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grill pandolfis 99254
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Stanley Grill (b. 1953)
Und das Lied bleibt schön (And the melody stays light)
Lisa Rombach (soprano), Nicholas Spanos (counter-tenor)
Pandolfis Consort
rec. 2021, Unterretzbach, Austria
GRAMOLA 99254 [64]

We are assured that the music of New Yorker composer Stanley Grill is strongly shaped by music of the Middle Ages and the Renaissance. Indeed, on the evidence of these works from the 2000s, his music strongly declaims its allegiance. The blend of instruments and words by Rainer Maria Rilke (1875-1926) in the 19-minute Rilke Songs shows Grill setting the chaste yet wide-rangingly beautiful purity of Lisa Rombach’s soprano against a simulacrum of consort music. The effect is tautened by Grill to incorporate the most subtle striations from later centuries. The ‘consort’ here comprises viola d’amore and cello although the impression, to my ears, suggests a richer and larger ensemble.

Counter-tenor Nicholas Spanos is heard in Rilke’s Les Fugitifs where he is heard against viola da braccio. Again, purity and an even greater degree of emotional reserve is deployed in this work although a 20th century chill pervades the bloodstream from time to time. The two songs of Schnee und Eis are again set for soprano and again with viola da braccio. The mood of Schnee is carried over from the Rilke Songs. The two Heine Love Songs veer towards a more emotional serenading but retain Grill’s characteristic ‘antique’ sympathies. The three Songs of Love and Remembrance for soprano, viola d’amore, viola and cello continue the heard world of the Rilke songs. A staunch, dignified and extended instrumental prelude marks out the central Auszug aus der ersten Elegie in what amounts to a sorrowing cortège. The final track is a measured and lovingly shaped ‘lullay’. Grill’s Schlaflied from the cycle Blossoms is for soprano, viola and cello.

Grill also presents himself through three Songs without Words for two violas, cello and theorbo; the latter a plucked instrument of the lute family. The moods here are almost cheery and more certainly active. The invention is encased in the vigorous forms of roundelays. These pieces, without voice, make an axle around which the vocal works on the disc wheel and slowly step it out. The only downside might be the slow-blooming predominance in this programme of largo, lento, andante and adagio. It might be just what you are thirsting for but then again ….

Grill has for long been associated with the Pandolfis Consort and several of his works are dedicated to them. They play on period instruments. The Consort’s founder violist, Elzbieta Sajka-Bachler whose interview (in German and English) with the composer helpfully forms the bulk of the generously-proportioned insert booklet. The words are also included and are there in both German and in English translation.

The fulsome liner essay is taken up with an interview with the composer by Elzbieta Sajka-Bachler. It is in German and English.

On this disc an unworldly purity, out of its time, refreshes our listening and appreciative ‘apparatus’ without resorting to a fake antique ‘affect’.

Rob Barnett

Five Rilke Songs (2009) [18:49]
No. 1, Der Panther [2:55]
No. 2, Mein Leben ist nicht diese steile Stunde [3:51]
No. 3, Du siehst, ich will viel [2:36]
No. 4, Eingang [4:39]
No. 5, Buddha in der Glorie [4:48]

Les fugitifs (2020) [6:16]
Nicholas Spanos, Ingrid Rohrmoser

Schnee und Eis (2020) [6:54]
Ingrid Rohrmoser, Lisa Rombach
No. 1, Schnee [2:34]
No. 2, In jenen Jahren [4:20]

Lieder ohne Worte (2009) [11:41]
Pandolfis Consort
I. Andante [3:40]
II. Moderato [4:45]
III. Andante [3:16]

Two Love Songs (2015) [5:01]
Nicholas Spanos
Pandolfis Consort
No. 1, Mit deinen blauen Augen [2:16]
No. 2, Ich wandle unter Blumen [2:45]

Songs of Loss and Remembrance (2012) [12:20]
Lisa Rombach
Pandolfis Consort
No. 1, Klage [5:00]
No. 2, Auszug aus der ersten Elegie [3:43]
No. 3, Nun wachen wir [3:37]

Blossoms - cycle (2019)
No. 2, Ein Schlaflied für dich [3:17]
Lisa Rombach
Pandolfis Consort

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