I take no pleasure in receiving music to review that I do not like. I don't suppose that is so unusual, unless you consider Lewis G. Carroll's The Walrus and the Carpenter--when Walrus sheds tears of bitter sorrow after making friends with the oysters, then eating them all alive, systematically and with relish. It could be an allegory about the relationship between the critic and artists/label but not in my case. I will leave the oysters alone as best I can if I am hungry and seek prey that doesn't have something good about in any sense--like a succulent, hot and steaming bowlful of roast slugs! AKA Barry Manilow? In other words, if I don't like something, or something about that something, I won't cover it unless there is some imperious topic, something of such urgency that I simply must address it and that particular music exemplifies it especially well.
All seriousness aside, though, I was very happy, and still am, with the chamber unit The Tapestry Ensemble and their release New York Moments (Navona 5888). They have the instrumentation of oboe, clarinet, cello and piano. which has something going for it right away. To wit, that's an interesting sound no matter what is being played (except perhaps Barry Manilow!) but they do things one better and have chosen modern works for the full ensemble or most of it, depending, that are challenging enough to the performers and listeners that we all have a little work to do, yet the results are fully mellifluous and memorable.
Each of the composers has taken pains to write chamber music of intricacy and thrust, things worth our time, played with genuine panache by the ensemble. So what if you may never have heard of William Toutant, Frank Campo, Liviu Marinescu, Daniel Kessner, Dan Hosken, Gernot Wolfgang (or you may recognize some if you listen systematically to Navona releases), and the works presented here?
I know some people, good friends even, who essentially tell me "music is in bad shape these days because I've never heard of any of the composers on the new releases of modern music." Every stage of life is a discovery, though. Where would you be if you never listened to Varese, Berio, Berlioz and Fux because you didn't know the names? Ah, but I am not here to chastise folks. After all, how many hours in the day are there?
But I am very glad to have the chance to investigate composers and musicians I may not know at first. Everyone starts out as an unknown, the new baby to be named something or other, and it's up to that baby, eventually, to do something noteworthy. Beet-WHO-ven?
Well the mothers of these composers and of the ensemble itself should be proud. The music is noteworthy. Recommended, too.
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