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Tuesday, August 9, 2022

Jennifer Bellor, Oneira, Clocks in Motion


The chamber group Oneira presents Clocks in Motion (Aerocade Music AM012), which gives us an entire album of the music of Jennifor Bellor. None of this was familiar to me until I kindly received this album in the mail for consideration. Several days of listens later, I can say confidently that I now KNOW, and I am happy I do.

Clocks in Motion is a threesome of mallets and percussion with the addition of a guest percussionist to make up a quartet. So we hear John Corkill, Christopher G. Jones and Sean Kleve with guest Megan Arns or Kyle Flans. Everybody sounds excellent as they wind their way through the three specially composed works by Jennifer Bellor.

The composer is the first in what the group hopes will be a long line of artists in residence for their >Clock Shop," a long term, in this case four-year collaboration where she worked with them to workshop, create and develop multiple percussion compositions ultimately to perform and record. The happy first fruits can be appreciated on the CD at hand.

It turns out that Ms. Bellor came through with music that is not rote-ly repetitively Minimalist or New in an expected sense. Rather you might experience this music as I did, as a kind of New Classical Ethnic-Folk hybrid of pentatonic and diatonic musics of infectious rhythm and brightly chiming and syncopating excitement, like perhaps in essence Balinese Gamelan, only wholly original and local to the US like the legacy of percussion group music classics from here, only evolved and inventive in its own ways.

Each work unfolds in nicely built structures of expression, in ways that those who love melodic percussion groups will doubtless find as charming and continually invigorating as I did. Happily recommended!

Thursday, August 4, 2022

Poul Ruders, Harpsichord Concerto, Mahan Esfahani, Aarhus Symphony Orchestra, Leif Segerstam


The fecundity and presence of NeoClassicism in music--the interjection of some past elements into a present-day Modernism--has had its ups and downs. Stravinsky most certainly benefited greatly by such possibilities. He had a clear idea of what to do and he did it to our great aural satisfaction. Certainly someone like a Penderecki and what he did with the Passion took advantage of early music expression and forms at times, and there can be little doubt about the beauty and expressiveness of Part and his clear adaptation of earlier music ideas or sonics. Not everything has been wonderful that has come out more or less under this rubric, but that is true of pretty much everything.

Last century there were some successful Neo aspects in a number of Concertos for Harpsichord and Orchestra. I will not rehearse that list right now, except to mention such concertos by Poulenc, de Falla, Martinu, Frank Martin. Well now we gain another very viable approach to it all with Poul Ruders' 2020 work, out in a World Premier recording on Ours 9.70892, a digital release featuring Mahan Esfahani on harpsichord and the Aarhus Symphony Orchestra under Leif Segerstam.

This Ruders work gets a detailed reading with a careful Modern expressionist kind of flavor that one continuously feels seems at least very near-definitive, if not simply definitive.

There is so much dissonant complexity here and that juxtaposes nicely with a near Baroque momentum. The three movements have that Classical spelling by an andante in Movement Two and otherwise there is dramatic pacing throughout that wears well and continues to fascinate with repeated listenings. The harpsichord part is dense and virtuoso-like. The orchestra plays off the dissonant, dark animation with deliberate counterfoils nicely projecting and setting a wide aural-spatial set of parameters that seem just right for the present-day rough worldscape, the complexity of everyday pandemic, climatic and political strife that characterizes our current world.

It is a stubbornly, organically full work that like a particularly appealing Rorschach blot one might well find one reacts to perhaps according to your own personal musical psychology? If so all seems to invite listening-participation and appreciation over a lengthy listening lifetime potential. This is no quick aural snack. It is something to settle down with now and again as you need something of our time, perhaps something inspiring that you did not at first expect?

The composer informs us how by slightly amplifying the harpsichord vis-a-vis the orchestra he was able to match and contrast respective sonances and you can hear that as you mark out the sequences for yourself a number of times.

The music fits our era but not in just any old way--rather in an intensely personal view we recognize as poignant and transformative alike.

The work fits in with our recent Modern Neo-Classic possibilities but then follows Poul Ruders' very personal way to express it all, and as the author notes, without "slipping into a hackneyed Neoclassicism." Happily recommended for both compositional and performative excitement.

Monday, August 1, 2022

Grazyna Bacewicz, A Portrait, Kinga Augustyn, Music for Solo Violin and Violin with Piano


When I used to get tickets to the NY Philharmonic concerts because I was covering the NY beat for the relevant edition of the monthly Delta Airlines Destination Guide, Kurt Mazur happily programmed a piece by Grazyna Bacewicz (1909-1969) into one of the programs. It was the '90s and for whatever reason I was unfamiliar with her music then. It was the beginning for me of a long appreciation of her works that continues today. Gradually I am coming to know her full output, and now I am especially pleased to hear violinist Kinga Augustyn and her new recording of music for solo violin and violin with piano, Portrait (Centaur CRC 3971).

It is a deeply rewarding collection of wonderfully expressive-Modern vehicles taken with great introspective yet jubilant depth by Kinga Augustyn, seconded admirably by Alla Milchtein on piano for the four short pieces and the 1945 Concertino for Violin and Piano. The remainder of the works cover her well wrought solo violin pieces spanning a rather wide swatch of time from 1935 through 1968.

All of the music fascinates and rewards with the kind of fluid ease and memorability that marks Bacewicz at her best and for that matter gives Polish Modernism a special edge in the most general terms, though Grazyna is her own master and sustains originality. So one might feel at times the affinity with Panufnik, Penderecki, Lutoslawski, Paderewski, of course in varied ways yet happily so, especially if you take a wide view.

The concentrated focus and virtuostic dedication of Ms. Augustyn rings true and makes of it all a wonder, a vivid and contrasting program I find as moving and worthwhile as anything I have heard thus far this year. Bravo! For those reading in August 2022 the CD comes out in September but you can pre-order online.