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Andrew WAGGONER (b.1960)
Violin Concerto (2010 rev. 2013) [16:22]
Piano Concerto (2013) [18:24]
Guitar Concerto (2012) [12:55]
Michael Lim (violin)
Gloria Cheng (piano)
Kenneth Meyer (guitar)
Seattle Modern Orchestra/Julia Tai
rec. 2018, Bastyr Chapel, Seattle, USA
BRIDGE 9521 [47:06]

Until now I had not heard or heard of Andrew Waggoner. He grew up where he was born, in New Orleans and then in Minneapolis and Atlanta. He studied at the New Orleans Center for Creative Arts, the Eastman School of Music and Cornell University. Currently he is on the academic staff of Duke University.

Waggoner’s music is forthright, ferocious and mildly discordant: tough love rather than endued with or radiating affection. The ways of soft-brush neo-romanticism, spiritual/mysticism or minimalism, on this testimony, hold no attractions for him. His three three-movement concertos are from the present decade, and are short and feel concise; not at all the same thing. The Violin Concerto is insistent, concentrated and growls with energy. The mix tumbles downhill with aspects of Samuel Barber, Berg, Bartók and Szymanowski touched upon along the way. It is played with saturnine concentration by Michael Lim. Such is the work’s propulsive momentum that the whole thing is over in a chiming exotic haze reminiscent of Rudi Stephan almost before it starts. The movements are played without pause. A weakness is that it simply ends. There is no feeling of resolution but that is perhaps the point.

Equally busy is the Piano Concerto where the solo is taken by Gloria Cheng. This is a work that is just as restless as the Violin Concerto but which is more susceptible to discords. The piano’s eddies and flurries are shared with the orchestra; the whole seems to have been influenced by Messiaen. The movements are played with clear intervening pauses with the central one being a delicate, but not soft-centred, dream. The hyper-active finale has a transatlantic edginess as it stalks towards a quiet and enigmatic ‘music-box’ close.

The Guitar Concerto is the shortest concerto of the three. The guitar makes its presence known early on and stays close to centre-stage, even if it does not dominate. As is the case with the other concertos, the orchestra is not asked to doff its hat to the soloist - here Kenneth Meyer. The music is again given to bouncing between tender discords and abrasive cannonades. There is a lot going on to engage the ears and trouble the mind across this triumvirate of clearly separated movements.

I am again weighed in the balance and found wanting but even after reading the booklet notes I am no nearer to understanding why the disc is called Quantum Memoir. It hardly matters. All I can add is that Waggoner’s earlier Albany chamber music CD (2011) was called “Terror and Memory”.

There was space on this disc for more Waggoner. There are, for example, two symphonies, one each from the 1980s and 1990s, as well as a Concerto for Trumpet and Wind Ensemble. We must content ourselves with this atmospherically recorded and properly documented disc. The composer can take pride in a well executed sampling of his orchestral music; an elite production.

Rob Barnett

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