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Friday, November 29, 2019

Villa-Lobos, Guitar Concerto, Harmonica Concerto, Chamber Works

Naxos continues its (so far) vital "Music of Brazil" series with a very attractive volume of relatively under-recorded Villa-Lobos works, including the "Guitar Concerto," the "Harmonica Concerto" and several chamber pieces (Naxos 8.574018).  Proceedings are nicely forwarded by Manuel Barrueco on guitar, Jose Staneck on harmonica, the OSESP Ensemble and the Sao Paulo Symphony Orchestra under Giancarlo Guerrero.

Why I have not known much until now the "Concerto for Guitar and Small Orchestra" (1951) is beyond me. It is his last guitar work, written for Segovia and it has a diatonic power and thrust along with a special lyricism that makes it a must-hear, especially if you already love Villa-Lobos as I do.

The "Concerto for Harmonica" (1955) is somewhat more rarified, and perhaps more understandably less performed because of the chromatic harmonica part that demands a virtuosity which is not so often available out there? It too is filled with extremely beautiful music, typically ravishing late Villa-Lobos.

The two chamber works are gems, dashingly charming works. The brief "Sexteto Mystical" (1917) benefits from Villa-Lobos' deft handling of a somewhat exotic instrumentation of flute, oboe, alto saxophone, guitar, celesta and harp. "Quinteto Instrumental" (1957) is a bit more conventionally instrumented  with flute, harp, violin, viola and cello, yet the brilliant sonics and lyrical outpourings mark this as one of his most charming Brazilianesque diatonic effusions. It certainly deserves a wider hearing and the OSESP Ensemble give us a version that sparkles. Soaring!

In short this is most lovely Villa-Lobos magnificently performed. Everyone should hear this if they can. Kudos!

Thursday, November 28, 2019

Robert Groslot, Concertos for Piano, Cello and Harp, Brussels Philharmonic, Robert Groslot

The concerted work is alive and well on the contemporary music scene. Perhaps that is in part due to how the kernel of the form is simple--a showcase for a particular instrument, instruments and/or orchestra, and perhaps at least a little etude-like demand on the soloist(s), though that does not always hold true.

We get a good gauge of the health of the form with a recent release of Concertos for Piano, Cello and Harp (Naxos 8.579057) by Robert Groslot (b. 1951).. The three concertos were written between 2010-2011; the Cello and Harp Concertos enjoy World Premiere Recordings here. Each work has a commanding solo part of some difficulty yet the orchestra assumes a critical role in the thematic-structural unfolding as would be expected.

Performances are first-rate, with fine results from pianist Jan Michiels, cellist Ilia Yourivitch Laporev and harpist Eline Groslot along with the Brussels Philharmonic under the composer.

The music is in a Middle Modernism mode, which is to say that there is no mistaking melodies or harmonies as coming out of Romanticism, and there is attention to form and overall unfolding somewhere in a lineage from Bartok and the less rigorously serial Dodecaphonists--abstract but not radically so, in other words.

Groslot has written a score of concertos to date, for some 18 or so instruments plus orchestra. This album is a second in a series of such for Naxos. I have not had the pleasure with the first, but this volume I do find quite absorbing and substantial.

The liners talk of his intuitive yet logical approach, based on the overtone series, his influences from the 12-tone school, without necessarily utilizing tone rows, although that can also be the case.

Each of the three works are distinguished and well worth hearing and even savoring. Groslot's inventive powers are high so that one does not have a deja vu feeling listening. Beyond that you should turn to the music itself and I definitely recommend you do.

Wednesday, November 27, 2019

Concurrence, Iceland Symphony Orchestra, Daniel Bjarnason, Music of Thorvaldsdottir, Tomasson, Sigfusdottir, Palsson

Daniel Bjarnason and the Icelandic Symphony Orchestra embark on a second journey, a second volume of Contemporary Modern orchestral music with Concurrence (Sono Luminus DSL-92237 CD & multichannel Blue-ray). (See January 2, 2018 review here for the first volume, Recurrence.)

