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Tuesday, December 27, 2022
Tuesday, December 20, 2022
Friday, December 9, 2022
Tuesday, December 6, 2022
Right now a new title is getting a long listen on my player, namely the Second Volume of Inviting Worlds (Navona NV644). The Janacek Philharmonic Ostrava do the honors with several conductors sharing the podium. It all sounds right.
The label website talks about the rhythmic dexterity and textural nuance of the modern orchestral possibilities here. Indeed the six examples by six emerging and emergent composers brings six varied and eclectically worthy approaches to Modern Mainstream decidedly worth hearing.
It might be better to name the pieces and composers and set you loose on the hearing, since there to me is no particular meaningful patterning that is obvious on the verbal level, except all are tonal, all seem to provide an expression of music in our times. Well the website copy notes that our times are indeed "dark," and that each piece seeks to grapple with the present and its complexities. There is a slight influence of Sacre at times rhythmically and perhaps some of Varesian periodicity of form and then the lyric melodicisms of Copland, Barber, etc. and other things besides but you should listen for yourself and get the thrust of it all in your own listening experience.
Take a listen to "Hope and a Future" by Lawrence Mumford, "Chasse Noir" by Dinah Bianchi, "When Quiet Comes" by Bruce Reiprich, "Gold Lights in Blue" by William Copper, "Rising Up" by Debra Kaye, and the eight part "Paisano Suite" by Richard E. Brown.
By all means give this a listen. I am going to listen to Volume One now so I will be back I suspect happily with that. Volume Two is easily recommended. You help the new voices by hearing this. They need your attention and patronage.
Wednesday, November 30, 2022
Tuesday, November 29, 2022
What is a holiday except what you make it? I can recall more than one Christmas Season that virtually or nearly stood or fell on the basis of the music I heard that time of year. I am off to a good beginning this season with something I just got in the mail: A Baroque Christmas at Sono Luminus (Sono Luminus DSL-92260), with Felipe Dominguez at the organ. What distinguishes this one (other than the fine playing and sound) is the inviting combination of a few absolute Christmas classics with a treasure trove of lesser-known but vibrantly lively period works.
Wednesday, November 23, 2022
This volume concentrates on some three multi-movement works from 1877 and 1878, namely the "Sechs Stucke" of 1877, the "Drei Clavierstucke in Tantzform" of 1878, and the "Funf Clavierstucke" of 1878.
What sets this music up for us and in the end gives us a kind of endless banquet of musical treats is the continual motion of the music in dance form and further extensions beyond it, so that the perpetual motion suggests a connection to Chopin yet continually takes it further into a personally expressive mode with exceptional inventive brilliance.
As the liners tell us, Moszkowski in his day was almost entirely known for his "Spanish Dances" for piano duet, then his solo piano "Serenata" which opens this volume as the first part of the "Sechs Stucke," op 15. That is a nice way to begin, relatively simple and lyrical. The program then goes on from strength-to-strength, with interpretations that heighten the beauty of the various pieces, plus give us pause to appreciate the charm and winning warmth of it all.
There is no substitute for the direct appreciation of these works by repeated listens. It rewards you with a singing sort of contentment that affirms his continual freshness if we listen without an idea of what we will hear. I do recommend this one heartily. Get it and enjoy the ride!
Miriam K. Smith, Momentum, Cello and Piano by Prokofiev, Stravinsky. Nadia Boulanger, with Sandra Wright Shen, Mini-Review
Wednesday, November 16, 2022
Dana Kaufman, Emily & Sue... An A Cappella Pop Opera Based on the Lives of Emily Dickinson and Susan Huntington Gilbert Dickinson
Tuesday, November 15, 2022
Robert Schumann, Symphonies 1 and 2 (Reorchestrated by Mahler), ORF Vienna Radio Symphony Orchestra, Marin Alsop
By definition we expect a good deal more of the winds and horns than Schumann originally called for. That certainly is the case. Mahler delivers. The full-blown tuttis come off strengthened but understandably it is not as drastic a re-sounding we hear there so much as in the more intimately lyrical and/or developmental passages. There in the latter the new attention to winds and brass has the new prominence you might expect from Mahler, yet too there is a more a Beethovenian presence there than before, which seems only fitting given the time frame of the compositions, the Romantic flourishing that started with Ludwig and then in time fell symphonically to Schumann.
