses.
The 20-minute Laitman song cycle gives us the poetry of Selma Meerbaum-Eisinger, a Jew who died in a Nazi Ukranian labor camp in 1942. It is stylistically akin to the Cipullo work, a bit more lyrical, and ultimately neo-romantic with a bit of a lineal relationship to Samuel Barber, perhaps. It is moving music.
The coupling of the two works makes perfect sense thematically and stylistically. Both are well worth hearing and well performed, very good examples of some of the significant tonal modern work being made right now in the US.
Monday, April 25, 2016
Today we have the third volume, Music for 9 Pianos (Hiatus 014). It continues where the others leave off. The amassed sound of the pianos is slightly less startling than the recorders or digital tuners, because we've been exposed to multiple piano sounds before, though not quite like this.
"Descending Piece," occupying side one, is devoted to rapid downward moving glissandi, first in the upper range, then the lower. "Partial Piece" (side two) gives us a series of sustained, gradually decaying note clusters, then a swarm of repeated notes.
Lokkegaard succeeds in giving us a sort of unidimensional sound world once again, two short pieces that have a unified series of objectives that in their brevity and singleness of purpose carry the day.
You may want to begin with the recorder or tuner volume first, but together all three capture our aural imagination quickly and then as quickly they are gone.
Recommended for those who would appreciate an uncompromising sound stage of unified aural clouds. More volumes are apparently in the offing. Give a listen!
Friday, April 22, 2016
So all of that can be readily heard and experienced in a new volume of early Messiaen organ works, L'Ascension (Naxos 8.573471). Tom Winpenny gives us a beautifully dramatic reading of the works in all their glory.
"L'Ascension" in the 1933-34 organ realization is the most famous of the works in the anthology, and justly so. We get two early works only discovered in the '90s, "Diptyque" (1928-1930?) and "Prelude" (1928-30?). They are solid additions showing more plainly perhaps his roots in the French School. But then we are also treated to "Le Banquet celeste" (1928) and "Apparition de l'Eglise eternelle" (1932), which like "L'Ascension" show deep originality.
There is everything going for this latest Winpenny Messiaen release. Anyone who wants to better understand Messiaen's place as one of the greatest modernists of all will find this volume illuminating, giving you the beginnings of his special journey into his own mystically Catholic world and the exceptional ways he expressed that way of being. And as an example of the French School at large, the connexions are clear. But most of all this is very moving music, very well played.
Thursday, April 21, 2016
Ensemble Transmission handles adroitly and expressively the performance duties on this album, with six artists participating variously in the works as called for. The instrumentation varies from solo works--"Vez" (2005) for solo cello, "Mesh" (2004) for E-flat clarinet, "Trois Etudes" (1997/2013) for piano, "Un bouquet de brume" (1998/2013) for bass flute and piano, "Portrait parle" (2006) for violin, cello and piano and finally "Ciaccona" (2002/2011) for the sum total of instruments plus percussion.
Each work speaks with a musical language of its own, rhythmically alive, periodically grouped into phrase "sentences," so to speak, and eloquently expressive, sometimes humorously so. There are extra-musical subtexts often enough. "Mesh" includes directions to the clarinetist the composer originally found with a hot-air hand dryer. "Portrait parle" gets its inspiration from a 1900 French police chart meant to aid in the identification of human subjects, the "Twelve synoptic tables of physiognomic traits."
Whatever Ms. Sokolovic addresses in these works, many in first recordings, the music comes to us in memorably declamatory prosaic form, a highly aesthetic and elaborate kind of musical Morse code that signifies a self-referential content with a refreshing directness and originality.
The music wears well and leaves you with a feeling of satisfaction that one has encountered significant modern contemporary music.
I recommend this one and I myself look forward to more music from Ana Sokolovic.