The four works on the program have a kind of consistent style set in common, what one might call High Modern Ambient. It consists of "Metacosmos" by Anna Thorvaldsdottir, "Piano Concerto No. 2" by Haukur Tomasson, "Oceans" by Maria Huld Markan Sigfusdottir, and "Quake" by Pall Ragnar Palsson.

Orchestral sound color is the order of the day with sprawling sound landscapes that in the listening experience meld together as a continuous exploration. Yet each holds together as a unique entity on closer listening. Steve Smith in the liners points to the subgrouping of "Oceans" and "Metacosmos" as more than Soundscapes depicting in oblique ways the natural world of Iceland, but too a human concern with the binding of fellow humans of society, most specifically in "Metacosmos," and perhaps the human heartbeat?

The "Piano Concerto" and "Quake" group roughly together as both concerted works, the piano as "first among equals" in the former, the cello as a bit more independent in the latter.

The excellent performances and sound engineering on this program heighten the feeling of being in a new zone of Modernism today, a kind of tonality that generally has a great deal of sustain and torque and somewhat less obvious periodicity than the Minimalism we have heard in the last few decades, generally speaking. The "Piano Concerto" is the major exception to that in the way it chirrups and pulsates in its own way.

It seems like breakthrough music to me. But you listen and decide for yourself. It is a valuable addition to New Music today, I warrant that. Very recommended.

Tuesday, November 26, 2019

Euclid Quartet, American Quartets, Antonin Dvorak, Wynton Marsalis

The Euclid Quartet come through with a nicely played concept album, American Quartets (Afinat AR1701) which features Dvorak's Quartet No. 12 "American" and Wynton Marsalis' Quartet No. 1 "At the Octoroon Balls." It is a smart pairing and one to set off both works in  a new context.

The Dvorak Quartet is of course increasingly acclaimed along with the "New World Symphony" as a brilliant Bohemian's take on US vernacular music (including Afro-American of course) as part of his US visit in the later 1800s (1893). The Euclid Quartet play it with great panache and chutspah in one of the most dramatically superior readings I've heard. Yes!

Wynton Marsalis' 1995 quartet "At the Octoroon Balls" centers around the 19th century New Orleans institution that brought lighter-hued Afro-American women together with prospective, generally well-off white suitors for what were common-law marriages. All that helped create and maintain a Creole strain in NOLA life which was to have great impact on the culture and social makeup of the city.

It is a work that in a way follows Duke Ellington in his manner of amalgamating a Jazz-Classical nexus on the works meant to be a little more on the Classical side than was usual for him. That is, there is a way of inserting pronounced Jazz-Folk roots so to say with Classical syntax and ensembles and less or none of course of the improvisational mode.

Yet for all that Wynton's sophisticated originality holds forth with seven rootsy movements that play in part on the heightened Black-White cultural tensions and pronounced societal ambiguities of these Creole institutions. So musical  intertwinings of the two worlds occur in interestingly complex ways.

The Euclid Quartet gives it a great flourish and a most sensitive reading here. Bravo! This is a rather major piece of music that may be overlooked in the overall Marsalis canonization efforts that once were central to Jazz discourse but perhaps now are more healthily intertwined in the overall discussion of the later period of Jazz? No matter, the point is the music is quite rewarding and that's the main reason to want to listen and appreciate a work, though other dimensions can be important too of course.

So all told this is a most attractive offering that should stimulate you regardless of your particular musical background. Well done!

Monday, November 25, 2019

Coriun Aharonian, Una Carta, Ensemble Adventure, SWF-Sinfonieorchester Baden-Baden, Zoltan Pesko

Composer Corun Aharonian (1940-2017) was of Armenian descent and lived and worked in Urugway to create a music born of a political dimension--his life was dedicated in resistance to fascist dictatorship. The result is a music more mestizo-conjoined than single-stranded identity-wise, a ritual unfolding of blocks of sometimes austere motifs that ritually repeat without conjuring danceful sequences. We hear a cross section of some nine of his works on Una Carta (Wergo 7374-2).

