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Thursday, September 28, 2023

Poul Ruders, Piano Trio, Trio Con Brio Copenhagen


Danish composer Poul Ruders has gotten justly a fair amount of attention on these pages (type his name in the search box above). Today we have one of the most impressive compositions yet in the Piano Trio (OURS Digital) well played by Piano Trio Con  Brio Copenhagen. In general terms the Piano Trio is a kind of sleeper of a chamber form. Look at the formidable Beethoven Piano Trios for an example of some major works overshadowed in part by the more iconic chamber formats, especially historically with the String Quartet, etc.

This Piano Trio is major league in its tremendously serious demeanor. It does not seek to be pleasing, to ingratiate so much as to reflect with insightful strength a life in the crosshairs and at the crossroads so to speak. It is more capital /M/ Modern than Post-ing in a beyond sense and therein lies its strength in many ways.

It has especially in the First Movement a sort of rhapsodic or Neo-Rhapsodic flair--not exactly Neo- Romantic in its more reflective feeling base, in the expression of the music. This comes to the fore in the this very dramatic opening section.

The Second Movement is quite mysterious and pushing an experiential envelope to a  feelingful sort of Unanswered Question in the Ivesian sense, if you will pardon my interpretation.

The Third Movement has a slightly more urgent striving forward virtually like no other chamber work as far as the powerful  vibes it gives off.

It is a major work that should be heard by anyone interested in New Music.

To hear a stream of the music please go over to the OUR Recordings site. 

Monday, September 25, 2023

Sybarites, Collective Wisdom, New Chamber Music for Strings


The more you listen to the newest of New Music, the more you apprehend and perhaps appreciate the gradual shift away from a High Modernist, and then too beyond a Minimalist overall stance. What takes its place even in the midst of a comingling tripartite style triumvirate? We hear the third style gate open consistently on the anthology of previous little known and unknown chamber string innovative works, that is on Sybarite's Collective Wisdom  (Bright Shiny Things BSTC-0191).

In this surprisingly current offering we immerse the listening self in some nine infectiously wide ranging and dance suite like bundlings of some nine works on Collectiove Wisdom, a blockbuster by the string sextet Sybarites, an outfit fashioned highly and also skillfully in this superlative offering. Each short work says something original and classically new, thanks to the composing prowess of the Punch Brothers and Paul Sanho Kim, Curtis and Elektra Stewart, Jessica Meyer, Komitas, Pedro Giraudo, Michael Gilbertson and Jackson Greenberg.

If you do not already know of course this is music not so much seeking to make harmonic advancement as the watch phrase goes so much as post folk-earthy sorts of emanations as pleasurable to the novice no doubt as to the acolyte and pro-appreciator alike.

Take a listen to the full stream of the album on Bandcamp.

Thursday, September 21, 2023

Robert Schumann, The Roots & the Flower, Organ Works, Op. 56 & 60, Jens E. Christensen, Organ


Robert Schumann at this point in music history has a legacy that is of course ubiquitous and well established. He is unparalleled for the clarity of his piano style in the many now well loved solo tone poetic pieces for piano. Then too his Lieder is superb, and puts him at the very top of Romantic composers for such things,  and then his Piano Concerto and Symphonies are justly among the most beloved today, a considerable body of work and a long prevailing fulcrum of the repertoire classics, as popular today as yesterday.  In spite of all that we might see in contrast how his organ works might not have broken through to the cognoscenti in our times, or at least I have not been exposed much myself. Schumann familiarly as the old saw has it is not exactly an orchestrator of landmark character if we go by his symphonic reputation over time. However the symphonies are melodically and thematically seminal, perhaps less so as orchestrations, at least in terms of a Ravelian vibrancy say, though very much Schumann's own. And that different kind of vibrancy, of theme and even its descriptive character can be felt so plainly on the "Kinderszenen," the "Carnival," etc.

So what of the twelve organ works from this album we consider today? They are not models of sound color invention exactly. Nonetheless we get a happy chance to dive deeply into Robert Schumann the organ composer and what that means with the works from Op. 56 and 60 on the recent album  The Roots and the Flowers, performed nicely by Jens E. Christensen (Our Recordings 6220676). Some of it now and then seems a tad murkey, not as transparent perhaps as one might ordinarily expect, yet supremely moody and Schumannesque in that way. And so there is a parallel at times perhaps with the very personal styles of his symphonies. Yet then we need to consider the subtitle to this offering, "Counterpoint in Bloom," for that is a special key to appreciating this music, Schumann's well developed sense of the contrapuntal muse as a key aspect of this organ music.

These some 12 works shine often via a contrapuntal flourish. It is part of Schuman's genius and indeed sets it apart as classic in its best moments.

