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Thursday, March 13, 2014

Joseph Klein, Improbable Encounters

Joseph Klein gives us the accumulated creativity of 30 years worth of works in his near-retrospective Improbable Encounters (Innova 873 CD & DVD). The North Texas State University Prof gives us solo works for a vast variety of instruments: bass flute, contrabassoon, percussion, ocarina, glass harmonica, bass saxophone, piccolo, guitar, piano. There are works for recitation and electronics, small ensembles of two guitars, trombonist or bass trombonist, prepared piano or recitation, the latter two ensembles with electronics. And there is one rather lengthy work for soprano saxophone and chamber orchestra, "Interior Shadows".

This is later modern music with some wide intervallic leaps, abstracted landscapes, a vivid palette of colors and ambiguous tonality. The first half of the program is for conventional CD, the second for DVD 5:1 sound and generally a performance-performatve view of the works.

The recitation segments stand or fall on the texts at hand. Generally those texts have interest, but some less than others. The solo works and the small chamber ensembles work well, especially the piece for two guitars. The sheer variety of instrumental colors and Maestro Klein's finely considered music for them keeps one's attention. The electronics are generally atmospheric, sometimes environmental. They are mostly present as a backdrop for instrumentalists or recitation and provide texture and color.

"Pathways, Interior Shadows" (the work for soprano sax and chamber orchestra) for its 21 minutes of modernist drama and vivid soundscaping is particularly worth hearing in its own right.

Klein's muse is well served in this set. I can't say all of it is indispensable but those that click do so powerfully. You come away with a good impression of a composer who does not stand still but is ever moving forward. Bravo.

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