Mahler's reorchestration of Beethoven's Ninth (which was recorded by Steinberg and the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra on a Command LP years ago) has relevance to our listening of the Schumann reorchestrations. Mahler on the Beethoven sounds like Mahler sounding like Beethoven, perhaps even more so than Beethoven sounds like Beethoven, in those uncanny woodwindy moments, in the nobility of the brass, etc. Mahler in the Schumann sounds like Mahler making Schumann sound somewhat Beethovenian, and nicely so. It is informative to hear Mahler's Beethoven's Ninth if you can find it online. It all kind of epitomizes how we think nowadays of the Romantic full orchestra, both that Beethoven and these Schumanns.
My own ears after a number of attentive listens especially has been perking up to the contrast of the Schumann version of No. 1 "Spring" versus the Mahler. I feel decidedly happy about the Mahler version of the 1st, in terms of the real gain in color, the beauty of sculpted wood and brass additions. Not that the Second Symphony under Mahler is any way lesser or not appropriate. Not at all. Yet I'll admit that since I learned the Second through a wonderful recording as conducted by the young firebrand, the young Bernstein in an early triumph for the Music Appreciation label in the '50s, since then it has remained a benchmark for my appreciation of the work, and in those terms I appreciate the Mahler reworking but cannot say it has replaced the Bernstein Schumann in my heart.
But of course as can be the case one needs to appreciate having both orchestrations in a manner that we gain from it all most surely. Bravo, then, for this recording.
If you love the Schumann symphonies this will make you happy. And if you do not love them maybe this will change your mind. Thoroughly recommended.
Wednesday, November 9, 2022
Tuesday, November 8, 2022
Monday, November 7, 2022
Pictures of Light, The Music of William Baines, Duncan Honeybourne, Piano, with Gordon Pullin, Tenor
What we hear in the main (in the first 20 tracks) from Baines is some wonderfully wrought solo piano music that straddles the gap between Late Romantic expressive heights and Early-Modern torrents of somewhat edgy dramatics. So there is some relationship (you might note like I have) with Sorabji, Scriabin, Alkan, Debussy and Ravel, etc. Throughout the nicely performed totality is both an affiliation as I suggest but also a very original and bold brush of beautiful exceptionality, something saddened by the realization of how much more the composer would have been had he lived past the tragically brief, twenty-something-odd years of his actual lifetime.
I can say here without the slightest hesitation that this is a rather indispensable offering, exceptional piano music of its time by one we should now re-remember and rejoice to hear no matter how brief his lifespan, you who value the golden ages of pianism! This is a heretofore unknown but no less welcome addition to what we celebrate. Bravo.
Tuesday, November 1, 2022
Robert Kyr, All-Night Vigil, New Music in Eastern Orthodox Chant Style, Capella Romana, Alexander Lingas
It turns out there is another who works in the style, a composer named Robert Kyr. I am listening to a CD of his new chant influenced sounds for a capella chorus, in a CD appropriately named All Night Vigil (Capella Records Super Audio CD with Stereo and Multi Channel Options CP-426 SACD). Capella Romana take care quite beautifully of the performances under the direction of Alexander Lingas.
The style lives with some sonorous drones, extended sustains, deeply full choral outlays and deeply meditative sobriety and jubilation, plus the welcome thickening of the palette nicely with more modern harmonic densities at times, more than we would hear in the traditional form.
If you approach the music with no particular expectations, and if you are like me, you resonate with the primalities of possibility in archaic and post-archaic tonalities through the ages, well here are some beautiful new examples I suspect you will take to.
So this one is mostly self-selecting. If you think you will like it, then trust your intuitions, if not, not. Bravo for the vocal excellence, the great audio and the finely crafted honing of the Modern in the Archaic.