The performances are not lacking in any way thanks to Jens E Christensen's prowess and enthusiastic warmth. There are some real gems here and otherwise generally solid and memorable music well constructed. Anyone a Schumann fan will jump at the chance to hear him in this mode, and you doubtless as I did feel the rewards of the adventure.. Organ aficionados with find it a fascinating listen as well!

Listen to a partial stream on Soundcloud

Thursday, September 14, 2023

Violeta Dinescu, Solo Violin Works, Irina Muresanu, Violin

Solo violin works (and other solo string pieces) have never been more popular to the serious New Music listener than now, if the large number of solo releases in the last decade is any indication. What once was treasured by violin master and her pupils now is sought out by any with advanced ears who would like to follow a string-strong master and a brilliant composer in tandem for excitement and contemplation alike. Today we have an especially important new pairing in Rumanian composer Violeta Dinescu's Solo Violin Works (Metier CD 77106) as played with great finesse by violinist Irina Muresanu.

You might venture to say that any people with composers whose musical culture includes fiddling probably have it in them to produce GREAT solo violin works. So Bartok-Hungary-Gypsy conflagrations of course. The music of Kodaly and Janacek, Dumitrescu (he comes to mind as a composter but anybody know any of his solo string works, I do not recall any), Russians, American folk fiddlers influencing, say Copland, Berio Black Black Black on his Folk Song work composed in 1964 after teaching in USA from 1960, and other things no doubt follow the pattern with degrees of folk fiddle rootedness one way or another. The viola "Sequenza" comes to mind also. Yet I stray a little from solo violin per se.  Let us return to it.

So too then the composer Violetta Dinescu fits right in with a long series of solo violin works that as experienced here really take on a lengthy and effective post-fiddle narrative, and at that violinist Irina Muresanu has a great feel for the music at hand and interjects an intuitive feel for the violin in its local excellence. I talk about the recent CD Solo Violin Works  (Metier Mex 77106).

There is a great deal of it and all of it has New Music/Folk influenced detail that anyone who is immersed in the new/old tradition will find an abundant wealth of musical experience to take seriously and abandon oneself within.

The music rolls along in profound ways with key centers yet extended and expanded in ways of the Modernish today with a clearly adventurous and inventive quality, so it goes well. Perhaps like when listening to a wise and sympathetic reading of Joyce's  difficult Finnegan's Wake, you as it were recognize the "fiddling" in the flow of the syntactic sequence, here genuine English phrases and another in the middle of something quite other  the English turns to a modern memory maze as it were and you go further gladly hearing it read sympathetically when otherwise you might despair to find it "meaningless" when surely it isn't. So bravo, I recommend you hear it all at least once. Go to the stream site below and tell me what you think. Then if you have a little time go back to You Tube and listen to a chapter or two of a live reading of the Wake  as you follow along with the text there!

Thursday, September 7, 2023

David Mastikosa, Escape, Chamber Works

David Mastikosa is a prolific composer for his age. He is around 31, born in Herzegovina, Bosnia. He may be young but he sounds quite seasoned.This we hear in Escape (Ravello Digital RR8075), his inaugural effort and a wide ranging series it is, with some nine absorbing compositions for chamber combinations. The title work "Escape" portrays the struggle against the mundane and negative aspects of everyday life.  It  has a notable Eastern European flavor with avant oriented accordion expressing a variety of colors and textures. That color possibilities approach is seconded in the dramatic juxtaposition of  prepared and solo piano on the following "Detune," with avant composition contrasting with conventional pianism sounding an old school chorale. 

Then we have a poignant violin solo and string orchestra in "Ul-la". The bracing  big band sound of "Nucleus Expansion"  sets up a riff and a vehicle for a kind of madly swinging Jazz Improv feel. Listen to that alone and I suspect you like me will get a good feeling about the composer. But each work has its own presence and vitality.

Hear a complete stream at

I find this all intriguing and a nice example of a younger composer off to a great start in his embracing of a vast array of differences in sound and sty;e, but especially fitting into a Modernism for today. Bravo.

