I first heard something by Chihara when I was sent a private
tape of his Saxophone Concerto. It was a good experience and
led on - sparsely - to other discoveries including the Reference
Recordings CD of his full length ballet The
Chihara was born in Seattle and holds a doctorate from Cornell
having studied there with Robert Palmer. His other teachers have
included Boulanger (Paris), Ernst Pepping (Berlin) and Gunther
This selection of three of his chamber works and one orchestral
work is the first of his music I have heard in quite some time.
I hope to hear more but opportunities are regrettably scarce.
Ain't No Sunshine
is the outcome of a commission for a
short yet brilliant piece for a Far East tour by Joel Sachs and
his Continuum Ensemble - much of whose studio work has been reissued
on Naxos. It is based on but never states directly the blues
ballad of that name by Bill Withers. Its full title is Ain't
No Sunshine when she is gone.
The work heard here is an extended
three movement version of the original written specially for
Mark Kaplan's Trio. Its intensely coloured fantasy is slightly
dissonant yet in substance stays in touch with tonality. Its
dreaminess reminded me of the desolate witchery of the instrumental
part in Warlock's The Curlew
. It is not specially bluesy
but is more dreamy-yearning-haunting in the manner of say Lambert
The Piano Quintet La Foce
benefited from the advice of
Pascal Rogé during the writing stage. It contains the
DNA of Fauré's singing lines and Ravel's impressionism
alongside the eerieness and fragmentation of more modern styles.
The two elements are nicely resolved and rude gear-changes avoided.
The central movement is the vehicle for a blast of sanguine writing.
The final pages glow with the memory of the composer's idyllic
recollected Parisian years.
reflects the composer's childhood experience
of forced relocation from Seattle to camps (including Minidoka)
in the USA where those of Japanese origin were effectively incarcerated
in the wake of Pearl Harbour. It is another atmospheric score
with many impressionistic touches including something that sounds
like a kazoo playing a siren noise and the sound of shinto monks.
The second movement includes the singing of fragments of a song
remembered from those years Away Beyond the Hills of Idaho
The effect is of a warm collage in which memory focuses and slips
into haze and back.
The single orchestral work is An Afternoon on the Perfume
which was premiered at Carnegie Hall, by the Orpheus
Chamber Orchestra on 7 February 2003. As we have come to expect
by now the style is impressionistic and bejewelled with notes
slewing off-centre. The title is from a poem by Nguyen Khoa Diem
who fought for the communist side in the Vietnam war. The Perfume
River flows past the country's capital Hanoi.
The recording is uniformly powerful - strikingly so in the chamber
works - in fact almost intimidating in the last movement of Ain't
These are all compactly expressed short pieces which show a creditable
intensity of concentration by this composer. Rewarding music
and no mistake. Will appeal to those able to accommodate a insurgency
of dissonance and modern discontinuity. The pulsing core is melodic,
impressionistic, atmospheric - even nostalgic.