Search This Blog

Tuesday, November 12, 2019

Luka Sulic, The Four Seasons, Antonio Vivaldi, Archi dell'academia di Santa Cecilia

Cello virtuosi Luka Sulic comes front and center for his first solo recording in this "new in the old" venture, a rearrangement of Vivaldi's Four Seasons (Sony Classical I0075986552) as a showcase for solo cello and the Archi dell'accademia di Santi Cecilia.

Luka is best know as a member of 2Cellos. Here he tops himself with a highly dynamic Seasons that sports at times some breathtaking sections taken at a maddening clip, exhilaratingly so. Baroque-fast is nothing new. Think of Glenn Gould's speedy Bach for piano. The group Baroque horserace is not entirely common though. Some Messiah's (notably one recently covered in last few years on these pages. Look it up.) can rock us, and what is wrong with that? I cannot say I do not like this exciting take on an old duffer of a popular favorite. Anything to breathe some life into it all.

And new life it surely takes on. Sulic did the re-arranging and it works in all ways, not least of which happens in the Cello Department. If you resist such rethinkings on purist lines, all well and good for you. I found myself responding without hesitation once I set aside my initial resistance to disturbing the pantheon. The cello playing is impressive as are the strings of St. Cecilia. It is all rather a joy to hear.


Monday, November 11, 2019

Duo Kalysta, Origins, Plays Debussy, Schafer, Morlock, Jolivet

Canadian Duo Kalysta comprises the flute of Lara Deutsch and the harp of Emily Belvedere. They show beauty and stature on their inaugural album Origins (Leaf Music LM226), where four works come together well and we are transported accordingly.

The harp and flute fall naturally into Impressionist expressions so it is no accident that the program begins with Debussy's "Prelude a l'apres-midi d'un faune," which thrives in a duet arrangement by Judy Loman, edits by Nora Schulman. It is incumbent on the harp to articulate the entire orchestral texture but then with the sensuous quality of Ms. Belvedere's performance we hardly miss a note. Ms. Deutsch's warming flute articulations are a revelation. Marvelous.

In my tenure as an undergrad back so long ago now I was happily assigned The Tuning of the World by R. Murray Schafer--I most enthusiastically recommend you read it for a view of the sound universe around us. So it was only natural that I followed into his compositional output later on and I have been again happy in that. His String Quartets are a wonder (reviewed some time ago here. Look it up.) and now we have the three movement "Trio" (adding the viola of Marina Thibeault) "for Flute, Viola and Harp." It is a bit more Impressionistic than we might ordinarily hear from Schafer but then it is ravishing and deep so who would object? The music falls in with Schafer's idea of soundscaping, but even if you did not know that the music speaks with a flair and a somewhat ecstatic depth.

Jocelym Morlock (b. 1969) represents a somewhat younger Canadian compositional branch. "Vespertine" is in scalular relief and evokes continually. The meditative harp sets up a sonic field that the flute comments reflectively upon in the movement "Twilight." "Verdegris" counters with more consistent movement in the harp and limber flute counterparts. Lovely this is.

Andre Jolivet (1905-1974)  and his "Chant de Linos" for quintet brings back Thibeault's viola plus violin (Alexander Read) and cello (Carmen Bruno) for chamber music of some breadth and girth. The flute part is rather acrobatic at times and very well played.  It is a fitting and decisive end to an enlivening and absorbing program.

This is is music to savor, particularly if you are attracted to the flute-harp nexus like me. Bravo. Duo Kalysta and friends breathe life into these works with a joy and care that ring true.

Friday, November 8, 2019

London Myriad, Four, Music of Bozza, Bridge, Francaix, Bennett, Ibert, Arrieu

Woodwind Quartet music is the order of the day today, with the sparklingly refreshing ensemble London Myriad and their CD Four (Metier msv 28587). They beguile our ears with six 20th century works, all good to hear and well played.

The instrumentation is flute, clarinet, oboe and bassoon. The works, all six of them, are as follows: Eugene Bozza (1905-1991) "Trois pieces pour une musique de nuit," Frank Bridge (1879-1941) "Divertimenti," Jean Francaix (1912-1997) "Quatuor," Richard Rodney Bennett (1936-2012) "Travel Notes 2," Jacques Ibert (1890-1962) "Deux Movements - MCMXXII," Claude Arrieu (1903-1990) "Suite en Quatre," the latter a world premier recording.

The music runs together substantially so that a puckish demeanor with a modern tang alternates with expressively lyrical passages. London Myriad put the scores through their paces nearly ideally and each composer makes excellent use of the instruments in the quartet so in the end we "walk away" smiling.