Wednesday, September 6, 2023

Craig Madden Morris, Kaleidoscope


Of music and feelings we all know of both, let us hope, but what matters in listening to music that expresses such? For the New Music the Expressionist angle is virtually always of some relevance, never old hat. It is not so much the presence of emotions as how they are presenced that matters in the end. No music is entirely without feelings, of course, though some may have less obvious expression of it, for example a particularly abstracted Webern piece. In the experience of a new work of music we may find feelings either out front and important, especially perhaps in a lieder, or less so in various examples. So we might note that Chopin's music reflects a good deal of emotion, and if you are like me and find it interesting to watch reruns of the Ed Sullivan Show, the pop chanteuses and such from  the '60s sang a great deal about emotions too, but of course not so much of that sort of music approaches the heightened musical level of a Chopin, if any. Of course such things may situate a piece of music in our world of New Music today,

So really when music expresses emotion we should consider a look to the amount of musical intelligence built around such a music. Craig Madden Morris is a present-day composer who does not shy away from expressing a variety of emotions, and to that extent there is an interestingly untypical strain of Neo-Romanticism inherent in his work, so I have found. 

When you listen to his album of such compositions, Kaleidoscope (Navona NV6494), what matters happily is the brilliance of the human-to-human connectivity of the expression, and fortunately we have much to go on in this wise on his some seven works presented here.

All the works have a good deal of Expressionism, a high level of powerful sonic worthiness, and an inventive melodic-harmonic cohesiveness. The very first work you hear is the ten-minute orchestral "Elegy" on the tragic self-inflicted death of a violinist in the Ridgewood Symphony. I will admit it took me some almost ten listens before it came clear in my head how compelling it all was, the kind of feelingful sprawl; and brilliantly orchestrated irregular lyricism that takes you somewhere after Mahler but then where are you? Not in a Kindertotenleider place, surely. You are in Morris-land in the end, somewhere unexpected and original.

Next in the body of works here we have the title work, "Kaleidoscope" for string quartet, which brings us almost to Bartok with the furrowing deepness of that and later Beethoven as touchpoints, yet Morris stays in his own place in the end, nicely so. Then follows the solo piano rhapsodic "Reflections," a intensely longing sort of story with harmonic expansion built in.

In "3 Pieces for Choir " a kind of Modern extension of glee club emoting not precisely old nor advanced so much as determined to be rhapsodic in choral Modern way.

The remaining three works in the program follow the general trend in singular ways. "Longing" for violin, clarinet, cello, piano and "The Gentle Path" for violin and piano keep the music feelingful and absorbing. 

Then finally solo clarinet and orchestral conclude the program in "Romance," sin an almost Schubertian natural setting that goes one to fukk our eqars with Impressionistic light and beyond  before calmly closing out for us the intriguing set of works.

None of them can be predicted easily within the notion of a new Romantic or even wholly Expressionist palette, none are of the ordinary x follows y sort of style, each stands out in its own not as typical of backward leaning compositions or of  a Progressive Modern outlook either. 

That somewhat unexpected yet very musical approach for each work sets it outside a formulaic Romantic or a rote perspective of the Modern and New. And the fact that it is situated where it is yet also excels as a set of well wrought musical examples and makes it all something special. 

I recommend you listen. Go to  to get a complete stream of all of it. See also my review of his previous album Dreams by typing his name in the search box above.

Monday, September 4, 2023

Su Yeon Kim, Mozart Recital, Solo Piano Music


One should never take anything for granted now or any other time, for that matter. There are no guarantees. And that is part of what makes the emergence of pianist Su Yeon Kim all the more remarkable. Take the new album Mozart Recital (Steinway & Sons CD and Digital). Over the years of course there has been a good deal of coverage of such staples of the repertoire. Yet the superficially facile quality of much of it can be a sign that sometimes the music might be grossly underappreciated. An acceptable level recording of much of it is a given, yet how much more moving are the Simple Simon works not as usually tossed off, how much more they seem when given a detailed everything counts reading by Su Yeon Kim. It all is a matter of a kind of living vibrancy when Ms. Kim takes it all on with care and concern. Legato so needs to be there in the mix, as well as a just sense of pauses and none of at its extreme the ratatat machine-gun regularity monotony and such. So with Su Yeon Kim we get a living, breathing music here no matter sometimes how initially simple it may seem on the surface.

Generally speaking the LP era showed so many wonderful pianists tackling the sonatas with some care and energy, but for all the rest sometimes a kind of offhandedness. The other stuff sounded dashed off at times. And for the Sonatas sometimes speed was the byword. Not as much with Su Yeon Kim's full bodied recording here. Yes, revel in the Sonatas 9 and 12, then too of "Eine Kleine Gigue," where the intensive reading of the right-hand line is so mesmerizing as to bring us to where Mozart heard it and wonderfully so? She shows herself an intelligently expressive poetess throughout.

And so it is more or less with every inch of music heard on this album. It shows Su Yeon Kim as a master of her art and an extraordinary painter of tonal images. It brings to us a side of Mozart pianism not as frequently heard as we might like, the rubito articulate poet, the deep wielder of extraordinary subtle power.

Go here to choose a place to stream the recital in full for free