The first eight are chamber works performed by Ensemble Adventure; the final work "Mestizo" is for orchestra and features SWF-Sinfonieorchester Baden-Baden. Zoltan Pesko conducts. Each work assembles a universe of sounds that play themselves out in High Modernist cragginess yet often too includes one or more memorable melodic motives, at times in a vernacular of his life-locale, only abstracted, that contrasts with one or more different utterances of sound in dynamic interaction. The effect is original, modular, sculpturesque.

The orchestral "Mestizo" forms the climax of the program--both extraordinarily economic in the playing out of means of expression yet contentful in its linearity. It sums up what the first eight are about with a more spectacular palette of sound colors.

Repeated hearings reconstruct the sounds into striking semblances, as an unusual spoken phrase might gain meaning through rehearing.

Performances and sound are first-rate. Definitely recommended as another way to make New Music, an original, generally unheralded voice.

Friday, November 22, 2019

Sara Stowe, Ogloudoglou, Vocal Masterpieces of the Experimental Generation 1960-1990

The art of High Modern vocals is special and very demanding. Soprano Sara Stowe shows us how to meet the challenge and excel on her anthology album Ogloudoglou: Vocal Masterpieces of the Experimental Generation 1960-1990 (Metier msv 28593).

Sara performs for us some 11 Avant Garde vocal works, four by Giancinto Scelsi plus a representative work each by John Cage, Sylvano Bussotti, Luciano Berio, Mauricio Kagel, Luigi Nono, Niccolo Castiglioni and Morton Feldman. In other words she covers a good cross-section of important voices of the later High Modernist generation and. most importantly, she follows all performance instructions and aesthetic demands for a result which wears well and does not seem at all contrived, which some vocal music can from this period if not done with heartfelt sincerity.

There is a fundamental musicality to all Ms. Stowe undertakes so that her readings do not evoke that "fight or flight" "fire"-yelling-in-a-crowded theatre equivalent. I've suffered through some such readings in the past but very happily Ms. Stowe is a true artist and so each realization convinces and captivates.

A high point of the program occurs about 3/4 of the way through when we encounter Kagel's "Recitativo for singing harpsichordist" followed by Nono's 15 minute "La Fabbrico Illuminata for voice and tape" both continuing a breaking up of a string of solo vocal pieces that are ingenious for sheer possibility and put Ms. Stowe through some challenging performance demands. Scelsi's title work makes the initial break from solo vocal works and calls for percussion and voice, and the program ending "CKCK" by same for mandolin and voice. The Cage and Berio works are essential fare as well.

But truly it is the total sequence after a number of listens that impresses. What a wonderfully creative period was the late High Modern age and what a fine job Sara does in presenting it to us. There can be traces of vernacular folk, a relation to a classical vocal past, chant, textual orientations, sound poetry, a bracketing of everyday vocal outpourings,  and exercises in sculpting through the voice. The only rule is to be daring when possible and overturn shibboleths when plausible? Yes, I think so. Every experiment implicitly tries to circumvent the expected surely. That was a mark of the times.

This may not be for everybody since you must have an open mind to appreciate it. Those who listen with a marked receptivity are in for a real treat! Bravo! Stowe is masterful! An age is captured nicely.

Thursday, November 21, 2019

Berlioz, Messe Solennelle, Le Concert Spirituel, Herve Niquet

My LP set of Berlioz's Messe Solennelle was from the first days of 33 rpm albums, on Cetra Records. I forgot who was on it, but it had a cavernous sound that gave you a very "big picture" yet then obscured some of the sound staging details. It gave me a good look at a masterful work that reminded me just how original Berlioz always managed to be regardless of the project at hand. It was not perfect. It is long gone so I have done without the music for a time.

These many years later I no longer have most of my vinyl (or slate) anymore and so when a new version with Herve Niquet conducting Le Concert Spirituel presented itself (Alpha Classics 564) I gladly availed myself of the chance. Not surprisingly it of course has the detailed soundstaging you expect today, with a natural ambiance and closer miking combined to get a good-location-in-the-house, catbird's seat take on the music and its highly dramatic ark of presentation. No other Mass sounds quite like this one and the detailed sonics and high-level performances we hear on this version reminds us how good all that can be with the right circumstances. This is such a one.

