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CD: Innova


Brooke JOYCE
Waves of Stone
Six Degrees of Separation (2000) [8:46]
Dark Waters (2007) [15:14]
Three Iowa Ballads (2008) [16:38]
Come up from the fields, father (1994) [14:08]
Waves of Stone (2008) [15:40]
toydogmusic (2003) [5:37]
Carol Hester (flute; piccolo); Stephanie Zelnick (clarinet); Jubal Fulks (violin) Eric Kutz (cello); Miko Kominami (piano); Michael Geary (percussion); Andrew D Whitfield (baritone); Spencer Martin (viola); Brooke Joyce (percussion; melodica; toy piano); Du Huang (piano); Xiao Hu (piano)
rec. Oct 2008- April 2009, Noble Recital Hall, Luther College, Decorah, IA, USA. DDD
INNOVA 753 [76:05]
Experience Classicsonline


Brooke Joyce is an American composer, currently teaching at Luther College in Decorah, Iowa. This disc, on the Innova label, which is run by the American Composers’ Forum, contains six of his chamber works, composed between 1994 and 2008.

Six Degrees of Separation has an explosive opening with strong rhythms and a sense of drive. The music breaks away into a Reich-style percussion ostinato and then a static moment builds tension before explosive gestures return. The Reichian movement reappears with the textures building to include the whole ensemble, gradually changing in tempo. This is an interesting work which makes use of varied textures and speeds of development, building in tension and creating a dramatic sense of movement through time. The instrumental ensemble provides varied colours and the use of bright percussion adds a sparkle to the sound, while the piano is mostly used to give weight to the bass end. The ensemble performs with vigour and the piece seems to have its own life-force and energy.

Dark Waters is a duo for cello and piano. Joyce immediately creates a sense of atmosphere in the opening moments, with ominous harmonies and repetition in the piano part which allows sounds to linger. The cello and piano are used to good effect and Joyce creates a good balance between a sense of the abstract and memorable material. He cites Liszt and Rothko among his influences for this piece, and both can be detected in his writing.

The Three Iowa Ballads are the most recent of the pieces on this disc, composed just last year. The combination of baritone, viola and percussion is an interesting one, with a dark sonority which entices. The first of the songs, The Miner’s Chant is strongly rhythmic with a folk-style influence. The Ballad of Hardin Town is an old-style crime story, and the setting is both dramatic and imaginative. There is something about Joyce’s style which reminds me of Britten, and the folk influence is accentuated by the choice of percussion and the style of harmony. The final song in the set has a lilting feel, reminiscent of a Scottish folk song, and is beautifully phrased. Andrew Whitfield’s baritone voice is a pleasure to listen to and these are well-written songs with a sense of character and imagination.

Come up from the fields, father is a setting of a text by Walt Whitman. The tessitura is higher than the previous songs, using soprano voice and high-pitched woodwind. The bass end of the ensemble is provided by piano and cello, although these instruments are also used high in their ranges at the opening of the work. This is another colourful work which integrates the voice into the instrumental sound very well.

Waves of Stone, the title track of the disc, was also composed in 2008 and is a three movement work for piano duo. Joyce’s writing gives an almost symphonic feel to the two pianos, with a wide scope of sound and range. These are dramatic pieces which are rhythmically energetic, with ostinati, toccata-style passages and a sense of underlying strength of will. The playing of the Unison Piano Duo (Du Huang and Xiao Hu) is impressive throughout, and this is a successful piece which belongs as part of the piano duo repertoire.

The somewhat frivolous toydogmusic ends the disc, a short work for piccolo and toy piano which celebrates toys and small dogs. This is a comical piece which is nevertheless well written and possesses an imaginative sound-world, with the piccolo used mainly in the low register to blend with the metallic sound of the toy piano, rather than being allowed to dominate. This work gives a sense of the composer’s personality and is a fun end to the disc.

Carla Rees

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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