A second volume will be forthcoming featuring brand new works not yet seen in the light of day. I look forward. Meanwhile this is happily recommended. Some beautiful sounds on this one. The Frank Bridge is worth the admission alone to my mind.

Thursday, November 7, 2019

Ralph Vaughan Williams, The Song of Love

The art songs of Ralph Vaughan Williams? Albion and the Vaughan Williams Society continue their important work with a volume of Vaughan Williams largely early period songs (1897-1934) on the album The Song of Love (Albion ALBCD037). There we have quite respectable and even inspired performances from mezzo-soprano Kitty Whately, baritone Roderick Williams and pianist William Vann.

World Premier recordings on this album include the first female recording of the cycle "The House of Life" and then 16 premiere song waxings. At the risk of tedium, the program in its entirety consists of six songs from Rossetti's "The House of Life" (1903-04), "Three Old German Songs" (1902), "To Daffodils" (Gunby Hall Setting c. 1903), "French Songs" (4) (1903-04), "Bonaparty" (1908), "The Willow Song" (1897), "Three Songs from Shakespeare" (1925), "The Spanish Ladies" (1912), "The Turtle Dove" (1919-1934), "Two Poems by Seamus O'Sullivan" (1925), and "Duets" (2) (1903).

The songs epitomize Vaughan Williams' balance between form and expression, his love of folk themes, and his inventive. ever-fresh outlook on perhaps the most fickle of the muses. We who know his choral and vocal music at large should not be surprised to find his abilities on equally happy display for the songs presented here.

Any lovers of Vaughan Williams will be well served by this program, as will those Anglophiles and connoisseurs of the Modern Art Song. Kudos to all involved.

Wednesday, November 6, 2019

Third Coast Percussion, Devonte Hynes, Fields

Third Coast Percussion grabs onto the Ambient Minimalism of the music of composer Devonte Hynes on the recent album Fields (Cedille CDR 90000 192), which creates universes of sound primarily out of mallet interlockings and ambient electronics. If New Music could remind you of some album track in Prog Rock, this could qualify for its cosmicality and spacey directedness.

Devonte Hynes gives to us on this program the 11 movement "For all Its Fury," plus "Perfectly Voiceless" and "There was Nothing."

Devonte is best known for acclaimed singing-songwriting and pop production forays (primarily as Blood Orange) but he started out in Classical Music realms. The music at hand gives us work highly engaged with classicism as we understand it today.

The music we hear on the program came about when Third Coast was seeking to create an evening of New Music for the Hubbard Street Dance Chicago troupe. Devonte ultimately came on board and through a series of interactions--Hynes putting together composed audio on a Digital Workstation accompanied by scores, Third Coast transforming that music into their orbit via arranging and reorchestrating it all for the quartet's instruments, their proclivities and the dance troupe's considerations, and on from there. Some of Dev's synth-pad electronics work and audio transformational feel was I believe retained or adapted so that the result is fully collaborative in the best ways--and for that constitutes a sort of convergence of stylistic aspects we do not ordinarily see together in a single musical context.

The title Fields alludes to Dev's view of the music as a series of open fields where the Hubbard Street dancers, Third Coast Percussion and Dev could freely interact. The music surely reflects such open horizons in the most appealing ways. This is New Music for people who may not much like New Music, or for those unfamiliar with such things. It is primarily good music beyond category.

I fully recommend this one for all progressive folks, for those who do not mind or even welcome a bit of  groove and New Music fans who are open to the new in whatever form our artists see fit, regardless of preconceptions. Minimalists will also take heart I suspect. For this is very good indeed.

Tuesday, November 5, 2019

Weinberg, Flute Concertos Nos. 1 and 2, etc., Claudia Stein, Szczecin Philharmonic Orchestra, David Robert Coleman

As we become more and more familiar with the considerable collated opus of Weinberg's music his stature grows. Is he up there with Prokofiev and Shostakovich? Well, he is his own muse and impressive, very impressive. The new release of his Flute Concertos Nos. 1 and 2 (Naxos 8.573931) (1963, 1987) is a case in point. The title works, the "12 Pieces for Flute and Orchestra" (1947, arr. 1983), and the "5 Pieces for Flute and Piano" (1947) all seem and feel substantial.

Flautist Claudia Stein gives us ravishing tone and eloquent delivery for all of this. Conductor David Robert Coleman sends the Szczecin Philharmonic Orchestra through the maze of execution with a sure-handedness to which they respond in kind, and pianist Elisavata Blumina does her part with thoughtful grace.