Praise is due for the fine performances of soprano Adriana Gonzalez, tenor Julien Behr and bass Andreas Wolf, all with a heroic demeanor that seems just right for this masterwork. The choir and orchestra sound perfectly matched and attuned to the special requirements of this music. It is neither too much nor too little, which means it neither throttles the music nor does it shake down the house, so to say. And that to my mind is an excellent reading for our "Modern" world..

It reminds us that the best Berlioz is so very French and so originally outside of the Beethoven Romantic Germanic orbit to stand on its own. Niquet works hard to ensure that the Berlioz vision rings out and rings true. There are no doubt others out there that may equal this recording for consistency and inspiration, but I must say that after quite a few listens I am satisfied that Niquet gets it all quite right and keeps it all very much alive.

Is Berlioz to Beethoven as Konitz was to Bird? Something to ponder.

Highly and gladly recommended as an essential.

Wednesday, November 20, 2019

The Outstretched Hand, New Choral Music by Lisa Bielawa, Colin Jacobsen, Aaron Jay Kernis. San Francisco Girls Chorus, The Knights

New US-American Music in World Premiere Recordings is the order of the day, starring the San Francisco Girls Chorus with the Trinity Youth Chorus and the chamber orchestra known as The Knights, all on the recent album My Outstretched Hand (Supertrain Records STR014). The works concerned are "My Outstretched Hand" by Lisa Bielawa, "Remembering the Sea--Souvenir de la Mer" by Aaron Jay Kernis, and "If I Were Not Me" by Colin Jacobsen.

Performances are enthusiastic and heartful, with youthfulness winning the day. All is conducted with sureness and sensitivity by Eric Jacobsen. The project was spearheaded by SFGC Artistic Director Valerie Sainte-Agathe. Lisa Bielawa (former SFGC Artistic Director) produced the album. Mention should also be made of Colin and Eric Jacobsen as the Artistic Directors of the Knights and Melissa Attebury as Associate Director of Music for Trinity Wall Street, the home of the Trinity Youth Chorus among other things of course.

All that having been said, what of the music? It is pronouncedly expression-oriented, tonal, lyrical and imaginative, with decidedly more of an emphasis on the "Post-" world than on vestiges of Romanticism. It's all about unabashed singing out, tone-weaving, feeling-life-exploring, the promise of youth captured in voice and instrumental musical combinations of real charm. The artists and their directors, the composers are to be congratulated in creating some of the most evocative music of the new releases this fall season. The glow of youth permeates all of this. Nicely done. It is a freshening. Perhaps it is a musical equivalent to "plain air" visual art? In its own way.

Tuesday, November 19, 2019

Beethoven, Piano Concertos Nos. 3 & 4, Transcriptions for Piano and String Quartet, Hanna Shybayeva, Utrecht String Quartet, Luis Cabrera

Beethoven's Piano Concertos Nos. 3 & 4 have long been some of my favorites in the literature. There is so much going on thematically. So I was glad to discover that there were 19th century transcriptions of the works by one Vinzenz Lachner for piano, string quartet and double bass (Naxos 8.551400). The new Naxos recording of these pairings-down features to good results pianist Hanna Shybayeva, the Utrecht String Quartet and double bassist Luis Cabrera.

There quite naturally is a shift in sensibility from the dramatic splendor of piano and orchestra to the intimacy of piano and string quartet-quintet, that perhaps the more expressively lyrical moments come out more personalized as it were and the sublime forte tuttis have a bit less thickness and color and a bit more sonic simplicity and directness.

That of course does not mean these versions are to replace the orchestral ones for good and all. But they do give you a chance to hear the music in a different light, to pick up on things that you might not have before, or at least not in this way. So you can later go back to the orchestral versions and hear then with fresh ears perhaps. A good transcription can re-situate things in that way I think.