Wednesday, October 26, 2022
Monday, October 24, 2022
Valentin Silvestrov, Maidan, Kyiv Chamber Choir, Mykola Hobdych, Contemporary Choral Music From the Ukraine
A few years ago I did not really know the Ukraine in itself as an identity, other than some old stamps from my grandfather's collection, a few nice folk choral albums from the earlier LP days and Mussorgsky's "The Great Gate of Kiev!" Now all that has changed due to the tide of events and my coming to know and appreciate some wonderful people from there. Like many over here I follow the tragic wartime unfoldings with concern and dismay. We hail the truly heroic response of those who steadfastly defend their homeland. Slava Ukraini!
And in a timely way we hear a recent release of some deeply carved out a cappella choral music by Maestro Silvestrov, Maidan (ECM New Series 2359). The Kyiv Chamber Choir under Mykola Hobdych gives us spirited and spectacularly sonic readings, filled with great beauty and a rootedness in old Orthodox Chant timbres, deep bass, and long notes as a springboard to the new Modernisms. An expansiveness marks Silvestrov as a very original contributor to the Contemporary and innovative movement forward we have also in our times in Arvo Part and other luminaries in the new consonance. The music haunts, ever more so with the ECM high-sonics production rigor. Great choir!
In my listens for this one, now four and counting, by hearing number three I was convinced fully and greeted the motifs with the joy of happy recognition. It broadens our appreciation of the composer and his nicely Contemporary and local lyricism. The music plummets deeply, then plumbs the depth and leaves you satisfied and ready to hear again.
Strongly recommended. Some of his very best!
Tuesday, October 18, 2022
Tuesday, October 11, 2022
On the back cover of the CD Weiser gives us the central thought behind all here. It comes out of encounters he had travelling through New York's Bryant Park subway station. Oddly enough (I missed this in my travels years ago) etched on the tiles of the walls there is a quote from the ancient Roman poet Ovid in Latin! Weiser unpacks it--water hollows stone bit by bit, accomplishing the seemingly impossible via a lengthy process facilitated by the gradual drip of long time, in interesting ways something of what Anthropologist Marshall Sahlins called "structures of the long run."
So Weiser on the back cover ties the aquatic process into the musical one, noting how a drip of water like a single musical note has no real power except in the continual process of its re-presentation. The music by its continual presence, repeating and moving forward, creates a force unknowable except in its processualizing. This uncanny temporal transformation in the composer's words, gives rise to "something that has the power to move is and change how we view the world." We might recall early Steve Reich works and how the emphasis too was on process, on gradual development and change over a relatively long time, on an instantiation only possible in the re-presentation.
So Weiser has created "Water Follows Stone," and following it giving us a punctuation in the terminus of "Fade." The two piano works enter the swim of time and life and introduce us to a kind of metonymic modeling of sound to analogize the water's long term changing ability. The movements "Waves," "Cascade" and "Mist" each devote note deliberation to different processual ends.
So "Waves" models a primordial maelstrom of darkness and void that transforms to the presence of creative waters in motion.
The ensuing "Cascade" is based on a misquotation of the 19th of Beethoven's Diabelli Variations, and a wonderful flowing thing it is, representing and suggesting the rise of civilizations, a "combination of imperfectly remembered models and innovation that results in a distinctive new character." And so it does this with musical sequences that are rather arrestingly compelling.
The final "Mist" borrows an idea of composer Helmut Lachenmann, to release notes from a given chord singly and consecutively to emphasizes the utterance of sounding as well as the eventual decay in time.
The point of it all ultimately of course is to give you a fantastic listening experience. I find it so. Listen to the flow and gradually you will find in time you are part of it, you are in it and of it. Recommended. Give it a good listen by all means.
Tuesday, October 4, 2022
So happily we have right now the release of significant Leo Brouwer piano works with an enthusiastic and care-taking, indeed a rather definitive performance by pianist Mariel Mayz. That is namely the full length Cuban Sketches for Piano (ZOHO ZM 202206). Now I should point out that the sum of the program is what is being entitled here, so really we are talking, and quite happily, about "Diez Bocetos" and then "Nuevo Bocetos para Piano" (3), and then further a Maiz arranged "An Idea (Passacaglia for Eli)" and then finally Maiz' own "Variations on a Theme by Brouwer."
