Mementos: Modern Orchestral Music
Keith KRAMER Emerge [20:12]
Stephen YIP (b.1971) Raining in Autumn (1996) [11:17]
Jason BARABBA Conjecture [9:16]
Shawn CROUCH (b.1908) City Columns (1994) [8:56];
Slovak National Philharmonic Orchestra/Kirk Trevor; Moravian Philharmonic Orchestra/Vit Micka; Ondrej Lebr (violin); Richard Stoltzman (clarinet)
rec. May 2008, Bratislava, Slovakia [1, 3]; December 2008, Olomouc, Czech Republic [2, 4]. DDD
NAVONA NV5816 [49:57]

This disc contains four contemporary orchestral works by American composers. Despite the excellent graphic design and a colourful cover, the disc does not provide sleeve-otes other than composer biographies. It would have been interesting to learn something about the pieces in the form of a programme note.

Keith Kramer’s Emerge sets the ball rolling with imaginative orchestral colours, fascinating textures and evocative harmonies. One can sense the influence of electronic music in his writing, and there is something of a link to the spectral style of Murail and others. Kramer makes use of air sounds and col legno to excellent effect, giving an added dimension to the sound-world. Structurally the piece works well, too, with enough material to maintain interest for the twenty minute duration and some of the earlier material returning towards the end giving a sense of the music having come full circle.

Raining in Autumn by Stephen Yip is a violin concerto with a wonderful sense of ebb and flow. Yip’s music contains both Chinese and western influences and makes use of percussion to provide colour to the overall sound. The piece is in one movement and builds in intensity, breaking into an extended violin solo. Ondrej Lebr is an excellent soloist, with a beautifully rich tone and expressive phrasing. This is a well constructed work which takes the listener on an interesting journey. Highly enjoyable.

Jason Barabba’s Conjecture features clarinet, ably played by Richard Stoltzman. Barabba’s orchestra accompanies with building textures and careful balance. Elements of the music remind me of Holst, Stravinsky and others, but more in terms of the instrumental use and than harmonically. The clarinet line is plaintive and flows beautifully, floating over the orchestra with a sense of serenity.

The final work on the disc is Shawn Crouch’s City Columns. This a more rhythmical work than the others heard here, and the variety is welcomed. Crouch’s orchestral sound is bright, making good use of the wind and brass section and creating colours through the use of different mutes and instrumental pairings. Melodic lines are heard over moving textures and a building rhythmic drive.

This is an enjoyable selection of works with much to offer. These works are fresh and well-conceived, with some imaginative orchestral writing and some interesting musical ideas.

Carla Rees