The performances are very good with Ms. Shybayeva sounding grand and impassioned on the piano, the Utrecht String Quartet and Maestro Cabrera sounding full and regal, detailed yet paired down as you would expect. It takes a bit of getting used to this instrumentation but after a few listens it starts to fit right in with the Piano Trios and etc. as true chamber music, at least as long as we listen to this version. With the reduction of strings too comes the sort of brio that only a smaller ensemble tends to realize, that in the relevant tutti passages. So that is another aspect that makes this an attractive offering.

It is a rewarding and even fun recording. It is of course not made to replace your favorite orchestral version(s) but as a welcome palate cleanser. For that I recommend this one.

Monday, November 18, 2019

The Deeper the Blue... Music by Vaughan Williams, Hesketh, Dutilleux, Ravel, Britten Sinfonia, Janet Sung, Simon Callaghan. Jac van Steen

Violinist Janet Sung, pianist Simon Callaghan, and the Britten Sinfonia under Jac van Steen give us fine readings of five distinctive works that hang together well and have definite memorability. This all on the recent album The Deeper the Blue... (Somm Recordings SOMMCD 275).

Kenneth Hasketh (1968-) has the more High Modernist work of the five in "Inscription Transformation," which sounds well in this First Recording and gives some contrast to the four other works, all of which have a kind of vernacular quality to them and great individual charm, which "Inscription" has as well (charm) but in a bit more rugged a sense.

Vaughan Williams' "Concerto for Violin and String Orchestra" has a pronounced, patented VW folk tang and clearly rings out in this version so well that it reminds me all over again of how attractive a short work this one is!

Henri Dutileux's "Au gre des ondes" fares quite well in this arrangement for chamber orchestra by Hasketh. The melodic memorability grows on one and its enthusiastic performance by the Britten Sinfonia brings a smile to me as I hear it repeatedly. It is a first recording and well it is so.

Ravel's "Tzigane" is filled with exotic tonality and a beautiful interplay between violin and orchestra which Sung excels at and the orchestra does much to forward.

Finally Ravel's "Sonata for Violin and Piano" as played here by Sung and Callaghan reminds us how appealing and adventuresome this work in fact is. A high point is the middle "Blues" movement, which I must say nearly outdoes Gershwin for its proto-Third-Stream quality.

In the end one comes away refreshed, invigorated and fully enveloped in music we should know better. That Sung, Callaghan and the Britten Sinfonia under van Steen underscore the excitement and captivating qualities of these works makes this a very excellent foray into some lesser known but worthy 20th century gems and a High Modernist composer worthy of discovery. Huzzah! Viva Janet Sung!

Friday, November 15, 2019

Donnacha Dennehy, The Hunger, Alarm will Sound, Alan Pierson, Katherine Manley, Iarla O Lionaird

Composer Donnacha Dennehy gives us an undoubted masterwork in The Hunger (Nonesuch 075597925159), five harrowing vignettes on the Irish Potato Famine of the 19th Century (1845-52), which claimed a million from starvation and related disease, and another million through exodus and diaspora.

Alan Pierson deftly directs Alarm will Sound. Katherine Manley and Iarla O Lionaird are quite incredible as vocalists, incorporating a folk element (especially Lionaird's "old-style" vocal part) into the Gaelic-Realist lyricism and heartrendingly stark poetics.

The music has a sort of Post-Minimal flavor which involves both a contemplative element and churning figurations almost fiddle-like yet original in themselves. The main "narrative thread" (quoting liners) comes from Asenath Nicholson's Annals of the Famine in Ireland, published in New York in 1851, quoting victims of the debacle, most notably Maire Ni Dhroma. In the present day situation we also have singer Citi Ni Ghallachoir contributing moving words on the death of a child. The five movements/interconnected vignettes starkly draw out a story line with dimensions of the disaster both harrowingly experiential and tragic.