And as you listen you may find the occasion to revel in the idea that Brouwer here is neither exactly fully "Modern" nor is he determinably "unModern." The music has the contemporary tang of the 20th century but then he goes his own way in a lyrical and inventive melodic-harmonic individualism that is in a league of its own. Yet too the "Nuevo Bocetos" do channel a more consistently Modern palette to a greater extent that the others. Nothing is wholly a monolith nor is it exactly all wholly Cuban in some obvious sense, at least not very often.
So we hear the not easily categorized flow of these piano works and find a great deal to appreciate, or at least I do.The performances give much in an imaginative making so, a very sophisticated and subtly lyrical reading that stands out as something even Goldilocks would find satisfying. I recommend this one warmly, wholly. It is one to savor over one hopes the many hours and years of listening ahead.
Monday, October 3, 2022
This anthology sports some nine new works by composers not exactly household names. Two things stand out to me as I listen. One, that we need to appreciate what the digital world has given composers in electronics and transformed acoustics. The analog world had and has charms, of course. But the ease of editing and collating on the digital palette ideally leaves more time for composers to work out fully the sound color landscapes that center the music in vibrant imagination. You hear that nicely here. The sounds are rich, gorgeous at times, with a depth of field and clarity the medium now allows virtually as never before.
The second thing to note as you listen is the new dexterity that one hears in how composers can manipulate and extend vocal acoustics, both as transformed within realistic timbres, and also as artfully aural transformations passing out of our customary real-world sound.
And as you listen a few times you start feeling the pleasure of recognition--you increasingly get inside and understand intuitively the complex and elaborate structures, the almost lascivious pleasures of aural expansion.
This is the nicest, most interesting SEAMUS anthologies I've heard in a while. Do explore this if you want to hear the directions things are going in these days, or even if you have no idea about Electro-Acoustics and want to sample from a rich stream of possibilities over time. Here is what is happening now. Bravo.
Tuesday, September 27, 2022
John Wilson, Upon Further Reflection, Piano Works by Michael Tilson Thomas, George Gershwin-Earl Wild, Aaron Copland
Well this is not the place to go on further about terms and etc. We do have a very lively and enjoyable album however in the Americana category with pianist John Wilson's Upon Further Reflection (Avie AV2458). It covers a judicious yet brief sampling of things familiar and less familiar, played with care and kinetic power throughout.
There are nice surprises and assuring confirmations to be heard. Of the former, the world premiere recording of Michael Tilson Thomas's "On Further Reflections" is a big, gainly, sprawling success in its High Modern Blues inflection, with a goodly amount of virtuoso pyrotechnics that never seem gratuitous so much as they are driven by the organic dynamic of it all. And then the middle movement has a brittle bittersweet lyrical matter-of-factness that spells the work and provides a kind of island of difference. I will admit I had no idea what to expect since I have scarcely heard his compositional output. I was happy to find it all convincing and very well wrought. Bravo!
Earl Wild's "Virtuoso Etudes After George Gershwin takes some wonderfully alive Gershwin song forms--The Man I Love, Embraceable You, Fascinating Rhythm, I Got Rhythm, etc.--and brings to them a blistering, sparkling torrent of pianistic energy that sounds great in Wilson's hands.
The Aaron Copland Piano Sonata is not familiar to me but turns out to be a modern expressionist gem of chordal and melodic engagement one can come to expect when Copland is edging to the side of abstract purity. It has the tasteful tang of complex dissonances that place it squarely in a then ultra-Contemporary mode. And it suggests the momentum of Americana rooted strains without especially referencing anything directly. And it stands out as a work one hopes other pianists will turn to more often, since it well deserves a wide hearing most certainly. I am rather astonished that I never really heard this major opus before,
In sum this is some wonderfully adept pianism and John Wilson has complete command of it all in spite of its considerable demands. Strongly recommended.
Monday, September 26, 2022
Nonetheless what a treasure trove it all has been for me over my life. The great depth of the Eroica, the human triumph of the Ninth, the beautifully prototype of the Romantic nature symphony of the Pastoral 6th, there is an unparalleled adventure of the nine in sequence, and symphonic composers thereafter too as a kind of paradigm, perhaps they never quite overcome the startling brilliance of the Beethoven but they did successfully create parallel swarms of symphonic bliss when all went well.
