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Tuesday, October 8, 2019

Munir N. Beken, A Turk in America, ISSA Sonus Ensemble

Today, an adventure with A Turk in America (N/S R 1067). It is all about the composer Munir N. Belkin, his music, and indirectly or otherwise his venture forth in the "New World." The ISSA Sonus Ensemble do the chamber performance honors (with the composer on ud) and it is an excellent thing. Six compositions form the program.

The music has traces of traditional Turkish music at times, other times it is New Music Modernism front and center in intriguing ways, tonal yet sharply hewn, nothing sentimental per se,  and it sometimes has a ragged beauty like craggy outcroppings in the Rockies, though there is surely nothing haphazard about these works.

"Holes in the Japanese Lamp" is the craggier perhaps, some wonderful music for String Trio. The "Sonata for Piano" is a craggy winner, with a good deal of Neo-Classical-Modern playfulness that stands out as exceptional.

"Pottery Shards" sports piano, flute, and recalls a walk with the composer's brother where they came upon an oddly colored field which turned out to contain numerous painted pottery shards. The music has a kind of reflective aspect, recalling the scene evocatively.

"Memories of a Shoehorn" includes the stringed ud (very well played) and shines forth in two movements. It is one of the more Turkish influenced works here, not to mention highly contrapuntal at times, and finely hewn it is. Marvelous.

The title work concludes the program.  It is a full glimpse of the thematically quirky attractiveness of the composer, with a vibrant clarinet part that sounds Turkish in a setting that is lively and forward in the best ways. Moods shift--this is no one dimensional experience after all. Bravo. And then a vocal line breaks in that is VERY Turkish and on from there--so we go in a happy place. Brilliant!

And so it goes--a fun and smart set of works like no others and the ensemble sounds great. For all who seek synergy... Here is some lovely synergy indeed! Contemporary chamber music at its most adventuresome, this is! Very recommended.

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