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Paul MORAVEC (b.1957)
The Time Gallery (2000)[42:15]
Protean Fantasy (1993) [9:33]
Ariel Fantasy (2002) [4:17]
eighth blackbird (percussion)
Peter Sheppard-Skaerverd (violin)
Aaron Shorr (piano)
rec. Studio 4, Chicago Recording Company, Chicago, Illinois, 23-24 Nov 2002
NAXOS 8.559267 [56:06]

Time Gallery could essentially be called a chamber symphony. The movements are cyclical in their constant repetition of phrases, especially in the second movement. The piece appears to be a representation of the development of the clock, from canonical bells to mechanization, to the atomic clock, to time perceived in retrospect. The first movement goes off with the startlement of a clock that has lost a spring, with whirrings and bells, then settles in to the overall sound and feel of a traditional chamber piece. The somewhat exotic scoring of the piece makes itself evident — those are cowbells halfway through that meditative section — as one listens to the piece.
The second movement has four named sections, beginning with a confusion of clocks that breaks into a scherzo-like piece that busies itself with its fast tempo before moving on to the next with an uneasy descending chromatic motif. What follows is a rather fast section that culminates in a constantly-repeating figure that gradually falls apart into dissonance and disorganization. After a blow to the drum, we are back to the familiar motif heard earlier. The third movement, entitled Pulse: the feeling that happens, is another fast-paced scherzo-like movement. The fourth movement (Overtime: Memory Sings) again begins with a clocklike introduction. Chimes fade in, then the rasping deep ticking of a clock that multiplies over the beating of a heart. This is a movement of quiet tension that the string parts build on while the piano maintains an insistent tone in the left hand to carry the time motif. The composer, in his notes that accompany this recording, states that this movement calls up the “imagination of an ideal mind remembering the previous movements, reinventing the past”. It has the meditativeness of the first movement and is rather melancholic and wistful. As the parts fade, what is left is a pianissimo held A, on which the piece ends.
The Protean Fantasy of 1993, scored for violin and piano, begins with a bright exclamation before moving into a lyrical segment that forms the basis for the variations that follow. The immediate variation is a new side to the theme entirely, presented as a scherzo with the violin intoning the theme over the manic piano. An affecting and excitingly interesting piece.
The Ariel Fantasy is a perpetuum mobile scherzo, which Moravec mentions is the prototype of the Tempest Fantasy’s first movement, which is available on Arabesque Records (Z6791). All of the pieces here presented are exceedingly well recorded with, especially at the beginning, - and perhaps this is with intent - the percussion a bit too far forward. Naxos again remains highly consistent with its well-produced recordings of new and unfamiliar repertoire. Well-recorded, well-performed, this is an interesting and engaging program.
David Blomenberg

see also review by Dominy Clements


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