The music is in earnest both as flute showcase and as MUSIC and in the process there is triumph to be heard. Far from there being a dropping off, this album contains further gems polished and sparkling. In the process we get the "Complete Works for Flute" as I gather from the liners. Good-o.

All the music was initially conceived by Weinberg for  flute virtuoso Alexander Korneyev and the combination of singing flute part and symphonic splendor (as applicable) puts the entire opus collection as of a piece in many ways.

In the end the music and the performances are superior fare and should be of interest to Weinberg fans, modernists, and those attracted to flute showcases of the 20th century. Strongly recommended!

Monday, November 4, 2019

Alexander Moyzes, Dances from Slovakia, Slovak Radio Symphony Orchestra, Ondrej Lenard

Following on the heels of Naxos' release of the ten symphonies of Alexander Moyzes (1906-1984) is this album of Dances from Slovakia (Naxos 8.5554777) and other works addressing in part the composer's (successful) search for a national folk identity. The Slovak Radio Symphony Orchestra (Bratislava) under Ondrej Lenard do a convincing job realizing the scores with local flair and charm--and the audio is first rate.

This is neither rabidly Modern fare nor is it overly Romantic, but instead exemplifies Symphonic Nationalism as one might imagine it in a Slovakian vein. Moyzes we found in the previous symphony series was thoroughly grounded in orchestral writing and the three compositions presented in this follow-up give us another angle on his ways.

"Down the River Vah, Op. 26" (1935/45) is the more depictive and descriptive of the three as the title suggests. It is evocative and exuberant music perhaps better heard than described.

"Dances from Gemer, Op. 51" (1955) and "Pohronic Dances, Op. 43" (1950) burst over with folkloric melody and dance rhythms but too get a full symphonic-orchestral treatment that shows us Moyzes' keen musicality once again.

Both dance suites come in part out of Moyzes' involvement with the Slavic Folk Artistic Ensemble (SL'UK) and their music. The material he wrote for the ensemble finds its way to orchestral-symphonic realms in "Dances from Gemer," which extends, is inspired by and composes anew themes related to traditional folk music from the Gemer Region of Southern Slovakia. A cimbalom is a welcome part of the orchestra for this suite. Timpani and percussion are used effectively in bringing out the lively rhythms. I am glad for that (since I was trained as a classical percussionist among other things). Excitement has a part to play. I like this one quite well!

Similarly "Pohronie Dances" comes out of music originally composed for SL'UK, based on Central Slovakian styles along the Hron River, adapting the "highwayman's dance," "maiden's dance" "woodsmen's dance" and the dance of "merry village people."

We are treated to some fine music here, well played. Anyone with an interest in musical Nationalism in the region will be pleased to have and hear this, but then it should appeal to anyone who would like some lively fare. Recommended.

Friday, November 1, 2019

Daniel Lentz, Ending(s), Twilight String Orchestra, Nicholas Deyoe, Fahad Siadat

If you have been listening to New Music with a capital /N/ for a number of decades chances are you know and appreciate Daniel Lentz. His minimalist works have made an impression and today he keeps on, only the newer music has a "beyond" quality. And so today we consider a new release example, a two-orchestral work program dubbed after one of the works,  Ending(s) (New World 80815-2).

The Twliight String Orchestra under conductor Nicholas Deyoe take care of performances with contemporary expressive clarity and a flourish. The two works are "Continental Divide" (2003) and "Ending(s)" (2018). the latter spotlighting nicely tenor Fahad Siadat.

This is not music in some Minimalist pocket any longer, and in truth Lentz has always been a distinct voice whether in or out of any particular genre, in my experience. By now the music is firmly tonal, less repetitive than perhaps Radically Tonal or rhapsodically Ambient Tonal in a kind of lyric nutshell. Both works hang together so that listening to them in sequence is akin to a single integrated experience.

Midway into the "Ending(s)" work tenor Siadat enters and we commence a nice sort of concluding climactic overdrive, a pastoral-lyrical intensity that affirms a Modern Romantic sensibility. Yet there are complexities that the music itself heard without knowing the background only hints at. To quote the liners, "Who else but Lentz would think to combine two Japanese haiku with a section of the Requiem Mass and a description of how an atom bomb explodes?" Indeed.

The liner notes to the album also detail a stylistic plethora and complexity of biographical experience that interested parties should definitely read. Suffice to say he is not easily pegged.

This later phase of his music makes an effective escape from the rigorous strictures of orthodox Minimalism yet keeps the supercharged nature of expression that marked (and marks)  that form of music at its best.

It is music that stands up well with a lot of listens and it is not unpleasing in the process. New Music with another wrinkle? Here you go. Recommended.