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Richard DANIELPOUR (b.1956)
Lamentations (2013) for clarinet, violin, cello and piano* [11:01]
Andrew LIST (b.1966)
Klezmer Fantazye (2014)*[7:44]
Visions from the Aboriginal Dreamtime (2011)* [14:42]
John MACKEY (b.1973)
Breakdown Tango (2000) [9:09]
Zodiac: Across the Universe (2013)*
Ben NEWHOUSE (b.1976)
Cancer [1:01]
Bojan GLAVINA (b.1961)
Leo [0:47]
James ROMIG (b.1971)
Virgo [1:08]
Noel FORTMAN (b.1995)
Libra [1:13]
John McDONALD (b.1959)
Scorpio [1:16]
Alan ISHII (b.1987)
Sagitarius [1:01]
Stanley HOFFMAN (b.1959)
Capricorne [0:58]
Luke FLYNN (b.1988)
Aquarius [1:03]
Gaetano NENNA (b.1984)
Pisces [1:02]
Francine TRESTER (b.1969)
Aries [1:04]
Martin LORIDAN (b.1980)
Taurus [1:12]
Jerzy Fryderyk WOJCIECHOWSKI (b.1987)
Gemini [0:54]
Zodiac Trio (Kliment Krylovskiy (clarinet), Vanessa Mollard (violin), Riko Higuma (piano)
Ariel Barnes (cello: Lamentations, Tango)
* World première recordings
rec. February 2015, Blue Griffin’s Studio The Ballroom, Lansing, Michigan, USA

I’m getting used to coming across composers I have never heard of before but a disc with 14 on it is surely a record (pardon the pun)! I had only heard of Richard Danielpour before and his is the longest work here. I knew that the disc would be worth hearing because I reviewed the Zodiac Trio’s debut disc and much admired these young musicians’ playing.

Apart from John Mackey’s Breakdown Tango all the works here were composed especially for the Zodiac Trio, Danielpour’s Lamentations in 2013. It is a tribute to Iranian women whose voices are stifled by the ultra conservative Islamist fundamentalist regime. Danielpour’s ancestors on both sides of his family were Persian Jews who fled to the US during World War II. It is an astonishingly atmospheric piece which opens with the sitar-like sounds of plucked piano strings and the three other instruments then enter and a mood of sober reflection is established which pervades the entire work. There are allusions to Middle Eastern harmonies which the clarinet is so amply suited to represent but the general feel is one of angered outcry against the injustice meted out to women in Iran though regrettably of course that can so easily be applied to too many other countries as well. Danielpour has a very unique musical voice and is really worth getting to know and there are valuable YouTube videos and audio examples to enjoy. Lamentations certainly makes a powerful impression.

Andrew List’s Klezmer Fantazye is huge fun and an interesting take on the klezmer genre being divided between a serious statement as introduction and which reappears later, in between which the music speeds up with an exciting rendition of a klezmer classic the Odessa Bulgar which is full of the frantic rhythms associated with klezmer which makes it so wildly attractive,with clarinettist and Zodiac Trio’s leader Kliment Krylovskiy sounding for all the world like a real klezmorim; be warned it is so infectious that it will take you considerable effort not to get up and dance!

There then follows List’s work entitled Visions from the Aboriginal Dreamtime which is a musical depiction of the myths and legends which form the Australian aboriginals’ take on the story of creation with each of its four sections describing the stages that went towards creating the earth as it eventually became, with its peoples and geographical features. These stories embody a respect as well as a reverence for all living things. The opening describes the earth as a “world (that) was featureless, flat and grey” after which the ancestors emerge during ‘dreamtime’ when they literally sang everything into being and went around gouging out valleys, ravines and rivers while searching for food. Then with the music in a calmer mood we have the episode in which the “ancestors create universal love” and the work finishes with a musical evocation of the Corroboree, a celebration in “songs, dances, rallies and meetings where people act out legends and stories from the Dreamtime”. Once the listener is acquainted with the concept of the work List’s clever use of each instrument manages to describe these weighty ideas in a demonstrably effective way.

The only work not receiving its world première recording on the disc is John Mackey’s Breakdown Tango commissioned by Parsons Dance Company and which had its première in 2000. As if the tango were not exciting enough in itself Mackey’s treatment enhances that excitement taking it to a new level, almost as if it was the devil’s tango. That is until the central section in which the music slows right down, becoming languid and sultry before speeding up once more with a closing repetition of the slow tango as a momentary looking back.

The last 12 tracks is where 12 more composers I had never heard of before come in as each contributes a tiny fragment that goes towards making up Zodiac: Across the Universe in which each sign of the zodiac is portrayed. The work came into being following a request by one of the Chinese presenters on a tour of China by the trio for such a work to be played but since no such work existed a call for scores went out which resulted in over 100 submissions. These were rigorously whittled down to the 12 here. In a branch of astrology called synastry the signs are divided between fire, earth, air and water as follows to suggest compatibility between partners:
- Fire: Aries, Leo, Sagittarius
- Earth: Taurus, Virgo, Capricorn
- Air: Gemini, Libra, Aquarius
- Water: Cancer, Scorpio, Pisces

Ben Newhouse’s Cancer is extremely descriptive (as you couldn’t fail to recognise the crablike behaviour in this one minute piece) while Bojan Glavina’s Leo is suitably masterfully lion-like. Virgo is an atmospheric piece and Libra is airy as befits its position in the list of signs. Each and every one has managed to encapsulate the qualities allotted to the sign and is amazingly accurate particularly when you know that the longest piece is only 1:16. Capricorne by Stanley Hoffman is especially effective, but they are all quite mesmerising and demand repeated listening. There is a uniformity of expression that is surprising given that each is by someone different and the whole exercise is quite fascinating. I tried to decide how accurate the musical description of my sign is but couldn’t quite make my mind up; perhaps I need to ask someone else to do so. What it also did was to spur me on to look up more substantial works by this group of young and highly talented composers for they certainly piqued my interest.

This is a really intriguing disc of fascinating music and I think a brave undertaking by the musicians for it is always a risk to present new music rather than something everyone knows. Their debut disc was of Stravinsky, Nicolas Bacri, Galina Ustvolskaya and Bartók, again hardly standard fare but brilliantly played and thoroughly enjoyable. It is I think a mark of their musical integrity that they play music because they love doing so regardless of how many discs they might end up selling though in future I’m sure they will record some core repertoire which will prove highly saleable, meanwhile I urge you to give this disc a listen for you will, I’m certain, enjoy it as much as I did. The three members of the Zodiac trio play with peerless ability and Ariel Barnes’ cello adds a mellow layer in the two works his contributes to.

Steve Arloff



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