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Paul MORAVEC (b. 1957)
Chamber Symphony (2003) [19:44]
Autumn Song (2001) [4:59]
Cool Fire (2001) [21:02]
Musicians of the Bridgehampton Chamber Music Festival
rec. American Academy of Arts and Letters, New York, 12-17 December 2007
NAXOS 8.559393 [45:30]


Experience Classicsonline

Already impressed by another of Naxosís releases of Paul Moravecís music, the Time Gallery, I didnít expect to be disappointed by this new disc from Naxos. The Chamber Symphony is, as you might expect, full of fresh and transparent instrumentation, introducing flexible compactness to this more usually symphonic genre. Composed in four movements, the initial Lively movement does what it says on the tin, with lots of swift and energetic notes packed into its 4:44 duration. The second movement is of equal length, but has an elegiac, reflective exoticism which put me in mind of Roussel at times. The third is Quick, and has a punchy L. Bernstein jazz feel. The fourth movement is in two sections, Serene and Vivace! As the other movements build on the themes in the opening movement, this final movement gathers in and sums up the moods in the whole piece, right up to a gloriously triumphant set of progression in the penultimate bars. There is a romantic but thankfully unsentimental feel to the slower music, and the faster material is highly stimulating and must be great fun to play. Certainly, the Bridgehampton musicians play out of their skins, and convey a passion and joy which I sense would be hard to equal.

Autumn Song is a Ďsong without wordsí. Marya Martin the flute soloist in this duo with piano is the founder and artistic director of the Bridgehampton Chamber Music Festival, and clearly has as a strong a musical personality as that of an organiser. This piece is true high romanticism, but transparent in conception, avoiding difficult chromaticism in its arching an expressive lines.

Cool Fire is also a flute solo, this time a chamber concerto accompanied by piano quintet, and commissioned by Marya Martin. As with the Chamber Symphony and many other of Moravecís works, the importance of thematic unity and an integration of musical material is emphasised by the composer in his notes. This is an aspect of the music which I suspect will work more subconsciously with many listeners, as the complexity of the music is such that the ideas pass too swiftly to be immediately identified. The music isnít complex in an avant-garde squeaky-gate sense, but the sheer rapid-fire flow of inventiveness is quite breathtaking. The first movement is a true virtuoso tour de force out of the Ibert stable, with rapid notes and an equal partnership between flute solo and accompanying band. This Quick! Is followed by a Tenderly, singing movement, whose lyrical lines are less immediately teased out as in a piece like Autumn Song. Some of the close harmonies and clashes have a Martinů-esque sense, and the fairly late introduction of the piano heightens this feeling to my ears, although the idiom is in no way derivative. After a passionate climax, the music winds down through an extended and beautiful coda. This is a fascinating movement which, while superficially simple in conception and construction, doesnít give up its secrets all at once. Driving ostinati characterise the final Con fuoco, attacked again with gusto by the musicians, and providing a substantial and gripping close with plenty of witty whirlpools of changing mood.

While you may sniff at the short playing time on this disc, I canít imagine many people feeling short-changed by the end. There is so much going on in many of the movements that concentrated listening will leave you invigorated and a little exhausted, and I certainly had the feeling that there was enough here to be going on with. The performances are magnificent and the recording excellent in the now familiar American Academy of Arts and Letters acoustic, with clarity an essential part of genuine enjoyment of these works. Paul Moravecís music has broad appeal, but is also that of a personal voice which defies short-lived trendiness. It vibrates with all of the sparkling energy which reflects the best in the American spirit. The result is a disc which will, once heard, should call out to you for a long time to come.

Dominy Clements


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