Yvonne TROXLER (b.1962)
Penn 1, for flute, bass flute, bass clarinet, vibraphone and piano (2006/2011) [8:15]
Shergotty, for three percussionists (2004/2011) [9:32]
Brouhaha, for violin, cello and three glass bowl players (2010) [11:24]
Susurrus, for viola, cello and piano (2011) [7:00]
Kaleidoskop, for tenor saxophone, electric guitar, percussion and piano (2005) [6:34]
Glass Farm Ensemble
rec. Concordia College, Bronxville, New York, 25-28 July 2011; Ovation Sound, Winston-Salem, North Carolina, 25 August 2007 (Kaleidoskop).
INNOVA 835 [42:50]
Byzantion’s review of this disc covered the bases for this cute little release. I like innova’s mini-LP look to some of their new discs, and while there is no booklet at least the package doesn’t inevitably tear as with some other slimline/foldout designs.
Composers integrated into their own ensemble have plenty of advantages when it comes to composing. Presenting an ensemble with a finished work when you have little idea of the chemistry, personalities and tastes of the musicians involved can be a recipe for misunderstanding or rejection, and the closer the collaboration the better the results are likely to be. This release is a kind of high class demo disc for both Yvonne Troxler and the Glass Farm Ensemble, and I wish them the best of luck with it.
Penn 1 has an interesting pallet of sonorities, with bass clarinet a definitive factor in the winds, piano low and percussive as well as combining with a vibraphone to create a lively sparkle at times. There is also an atmospheric slow section which explores multiphonics and microtone interval relationships. Evocative of “the noises a big city like New York produces”, the flashes of action and nocturne-like imagery is more cinematic than actual, but none the worse for that. I’m less enamoured of the repetitions into the 6th minute and beyond, and the piece tends to wander a bit and might be worth editing to get the best from the material, but it’s still decent enough stuff.
Shergotty is the name given to a meteorite from Mars, and Troxler describes the three movements of this piece for three percussionists as “like found objects.” Woody untuned percussion like knocking stones, deep thrummings and bowed metal and juicy ostinati create fascinating mini-worlds which spark the imagination. Brouhaha has glass bowl players adding some magical effects to a violin and cello. These bowls are played with marimba mallets to create unusual chimes, as well as being set into resonance by ball bearings in the second movement. In the end this piece raises more questions than answers and doesn’t really satisfy one way or the other. The effects are interesting but remain effects rather than generating something really new, and the string parts are either profound or profoundly uninteresting, depending on your point of view or sense of charity. As a pianist, I would have thought Troxler would have heard the integration of the bowl sounds with piano strings as more interesting than - glass harmonicas aside - the more disparate relationship of ringing bowls to 18th century catgut.
Susurrus is made using a standard piano trio instrumentation, so with piano, violin and cello. The title means “a soft whispering or rustling sound”, and the composer emphasises the unification of the instruments through superimposition. This doesn’t mean constant unison playing, but does involve the strings and piano exploring the same range for extended periods. This idea is not necessarily a bad one and I don’t insist on Haydn-esque musical conversations from chamber ensembles of this kind, but alas the result here ends up neither fish nor flesh, with plenty of low ruminating, an absolute lack of connection with any kind of emotional message and the kind of muddy musical material which makes you ill with frustration. Yuk.
The compact final work Kaleidoskop is a wider exploration of less familiar juxtapositions of sonority and timbre, with saxophone, electric guitar, percussion and piano. This is intriguing rather than communicative of the kind of ‘wow’ factor which brings you back to a piece. Troxler’s own notes on the work talk about technical factors and the relationship of the musical treatments to the title, but as with much of the rest of the music here this is a closed world which invites you to take a look - presenting its own values in a kind of ‘take it or leave it’ way, looking up at us from the bottom of a deep well and not really giving us the idea of its having very much to say about anything.
If this were poetry, you would read it, raise an eyebrow and move on; your life unchanged by thunderbolts of significance or an expansion of understanding and connectedness. These are nicely crafted objects which are interesting to have around, but sooner rather than later I suspect more interesting and inspiring baubles will take their place in your mental space.
Interesting and likeable baubles, but no great discoveries here.