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Tuesday, June 28, 2022

Margaret Brouwer, Reactions, Songs and Chamber Music


We roll into the end of the month and I am happy to grapple with a disk by a living composer I have as yet missed. She is very musical, kind of Neo-Classically Modern in her attention to unfolding form and open harmonic and progressive sonance. I speak of Margaret Brouwer and her album of Songs and Chamber Music entitled Reactions (Naxos 559804).These are compositions penned recently, between 2005 and 2020--world premier recordings in fact.

It is music that occupies its own space, neither retrograde nor highly, overtly modernistic. It is music of some care and quality, some fine invention, responding to the musical world we occupy today without being enslaved to anything referentially. Ms. Brouwer goes her own way and we do not miss what she choses to leave out. We appreciate conversely what she gives to us in each instance;

The "Rhapsodie Sonata" from 2011, revised 2016, has a wonderfully alive viola part nicely handled by Eliesha Nelson and an equally, nicely  complexly conjugated piano part realized with grace and musicality by Shuai Wang. It is serious music, brimming over with crackling electricity and turbulence but post-Romantically rhapsodic, which is something rather rare in my listening experience. I find it very fetching and absorbing. Its 20 minutes makes the album worthy just for its happy presence, but there is more.

The more consists of two song cycles for mezzo-soprano or tenor and piano, complexly expressive and something to grow into surely as you listen. There is also a nicely evocative summer meditation for violin and piano, then there is a rather humorous encounter with the ever-present telephone robot menus one encounters all too often today--crafted partwise nicely in this work for narrator-violinist. All goes by and you feel the presence of musical eloquence that sounds thoroughly contemporary yet self-contained in its alternate dialogic invention. The performances are all one might hope for and help us to feel the music enter our listening selves.

I find I would love to hear more of her music, which is what of course I should be feeling if a new composer gets my positive attention. Listen to this one a bunch of times and I think you will understand how I feel and why.

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