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Monday, April 6, 2015

Aleksander Sternfeld-Dunn, Fireworks

With a new week comes more new music, this time from a composer who grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area and reflects both American and international style possibilities. He is one Aleksander Sternfeld-Dunn. Fireworks (Navona 5997) is the name of the anthology devoted to his music. It sports a bright and varied program of chamber works plus one for orchestra and one for wind ensemble.

What struck me first was the rhythmic vitality of the music. There are moments of quiescence and lyricism but also a robustly rhythmic dynamism that features interlocking parts and a harmonic-melodic openness that has both neo-classical and modern elements.

"Joker's Wild" for orchestra begins the program with a flair and shows you the rhythmic qualities, exciting and dynamic in a direct sense. There is a hint of Stravinsky in his middle period, an influence that gets integrated in the overall style without the feeling of imitation. Chamber works combine ever-varied instrumentation, flute/piccolo and piano; trumpet, horn and trombone; flute/alto flute and clarinet; english horn and cello; alto saxophone and piano; and solo clarinet. His wind writing is idiomatic and colorful. When a piano part enters into a work the density and rhythmic qualities come to the fore. In the works that do not include a piano the music tends to be a bit more introspective and lyrically modern much of the time, but not exclusively. "Firecracker" for solo clarinet is a dynamic exception.

The program finishes off with the title work, "Fireworks," a ten-minute extravaganza for wind ensemble. It is a rather brilliant piece of music, turbulent and dramatic, orchestrated with real skill and filled with exciting motor-impulse rhythm.

In all we have a convincing program of well-wrought works that show a musical mind of originality and elan. Aleksander Sternfeld-Dunn shows us he is a force to contend with here. I look forward to more!

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