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Monday, September 19, 2016

Barney Childs, Heaven to Clear When Day Did Close

Barney Childs (1926-2000) may not be a name at the tip of your tongue when you think of modern American composers. Yet the collection of chamber works entitled Heaven to Clear When Day Did Close (New World 80779-2) gives us a finely etched portrait of some essential Childs music, sharply defined, clean-lined, with a refreshing clarity.

The works cover a wide span of his output, from 1951 to 1981. We hear works for solo piano, clarinet, two clarinets, solo flute, contrabass and clarinet, bass drum and a work for an "unspecified combination of five wind, string, percussion and/or voice" (here flute/piccolo, bass clarinet/bassoon, contrabass, percussion and piano).

A pupil of Carlos Chavez, Aaron Copland and Elliot Carter, his music draws upon modern classical traditions, and open form works owing something to John Cage. Improvisation and aleatory forms figure into much of his music but overall there is a readily communicating high modern classical clarity to these chamber works.

The performers are exemplary, the music striking and the results quite memorable. This release offers a nicely paced retrospective of his chamber works. I recommend it highly.

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