This is something a little different; even a touch eccentric.
I will quote the inside of the cardboard CD holder. The pieces
selected are “ a carefully handpicked selection of new
chamber works by contemporary composers designed to showcase
the diversity of modern music-making and these pieces ... cut
right through the oft-repeated misconception that classical
music is dead on the vine.” So, what to expect from that?
Something revolutionary? Something radical? Something crossover
or minimalist? Something with a highly original turn? Well,
we get music that sometimes sounds as if it was written 50-70
years ago being often quite tonal. Does that matter?
First up is American composer Reynard Burns and his attractive
and neat three movement Carnival for wind ensemble. It
sports a light and airy Allegro-Adagio and a Vivace
with some elegant lines and spunky rhythms. The disc comes with
no liner-notes but says that you must ”Place this product
in your computer to access study scores, extended liner notes
and more”. Two little icons should pop onto your screen
and on clicking on one of them it all becomes very impressive
and clever. Scores are available and can be downloaded and you
can listen to a few minutes of each track in order to get a
taste of each.
The second piece is British composer Lionel Sainsbury’s
passionate unaccompanied violin piece Soliloquy. Being
able to see the score makes it quite clear how supremely well
it has been conceived for the violin. It may well remind many
of you in its modal lines and intricate, jazzy rhythms of the
same composer’s large-scale Violin Concerto recorded by
Lorraine McAslan for Dutton (CDLX7245).
As an intriguing example of two-part writing take a look at
the brief Daugava by Swedish composer Hákan Sundin
for flute and clarinet. Daugava is the name of a river here
depicted flowing in and around itself in a delicate and curly
manner. It’s quite fascinating: sometimes together and
sometimes separate and all hanging around a single tonality.
Equally modest, although a little longer, is the Duo for
Clarinet and Violin by Dutch composer Hans Bakker who, now
retired, composes full-time. The opening Andante is a
gentle canon. The middle movement introduces glissandi into
a tender landscape. The finale is a little romp in compound
time which is also canonic. Overall, it’s a piece which
seems to me a little cerebral.
The booklet remarks “Who says eclecticism isn’t
a wonderful thing” - a happy statement, I feel. The two
pieces for the same instrumental combination by American composer
Alan Beeler bear out this argument.
Cadenzas began life, it seems, as an aleatoric Cage-inspired
score in the 1960s. The composer tells us only that “a
few year’s later” he notated it into what seems
to me to be a Webernesque piece of near-pointillism. After repeated
hearings it has certainly grown on me. It is freely atonal whereas
the Flute, Clarinet Viola and Piano Quartet No. 2
- what an unusual but mellow combination to write for twice
- is much more tonal although not in any specific key. Beeler’s
idea was to use chromatic elements but in a tonally controlled
environment. He uses differing intervallic relationships for
each movement in the hope of listeners finding his music more
attractive. He succeeds in doing this across the four movements.
Allegro, Largo, an Allegretto in 5-time
and finally a dancing Allegretto set of Variations in
compound time. The latter continues the idea of overlapping
lines, used throughout this piece and also in Cadenzas.
Another clearly eclectic American, Christina Rusnak, is represented
by her solo piano piece Kypiro. This started, she says,
as an improvisation. Following the score one quickly realises
that it is entirely on the white notes but retains constant
interest. It sounds like a controlled improvisation but is full
of ear-tickling ideas.
For me, the pick of the CD comes last, William A. Fletcher’s
curiously titled Avalokiteshvara’s Taxi. In his
notes the composer waffles a bit about how he wants to connect
emotionally with his listeners, which he does. He fails to explain
the title or tell us when the piece was written but does tell
us that these performers are the dedicatees. The work is tripartite
and is marked with some lovely writing including overlapping,
logical and lyrical lines. It is beautifully balanced for the
four winds and leaving one feeling good and wishing that it
might have gone on longer.
My overall impression, being something of a Luddite, is that
this disc with its need to be put into the computer to obtain
biographies and composers’ notes is a bit of a nuisance.
Even so it’s brilliant to be able to follow the scores
as long as you are quick to click onto the next page. My musician
son aged 27 found it wonderful, as he does not have a conventional
CD player or stereo unit. The sound obtained is very good but
even better through a ‘proper’ stereo. In the circumstances
its slightly short playing time is probably an irrelevance.
All of the performances are excellent and I can find nothing
detrimental to say about any of these multifarious players and
recording venues; the whole enterprise is highly desirable.
Reynard BURNS (b.1946)
Carnival for Wind ensemble (2002) [11.22]
Moravian Philharmonic Winds
rec. 6 September 2011
Lionel SAINSBURY (b.1958)
Soliloquy for Solo Violin (1993)
Vit Muzik (violin)
rec. 11 July 2011
Hakán SUNDI (b.1942)
Daugava for flute and clarinet (2011) [2.15]
Marta Talabova (flute); Ales Janecek (clarinet)
rec. 28 July 2011
Hans BAKKER (b.1945)
Duo for Violin and Clarinet (2005) [7.35]
Vit Muzik (violin); Ales Janecek (clarinet)
rec. 3 March 2011
Alan BEELER (b.1939)
Cadenzas for piano, viola, cello and flute (1960s rev.later)[5.40]
Karolina Rojahn (piano); Mark Berger (viola); Yasmin Valenzuela
(clarinet); Lisa Hennessy (flute)
Flute, Clarinet, Viola and Piano Quartet No. 2 [10.27]
(performers as above)
rec. 15 April 2011, Reduta Hall, Olomouc, Czech Republic
Christina RUSNAK (b.1959)
Kyripo for solo piano (2007) [4.54]
Played by the composer
rec. Autumn 2007, Kiev, Ukraine
William A. FLETCHER (b.1955)
Avalokiteshvara’s Taxi for flute, oboe, clarinet
and bassoon [5.41]