And the Toscanini recordings helped define the 20th century vision of it all, on recorded media: a rather large orchestra and hugely big and emotive explosions of sound at their peaks. The revolutionary 3rd, 5th, 6th, 7th and 9th were what conductors and orchestras of note expended the most attention on, and of course for good reason. Yet one could also open to the real charms of the 1st, 2nd, 4th, and 8th, but if it were a matter of large and fire-y explosions these were not the very best place to find such things.
Skip ahead to right now, and a new recording of the complete symphonies by the Chamber Orchestra of Europe as conducted by Yannick Nezet-Sguin (Deutsche Grammophon 486 3050 5-CDs).
As for conductor Yannick Nezet-Sequin, type his name in the search box above for some nice programs he has conducted recently. He is a meticulously accurate yet spirited exponent of the symphonic repertoire as I have heard him so far. But that did not necessarily prepare me for what comes to us with the Chamber Orchestra of Europe and Nezet-Sequin taking on the nine Beethoven symphonies.
First off of course is the chamber symphony quality of the nine as realized here. The lesser number of strings puts everything into a new balance, as indeed the master composer must have been intimate with in a normative performative situation. Perhaps indeed this is how he initially heard the music in his head and in the concert halls. The woodwinds naturally come up in the balance, forming more of an equal partnership with the strings. What that does to the 1st, 2nd, 4th, 6th and 8th at least as focused in on here is a set of works that turn out to be innovative and revelatory less in terms of being Late Romantic in potentia as rather being Late Classicist taken a step further. The melodic peaks in both these and in the blockbuster 3,5,7, 9 symphonies have a new lyrical edge that puts the balance less in fire than in fire and warmth, so to speak. There can be a wonderfully brisk quality to some movements that comes together very impressively in the symphonies we have paid less attention to, but also a wonderful Pastoral that reads more coherently, and then shifts the emphasis on the blockbusters as well.
So for example the funeral movement of the Eroica or the scherzo of the Ninth both have a new poignancy and we can hear lots of other wonderful moments when we close listen to it all. Nezet-Seguin deserves most of the credit for knowing how to bring out the new emphasis and balance in these chamber orchestra readings, but of course kudos are in order for the orchestra itself as well.
I could wax on about each of the symphonies and how the performances here differ from a typical 20th century reading, but it all applies in various ways so the best impression to be gained is to listen to it all yourself, of course. I suspect nearly everyone who loves this music will benefit from hearing these versions, but too it is a good place for the novice to start as well. It capitalizes on what the early 19th century perhaps assumed in performing these wonders. but then perhaps this kind of reading also speaks fully to where we may be musically in the new century.
Make note that these performances are all from the "urtext" that has been constructed in each case in the new Beethoven Complete Edition. So all the more reason to appreciate the results!
I do not hesitate warmly to recommend all of this to you. It is a triumph in every way. Molto bravo!
Thursday, September 22, 2022
Wednesday, September 21, 2022
Miniature Symphonies, Contemporary Examples by Milhaud, Mason, Benton, Nakatani, Scott, The Lowell Chamber Orchestra, Orlando Cela
The symphonies hover around Darius Milhaud as frontier establishing Modern NeoClassical examplar. So we are happily treated to some five refreshingly bittersweet, puckish and edgy Milhaud miniatures, "Symphonie de Chambre Nos, 1-5," each in three movements, each a little gem. They are interleavened and spelled by subsequent endeavors in the miniature symphonic fold, from the explicit Milhaud hommage of Quinn Mason's "Petite Symphonie de Chambre Contemporaine (apres Milhaud)" and on to Brittney Benton's "The Sentinel," Yoko Nakatani's "La Giclee" (the only work here in one, not in three movements), and finally on to Kevin Scott's "Second Little Symphony."
The end result is a nicely differentiated collection of miniatures that say their say succinctly and disarmingly, well played and worth hearing and enjoying. A refreshing program, this.
