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Tuesday, March 23, 2021

Sustain, Vol. 2: Solo Piano and Chamber Works, A Modern Anthology

The more disparate and numerous the musical items an anthology contains, the harder it is to write about it in some ways. Yet if the music speaks one must cast some light on it all. The Navona label periodically produces anthologies of new Modern music in various genres and with various configurations, various themes. Here today is such a one and it qualifies as something nicely adding to our appreciation of the Contemporary, so I am glad to write about it.

So then here is one that has gotten my attention. It is Sustain, Vol. 2: Solo Piano and Chamber Works (Navona NV6345). All the music tends to be in the realm of the Modern, the Tonal, the rather Neo-Classical often enough, sometimes with a slight touch of Neo-Romanticism but ever veering off on original paths, productive tangents in the miniaturist mode.

Within the totality the objective of this program is to present "piano works in solo, duo and trio settings." So we get nine works for solo piano, one for violin and piano, one for tenor sax and piano and a trio for violin, cello and piano. The ever passing parade of subtly singular works makes for fascinating listening. 

To single out a few solo piano pieces that stay in the mind, even if they all do, there is the bluesy, jazz inflected strength of Sarah Wallin-Huff's "The Reluctant Carnie," and John A. Carollo's articulate, explosively animated and weighty "Piano Etude No. 6," Kenneth Kuhn's "Of What Might Have Been" for violin and piano  has a sharply defined Neo-Classical verve and Jim Puckett's "Nocturne" for tenor sax and piano gives is a reflective lyricism that stands up and demands to be heard. The finale is "Bewildered Soliloquies," a high voltage trio by Santiago Kodela. 

It all reminds us that we live in a world where the music keeps springing forth no matter now the world fares otherwise.

So too we get a wealth of other possibilities of a very worthy sort on the additional solo piano works by the likes of Karen A. Tarlow, Chen-Hsin Su, John Craven, Gordon Monahan, Bill Sherril, plus two by Ron Nagorcka.

Edgard Varese once famously exclaimed that "the present-day composer refuses to die!" This anthology is proof, if you need any, that it still is very much the case. There is much to explore here. Any piano music acolyte will find this a boon I am of little doubt. Kudos.

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