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Wednesday, February 25, 2015

David Lipten, Best Served Cold

Today we have a release that came out in 2012 but is no less vital for it. Composer David Lipten is a "classical" modernist very much into structured music of a harmonic depth, music that is not Darmstadt-oriented so much as informed by the pointillism of that school but firmly sequential in a Western modern way.

The album at hand is an anthology of various Lipten works entitled Best Served Cold (Ablaze 00006). It sports very good performances from the likes of the Ciompi Quartet, pianist Mark Tollefsen, the Volti choral group under Robert Geary, a small chamber group under Harvey Sollberger, and the trio of Jana Starling, clarinet, Omri Shimron, piano, and Beth Ilana Schneider, violin. Each ensemble-performer does well in bringing us the full impact of Lipten's approach.

All in all there is a modern expressive lyricism and a gestural dramatic quality to the music. "Time's Dream" (2003), a choral work in six parts, is especially so. The solo piano work "Show of Hands" (2003-2005) (in three parts) is dynamic and impactful. "Whorl" (2002) for clarinet, piano and violin has depth and an emphatic presence. "Gyre" (1995-97) for six instruments has a dynamic stridency that makes effective interlocking use of reeds, flute, strings, piano and percussion. It sounds very much like the sort of music one expects to hear from the later 20th century, but has an impact born of inspiration and real craftsmanship. "Ictus" (2000-2001) for string quartet works with certain intervals as a germinating cellular theme and goes on for some excellent four-way development.

David Lipten, it is clear, is a composer with a strong sense of direction, a fluid syntax and an inventive linear-abstract melodic gift. This anthology will appeal to the confirmed modernist. It is excellently done and very uplifting. Highly recommended.

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