This is the concert version of the work. There is also one for the stage. It is masterful, moving, phenomenal and landmark. It is tonal and very vernacular so to speak, yet it is not about quoting folk material and in the end establishes musical parameters that speak in very original ways, at times chant-like and ever earthy..

Words seem inadequate to convey the power of this work, its originality, its impact. One must experience it firsthand by listening.

I strongly recommend this one for a handle on our most Modern New Music output today, for a work that seems to me destined to influence us all and most certainly move us in the process.

Thursday, November 14, 2019

Les Percussions de Strasbourg, Rains

Les Percussions de Strasbourg is one of the longest lived (founded 1962) and greatest percussion ensembles on the planet. They are alive and very much well, as their latest release Rains (Percussions de Strasbourg PDS119) attests.

We are treated to four compositions. Three do not stint on unpitched percussion (read "Drums") and all carry forward the High Modern "tradition" with plenty of psychic whollop. The Takemitsu is more pitched-instrument oriented (see description below). All are very worth hearing and done to a turn.

On  the program are "Regentanz" by Toshio Hosokawa (1955-), "Sange" by Malika Kishino (1971-), "Hierophonie V" by Yoshihisa Taira (1937-2005) and "Rain Tree" by Toru Takemitsu (1930-1996). So one of the first things one notices is that all four are by Japanese composers. Happily they sound intricately which perhaps Japanese percussion works tend to do? They are detailed and involved, all four of them one could say. Nothing is Minimalist per se; all are microscopically active down to fine details, or at least that is how they sound to me. That suits my ears, certainly. There is an art of gesture also--like martial arts perhaps the style of doing is important, not just the "done." Listen to "Hierophonie V" especially for that but it never disappears so much as it is subtle at times.

Listen too to Takemitsu's "Rain Tree" for the uncanny, mostly quiet detail of multiple pitched percussions gathered together to say something weathered and profound. There is a good deal more than eaves drip here but perhaps you might hear a bit of that too. As Minh-Tam Nyugen says of the title Rains, we are "dancing with the rains in order to conjure, just for a moment, what we thought invisible."

Poetic percussion? Very much a yes. Outstanding music and performances. Highly recommended.

Wednesday, November 13, 2019

Fernando Sor, The 19th Century Guitar, Gianluigi Giglio

Farnando Sor (1778-1839)  as one of the fathers of modern classical guitar deserves a spot on our shelf if we prize such things. Here is your chance with a nice volume devoted solely to his solo music, The Nineteenth Century Guitar (SOMM CD 0604) featuring Gianluigi Giglio on a vintage 1834 Rene Lacote, Paris.

I find the performances to be beautifully engaging with a kind of piquancy and near-lutenesque tone that comes out of the smaller bodied, silk and cat-gut stringed guitar made in the era. The strings sing out without a pronounced vibrato (of course) and a sweetness that an excellent guitarist can and does produce from the sort of earthy eloquence that a Sor writes for the instrument. You might say that the early guitar is to the lute as the early pianoforte is to the harpsichord? Yes, though a discussion of this would take us further afield than is desirable this morning. If you listen you will see what I mean, I think. There are sonic similarities, subtle but there?

I must say I do love it to have a single composer featured on a program like this, so that his (or her) particularities come through without distraction.

And so we get Sor and only Sor. And that is all we could ask for. There is his own version of variations on "Les folies d'Espagne" plus other variations with "Introduction and Variations on 'Malbrough s'en va-ten guerre,'" (which many of us English speakers will recognize as nearly identical to "For He's A Jolly Good Fellow" or "The Bear Went Over the Mountain,"), and finally one on a theme of Mozart's (op.9).

Then there is the "Easy Fantasy in A minor," the two movement "Elegiac Fantasy in E minor,' all-in all the whole or a piece or two from eight opus numbers covering 1822-1836, plenty to savor and sounding quite well thanks to Maestro Giglio, the beautiful old guitar and the recording folks who captured it all.

It is pure fresh air and a much welcome break from the more intensive ambitions of New Music that I so love but on occasion must give pause to, pace myself ! Highly recommended this for reasons that need no further explanation. It is very good.

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.