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Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Laura Elise Schwendinger, High Wire Acts, Chamber Music

A new voice in modern music can be an exciting thing, if the person has something to offer. That is the case with Laura Elise Schwendinger. Her recent album of chamber music, High Wire Acts (Centaur 3098), gives us a distinctive musical personality, in the modernist camp yet not predictably so.

Five works are on the program, written between 1992-2006, each played by a different combination of instruments. The first two are somewhat larger ensembles: "High Wire Act" is a quintet played very well by the ensemble BrightMusic. It's based on characters from Alexander Calder's wire figure assemblage Le Cirque Calder. Scored for flute, viola, violin, cello, and piano it is a piece of absorbing interest, concrete abstractions that include the wide intervalic leaps you would expect in serial/post-serial compositions, but also interesting group velocity interactions and other inventive figurations.

The second, "Nonet" is another well constructed work in a similar vein, a hommage to Bach's Brandenburg Concertos and Stravinsky's Dumbarton Oaks, played with excellent musicianship by the Chicago Chamber Musicians.

The remaining works are for duos and solo: "Rumor" for flute and cello, "Sonata for Solo Violin" and "Two Little Whos" for violin and guitar. The performers are sensitive and accomplished, well suited for the works at hand. They are Christina Jennings, flute, Greg Sauer, cello, Katie Wolfe, violin, and Duo 46, who are Beth Ilana Schneider-Gould on violin and Matt Gould on guitar.

These more intimate works continue Schwendinger's abstract style in ways that ring with conviction and satisfy with abundant invention.

Laura Elise Schwendinger brings us a cornucopia of musical riches on this program. Any connoisseur of modern chamber music would do well to hear it.

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