Tuesday, September 20, 2022
Lisa Batiashvili, Secret Love Letters, Franck, Szymanowski, Chausson, Debussy, Philadelphia Orchestra, Yannick Nezet-Seguin
The four works represented here are above all beautiful and lyrical, melodically and harmonically. They afford the solo violinist a maximum of expressive opportunities and interpretive openness that Ms. Batiashvili fulfills with real brilliance and panache. It is all told a series of works of true singing, classic late Romantic and early expressive Modernism. And so we go from French and Polish pioneering flights through Romanticism and its depiction of signified feelings to another shore and the future in so-called Impressionism and a new emphasis on expression, on the musical signifier. And funny perhaps but musical Impressionism is less like the painting of "nature" and more like further 20th Century developments in art and music. Literally it is not lily pads in various forms of repose because it is not literal like that, as music there is of necessity and in its own right too a heightened level of abstraction.
The Franck "Sonata for Violin and Piano in A Major" in this performance is extraordinarily beautiful and lyrical, yet complex. Szymanowski's "Concerto for Violin and Orchestra No. 1" is very expressive in a sort of variegated, airy mysterioso. The Chausson "Poem" has a little less of the orchestrally mystical, shows a little more impassioned a tone but no less poetic for all that. The closing Debussy "Beau soir" comes across as brief, yet sweet.
In the end this has great charm and elan. I do not hesitate to recommend it highly.
Friday, September 16, 2022
She gives us a rather astonishing program of music for piano, keyboard and percussion on her just-up album Textile Fantasies (Centrediscs CMCCD 30322). Each of the eight medium-length compositions given a hearing on the album devotes itself to a particular textile and the texture associated with it. So for example there is the opening "Toile de Jouy," which explores the feel of canvas in a rather dense motility for harpsichord. It is almost Cecil Tayloresque in its busy, densely noteful expression.
From there Ms. Pearce takes us to some magical music places, all of which yield a metaphoric connection between texture and sound. Some such links strike me as startlingly surprising, such as the toy piano and tabla raga-like exploration of "Damask," or the percussion ensemble workout with an almost swinging rhythmic thrust on "Denim." Ar how about a sonic colored percussion fantasia followed by rollicking piano-percussion rhythmic spice on "Leather."
"Chain Maille" gives the percussion group a telegraphic periodicity suggested by the woven metal patterning of the chain mail of older times. The solo piano "Houndstooth" forms a ravishing high point of sonic vibrancy, almost George Crumb like in its reflective ecstatics, but then ultimately very Pearce-original and satisfying. I love this! I wont give you any further examples because you I hope get the idea. Every work is its own mini-adventure, imaginative and meaningful each in its own way.
Go to monicapearce.com to see and hear some videos of this music. The album is out officially on 13 Oct of 2022. It is absolutely lovely at its best, nicely apportioned at any event throughout. I must say I've really enjoyed hearing this one. Do not miss it!
Wednesday, September 14, 2022
We segue to the present and another significant milestone with such developments, namely James Romig's The Complexity of Distance (New World Records 80847-2), a full length work for solo metal-strength electric guitar as played adeptly by Mike Scheidt.
The work unfolds gradually with long sustains of power chords that richly fill the aural space. It is in its own way a kind of tour de force of the metal guitar as a New Music solo/orchestral vehicle. Highly recommended. A pioneering achievement!
Tuesday, September 13, 2022
There is a kind of Plein Air natural yet Modern feel to these works. The composers themselves may not be well known to you, but each partakes of the bare-bones matter-of-fact open chamber sound of solo cello and cello-violin or cello-viola concentrations. There is a pronounced kind of contemplative-meditative atmosphere surrounding each of these works in their own way.
So to consider the composers themselves: there are compositions, one each, by Andrea Casarrubios, Adam Schoenberg, Jessica Meyer, Caroline Shaw, Reena Esmail, Tanner Porter, and Jessie Montgomery.
