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Beck and Call
Alex SHAPIRO (b.1962) Of Breath and Touch (1999) [10.26]; Deep [7.34] +
André PREVIN (b.1929) Sonata for Bassoon and Piano (1999) [14.56]
Michal SPISAK (1914-1965) Duetto Concertante (1949) [14.00]
Moshe ZORMAN  (b.1952) A Grizzly’s Dream (1984) [12.12]
Marcel BITSCH (b.1921) Concertino (1948) [7.00]
Don CHAMBERLAIN (b.1952) Beck and Call (1993) [6.47] +
Carolyn Beck (bassoon); Delores Stevens (piano); Kira Blumberg (viola)
With pre-recorded tracks +
rec. October 2003-March 2005, acoustical pieces at Bridges Hall, Pomona College, CA. Beck and Call at Studio A, Citrus College, Azusa, CA and Deep at Dino Falls Studio, LA, CA.
CRYSTAL RECORDS CD 846 [73.39]


Carolyn Beck’s name is punningly to the fore in Crystal’s latest instalment. There are a number of premiere recordings here, not least of those works dedicated to her, and she brings real powers of colour, rhythmic vivacity and technical armoury to bear to communicate each piece’s particular qualities and character.
 
Shapiro’s Of Breath and Touch tests registral strengths and thrives on exploring the bassoon’s compass - it’s at its best in the plentiful lyric moments where the rather impressionistic piano harmonies makes a strong mark. HerDeep - she’s the only composer to be represented by two works - features a pre-recorded track, though it’s rather less immediately engaging than its companion.
 
Previn’s sonata is a jaunty piece. It comes on like Prokofiev meets Françaix with its insouciant Peter and the Wolf moments in the opening movement and its rompy finale. It’s a nimble, witty, immediately and unselfconsciously fine addition to the repertoire. The finale is the high point. The notes refer to “Bird and Monk” as influences, which be hard for those not versed in Bebop masters but Charlie Parker and Thelonious Monk are so wide of the mark as to be wrong-headed. The Reveille tints of Previn’s finale are Monty Alexander out of Sonny Rollins, as they say on the turf, and the marriage of jazz and classical elements works well, to the advantage of both - as one would expect of Previn.
 
The senior composer here is Michal Spisak who died over forty years ago. His Duetto Concertante for bassoon and viola - Kira Blumberg - is elegantly contrapuntal with a pawky humour in its Allegro second movement with plenty of Stravinsky and motor rhythms at play; strongly Parisian. By contrast Zorman’s 1984 A Grizzly’s Dream is a tougher nut, rather scabrous and atonal. Its individual movements, such as Sunday in the park with Pooh, with their promise of Sondheim-meets-Disney are almost comically and obviously deliberately at variance with the music. I much preferred Marcel Bitsch’s Concertino with its impressionism-meets-Rachmanovian moments; there’s a splendidly sinuous interplay between instruments even if Dolores Stevens’s piano is relatively recessed, a characteristic of the entire disc. The title track comes last and once more there’s a pre-recorded track. This time it’s full of attractive percussive sonorities and Beck plays it with great vitality and wit.
 
Try the Previn, the Chamberlain and the Spisak first, then the attractively amorphous Shapiro Of Breath and Touch and then sample at will. Good new(ish) repertoire - confidently performed, reasonably recorded.
 
Jonathan Woolf
 

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