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Monday, January 16, 2012

Christopher Shultis, "Devisadero:" New Music from New Mexico

New-Mexico-based composer Christopher Shultis gives us something original and good for the ear on his CD of four contrasting compositions, Devisadero (Navona 5849). There's a four-part suite for wind symphony ("Openings"), a song cycle for soprano and piano ("Songs of Love and Longing"), a reflective work for soprano sax and winds ("a little light, in darkness") and a suite for solo piano ("Devisadaro").

Generally this is a modern, original take on American post-impressionism, with tone painting that evokes the stunning landscape of New Mexico.

"Openings" has plenty of contrast, some very dynamic percussion-winds interplay, chorale-like grandeur, and orchestrational depth and transparency. "Songs of Love and Longing" pits a homespun charm against contrasting blocks of emotive expressiveness, American Chopin-Liszt-and beyond pianisms of idiomatic writing, some of the simplicity-in-sophistication of the Ives-Barber lineage, and a hint of later Strauss songsmithing for a kind of exquisite expression of lack.

"A little light in darkness" nicely juxtiposes acapella soprano sax with alternately sparse and full wind thematics. There is an introspective drama in the quiet parts, a little more espisodic urgency in the sectional, multi-solo tuttis. "Devisadaro" makes good use of recurring motifs in a series of poetic through-composed soliloquies.

Throughout Shultis goes after a modern shimmer, the small sounds of the landscape and the large, a sensitivity to the micro and the macro, in ways that reference past classical styles while harnessing them to the insistent and consistently inventive musical imagination of Christopher Shultis.

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