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Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Eleanor Cory, Things Are, String Quartet No. 3, etc.

Eleanor Cory (b 1943) is another one of those composers you may know something of or may have missed altogether. Her music has been performed widely but her recordings have not circulated quite as much. She has a way about her, as can be heard in her recent six-work anthology Things Are, String Quartet No. 3 [etc.] (Naxos 8.559784). All are world premiere recordings in a chamber context.

Her music is a varying mix of tonal, atonal and modal, a constellation of contemporary stances that vary with the requirement of a piece. The results are well put-together, individual, sometimes lyrically expressive and largely modern in the classic sense.

The anthology is a good sampling of works written between 1973 and 2012.

The "Violin Sonata No. 1" is the latest work and shows her expressively rhapsodic-modern side with memorably active passage work that projects forward in ways quite appealing.

The "String Quartet No. 3" (2009) is filled with motivic road signs that guide the listener through the musical terrain with articulate grace. "Sweetly melancholic" is how the work is described in the liners and well so. "Things Are" (2011) is for flute and piano, dedicated to Milton Babbitt. It has the rangy openness that Babbitt would have appreciated.

The "Celebration" (2008) for solo piano has contemporary virtuoso agitation/repose and a bit of a very modern jazz flavor to it. Stephen Gosling does the honors as soloist and shows the interpretative range so needed for this one to come across.

The performances are all first-rate. Eleanor Cory shows herself a composer of expressive smarts, dash and lyrical modernism, indeed a first-rank post-high modernist that has mastered a divergent harmonic-melodic way that covers much ground with a naturally assimilative yet individual approach that sounds effortless though of course a good deal of work has gone into these pieces.

Some chamber gems are here for you to appreciate. They hold together well with repeated listens and give us a stance that has a unified authenticity and a stylistic flourish that makes Cory a living modernist of high caliber. This is well worth your time!

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