> RANDS In the receding mist etc. R1003 [HC]: Classical Reviews- February 2002 MusicWeb(UK)






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Bernard RANDS (born 1934)
"...in the receding mist..." (1988)
Aurelio de la VEGA (born 1925)

Testimonial (1990)a
Roque CORDERO (born 1917)

Dodecaconcerto (1990)
Bruce SAYLOR (born 1946)

See You in the Morning (1987)b
Anne Marie Ketchum (soprano)a; Constance Beavon (mezzo-soprano)b; The North/South Consonance Ensemble; Max Lifschitz
Recorded: Recital Hall of the University of Albany, June 1993
NORTH/SOUTH RECORDINGS R 1003 [76:51]


North/South Consonance Inc. is a non-profit organization devoted to the promotion of music by living composers, mainly from the Americas. However the composers featured here include the British-born Bernard Rands who is now active and living in the States. His "...in the receding mist...", completed in 1988, gives this release its collective title. This beautifully lyrical piece is scored for the Ravel-like combination of flute, harp and string trio. (The title derives from a early poem by Samuel Beckett.) It is a fairly straightforward piece based on three musical 'tiles': a simple, folk-like melody, a dotted rhythmic motive and a "mordent/turn figure". These are constantly varied, embellished and transformed into a more complex structure out of which a long cantilena played by the flute emerges and brings he work to its conclusion. A beautifully atmospheric piece of musical impressionism.

Aurelio de la Vega, born in Cuba, has been fairly active as a teacher in the States whereas a good deal of his music has been widely performed and recorded (some of it was available on various, now long-deleted LPs). His Testimonial, recorded here, was completed in 1990. Three of its five movements are settings for soprano and ensemble of poems by Armando Valladares who has been a political prisoner in Castro’s jails for more than twenty years. These beautiful poems deal with imprisonment, revolt and hope. In the first song, the prisoner has not abandoned any hope for "they have been incapable of depriving me of the singing of the rain". This is followed by a nervous, ghostlike Scherzo (In Memoriam Alberto Ginastera) recalling the Argentine composer’s own Scherzos. (This movement is actually based on phrases from Ginastera’s First Piano Sonata.) The second song Premonicíon is also about hope for a better future. The following Adagio is the second purely instrumental movement and the emotional climax of the piece. It is also its finest movement. In the middle section of this sorrowful, atonal movement, a distant piano plays a Cuban danza, a nostalgic evocation of times past. A wonderful moment indeed. The final song is again a "dramatic explosion of faith": "It does not matter that you have the keys if I have in my soul liberty and love". De la Vega’s music is clearly 20th Century, mostly atonal but with much emphasis on Cuban dance rhythms. A beautifully moving piece of music.

Roque Cordero, from Panama, is the oldest composer featured here. Some of his music (e.g. his Violin Concerto) has been available on discs during the LP era, but very little of it is available now though his music is still frequently played in America. His Dodecaconcerto of 1990 is scored for a mixed ensemble of twelve players, hence its title. Cast into three fairly traditional movements (sonata-allegro, song-like slow movement, rondo) the Dodecaconcerto is a lively, colourful work which made me think of Revueltas (and I mean it as a compliment for I consider Revueltas as Mexico’s greatest composer). The music, often based on folk-dance rhythms, is nervous, crisp, mildly dissonant but on the whole quite accessible. A minor masterpiece on all counts.

The last piece by the Philadelphia-born Bruce Saylor, is a song cycle for mezzo-soprano and mixed ensemble on poems by African-American women. The cycle See You in the Morning was written in 1986 at the suggestion of Jessye Norman though it is not sure that she ever sang it. The various poems are in turn wistful, tender, humorous. The piece ends with a poem of hope and goodwill : "I am the woman/offering two flowers/whose roots/are twin. Justice and Hope. Let us begin". This is a very fine work, beautifully written in a very accessible idiom. Well worth having for it also repays repeated hearings.

The performances seem excellent to me, committed and thus convincing. I would certainly like to hear more of these composers’ music. Recommended.

Hubert CULOT

Information about North/South Consonance may be found on www.northsouthmusic.org or in writing : N/S Recordings, PO Box 5081, Albany NY 12205-0081.


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