The entire program captivates end-to-end. The thoughtfulness of the works themselves are matched by the dedicated brilliance of Claire Bryant and her cohorts. I recommend this one to you strongly, especially you all who like me have grown very attached to the solo string presence, the string duos and the unfolding repertoire for such groupings,
Monday, September 12, 2022
Wednesday, September 7, 2022
So now there is a new one, a recording of her Veer Quartet (Panoramic Records New Focus Recordings). It is a string quartet made up of Sarah on violin, Sana Nagano, violin, Leonor Falcon, viola, and Nick Jozwiak on cello. All four improvise well, solo singularly or collectively depending on the passage at hand, as well as realize Sarah's compositional frameworks and thematic refrains, some so very much put together in a Modern New Music way, a few others functioning as elaborate near-head motives. The juxtapositions work in the best ways. These are truly Third Stream if you want to resurrect an old name. The music lingers hypnotically at times and sometimes hovers somewhat darkly, which is one of Sarah's ways, happily and very aptly so. The six separate pieces stand each on their own yet segue in ways that make for a marked flow.
This is an outstanding venture if you but give it a chance with repeated listens. Sarah Bernstein burns quietly but warmly as a sometimes hidden but luminous talent in today's adventurous music realm. Kudos!
Monday, August 29, 2022
Wenting Kang. Mosaic, French-Spanish Cross Cultural Roots in the Early-Modern Period, Viola-Piano Gems
What this album so nicely hands to us are a series of works originally intended for viola or otherwise adapted to the viola and piano instrumentation, that notably uncover some of the fertile interflows between Spanish and French musical lifeways.
Many of the works here will be quite familiar to any dedicated listener to the early 20th Century repertoire. The album excels in its wise choice of interrelated works but then too in its ravishing readings of the works.
Wenting Kang is a viola exponent of true brilliance. She is patently lyrical without being gushing or cloying. There is a steady beauty of vibrato and burnished tone and she is in the mind to express her part with the utmost in feeling but not with the mannerism that too many string solosts brought with them from the Romantic Era, especially in the recorded repertoire through the 50s if not further and closer to our time, even perhaps through to today.
Perhaps it is an oversimplification to say that the music has a kind of special synthesis between Spanish melodic power and French atmospherics and harmonic girth. Surely that nexus is articulated as well as anywhere by these Kang and Kvitko readings.
The works take on a special life here thanks to the performances. We all doubtless know a good amount of this, but at times nicely transformed, as in the Ravel "Pavel pour une infante defunte" as transcribed for viola and piano by Borisovsky.
One finds much to appreciate in the close readings of it all, with some choice Debussy, Tarrega, Ravel, Faure, Albeniz, and de Falla, but then a nice little surprise by Pablo Casals and an unexpected gem in the unaccompanied viola work by Akira Nishimura (b. 1953) "Fantasia On Song of the Birds."
It hit me from the moment I put it on, with the familiarity underscoring the beautiful performances, and the unknown few also telling us that while giving us fresh music to consider.
Wenting Kang has the sort of presence you might feel when listening to Heufitz, a sound original with a kind of musical aura. I cannot imagine a violist topping this series of performances,. Ms. Kang clearly triumphs. Bravo!
Wednesday, August 24, 2022
We are treated to five absorbing works performed on marimba marvelously well. The "Concerto for Marimba and String Ensemble"(1969) brings Kuniko together with the Scottish Ensemble and it is thing of cogent beauty. It comes to us after three sparking works for solo marimba and so seems all the more revealing in its facticity and gives us pause before a solo farewell brings us to a complete circle.
If you need a high water mark it is in part felt in the third work, a triumphantly demanding piece de resistance, "Ripple for Marimba Solo" (1999). The overall music arc of building to heights and closing with dramatic space is beautifully spelled out with the sandwiching-framing of the concerto with the opening "Conversation" (1962), the following "Torso for Marimba" (1999) and the closing "Six Prelude Etudes" (2001).
And in the end, the Concerto has such a sonic fingerprint that you feel like you have been in a special musical place, that Miyoshi has given us such a vivid image of things that it stands out, and forms a nicely contrasting part of the program for that matter. And I can scarcely imagine a better performance for all of this. Kuniko shines as brightly as an all encompassing sun. And we are all the better for it.
It is music to dwell in, the more the better it sounds, the more you are inside of the music and its colors, its dazzle and its meditative sureness of purpose, its expressive depth and heights, the more it comes clear in the hands of Kuniko. It is in every way a triumph. Bravo.