The American composer Deon
studied with Leslie Bassett and Samuel Adler.
She has been active in various academic bodies in West Coast universities.
She has written extensively and with distinction in relation to
her instrument, the piano. Her catalogue of compositions is substantial.
The pieces featured here are recorded at a higher level than usual
and every detail emerges close-up and vivid.
Yellow Jade Banquet
sports super-clear textures and lines.
Impressions flood in: an excited squeal, an enchanting undulation,
an Oriental swerve, a hint of chant and seductively inspirational
pulses suggestive of minimalism - which this writing is not. Hovhaness,
McPhee, Cowell and Lou Harrison are perhaps influences on this
The macabre Epitaphs for Fallen Heroes
induces awe. There
is something of the ceremony in this piece with its stonily resonant
and hieratically assertive piano part. The Dies Irae
angular dissonance are confidently mixed. Take this as a sort
of Bergian-surreal successor to Liszt’s Totentanz
is a phantasmagoria of American traditional
tunes with Johnny comes marching home
melting into Taps
and thence to Copland and so on. The composer affectionately continues
a tradition made resilient by Ives and keeps the ear constantly
beguiled by each transition.
is a gritty, rhetorical and tough work for wind
band. It is inspired by life’s paths that step off the way
or onward through gateways. It is as much about the paths as the
gateways themselves, we are told.
States of Mind
is a work in four movements: Meditation
, Mysterious Dream
The first is a tender essay redolent of Barber at his most gentle.
thrusts thorny angles into the pottage
and its stinging poignancy sears and scars in a way suggestive
of Schnittke. Mysterious Dream
moves from dank meditation
to free-wheeling surreal visions. Transformation
serrated Shostakovich-like determination and some stunning headlong
pizzicato passages. The fugal flavour of some of the writing was
irritating - a very personal prejudice.
Dancing on the Brink of the World
is much in the same exotic
vein - a sort of time-travelling fantasy from the Yelamu autochthons
of Crissy Field to Hispanic incursion and onwards from the internment
of Japanese Americans to a tribute in retrospect to the ancient
cultures. It’s a rich brew of whooping energy, bristling
and chirruping, ratchet and rattle, groaning brass redolent of
Hovhaness and dancing vitality. A smoochy soft shoe dance is made
the more intriguing by a high and anxiously buzzing repeated figure
from the violins. Fragments and musical units are in constant
motion like an inspirational kaleidoscope of the emotions and
of inventive imagery. The effect in this work’s dazzle of
consciousness is something like a pellucid version of Grainger’s
. The work ends with the foghorn in the Bay.
This disc is a successor to Cambria’s first Deon Nielsen
Price CD (CD-1170) which included To the Children of War
song-cycle for voice and piano; Diversions
for trio; L'Alma Jubilo
(The Jubilant Soul), for solo guitar;
Big Sur Triptych
, for soprano saxophone and piano: (Sea
Otters; Redwoods; Crags); Hexachord
: View from Malibu
and Three Faces of Kim, the Napalm Girl
, for alto and soprano
saxophones and piano.
The notes are quite full but fail to tell me things like the composer’s
year of birth and exactly where Crissy Field is.
This music is intriguing - rich and strange indeed. Very Californian
in the freewheeling accommodation it strikes with the Pacific
Rim and with history.