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Justin RUBIN (b.1971) Nostalgia
1. Night Song for Noa (2008) [3:34]
2. Bagatelles for Bassoon and Marimba (2008) [7:34]
3. Nostalgia (2006) [4:05]
4. Variations on "Nun komm', der Heiden Heiland" (2006)
5. Récitative Styrienne (2006) [5:14]
6. Il momento lussureggiante per tre musicisti (2008) [2:59]
7. Boutadettas (2005-6) [10:27]
8. Nouveaux Estampies (2006) [6:32]
9. Un piccolo duetto di basso (2007) [4:44]
10. Hocket in Your Pocket (2006) [7:34]
11. Un temps calme (2007) [10:16]
Jefferson Campbell (bassoon: 1-3, 5, 7-11); Patrick O'Keefe (clarinet:
1, 4, 6, 8); Shannon L. Wettstein (piano: 1, 3, 6, 7); Gene Koshinski
(percussion: 2, 6, 10); Josh Aerie (cello: 9); Samuel Black (organ:
rec. October-November 2008, Sacred Heart Studios, Duluth, Minnesota
INNOVA 738 [69:49]
This disc is for lovers of chamber music with wind instruments, especially bassoon. The pieces are diverse and ear-catching. The composer's voice is distinctive. Textures are transparent, with inventive harmony and skilful, rich counterpoint.
Night Song for Noa for clarinet, bassoon and piano is one of the highlights of the disc. This is chamber music of top quality, with the voices of clarinet and bassoon twisting and entwining like two snakes in a jungle forest, amid lianas and exotic flowers. My favorite work on the disc is the set of Bagatelles for bassoon and marimba. This non-standard duet proves to be an unexpectedly good match, like two very different people in a happy marriage. The composer produces motifs generously and handles them with skill. The work has the well-defined structure of a sonatina. Nostalgia is another night-song, a wide, dark river of thought, of memory, warm and sad at the same time.
The Variations on "Nun komm', der Heiden Heiland" start with a surprise. One would expect a wide, Bachian introduction to the famous chorale. Instead, one gets a lively, almost klezmerish dance. The stately variation will come later, at its turn, as well as its more playful, reflective and ecstatic sisters. These are genuine variations, digging deep into the theme.
Récitative Styrienne is a long monologue for the bassoon, built on two motifs. It explores well the highs and the lows of the instrument's tessitura. A solo bassoon piece will inevitable be a little dry. But it's very well played. Il momento lussureggiante returns to the mysterious, exotic night of the opening piece - though, in my opinion, something is missing that could make it really exciting. The four Boutadettas also left me quite indifferent: too much is in the vein of what has gone before. But the ensuing Nouveaux Estampies for clarinet and bassoon are again engaging and expressive, the two instruments in conversation like two brothers or good friends.
Un piccolo duetto di basso - with its large and angular, but cautious, leaps – is reminiscent of Prokofiev. Some fascinating effects from the cello here. This piece was fun to listen to. Hocket in Your Pocket has a similar character. There are interesting moments, but as a whole I found this piece tedious. Its length is not justified by its contents. The length is, however, well justified in the last piece, Un temps calme. As the composer himself describes it in the insert-notes, "it consists of a single chord in the organ establishing itself as a complex pad of sound over which the organ and bassoon trade off recitative-like melodies". The result is hypnotic, static, timeless. This is not music to listen to in a car: it requires complete immersion, but you will be rewarded. When it was over, I felt as if I had visited a brain-spa for a good slow brain-massage.
The entire disc leaves a feeling of a chamber concert experience. Without doubt, this is a significant addition to the bassoon repertoire. The bassoonist Jefferson Campbell is the heart of the project: in the performance itself, as well as in the inspiration behind some of the pieces. His playing is indeed inspired and inspiring, technically brilliant and expressive. Other performers are also very good, as are the insert notes and the recording quality. Still, it seems to me that if I return to this disc, I'll probably go to its beginning and to its end.
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