Dan Visconti’s Lonesome Roads (CD Review)

Dan Visconti
Lonesome Roads
Scharoun Ensemble Berlin; Horszowski Trio
Bridge Records CD

 

Lonesome Roads is Dan Visconti’s first solo disc.  Just thirty, the composer certainly has lots of talent and relishes the challenges posed by projects inspired by disparate musical styles. In particular, Visconti loves to combine American traditional music with various strains of concert music. When his postmodern magpie approach works, as it abundantly does on the title piece, a seven-movement suite at turns rhapsodic, folksy and hypermodern, the results are affecting. Similarly, Low Country Haze mixes clarinet in Coplandesque Americana mode with flute rasps and bends, punctuating percussion, and neo-romantic string swoons.

 

Elsewhere, there’s some inconsistency. While the individual sound schemes are the most adventurous assayed by the composer, the juxtapositions found in Fractured Jams feel forced, and the results, particularly in the closing ragtime movement, underwhelm. “Remembrances,” a post-romantic piano ballad, in places is overly sentimental; even schmaltzy. Black Bend, a piece for amplified string quintet that’s a showcase for the first violin, is even more problematic. It is an object lesson for one of the challenges facing polystylistic creatives: if you transplant a highly identifiable element into another medium, it may not work out well. So, all emerging crossover composers repeat after me: bluesy box riffs and Berlin-based string ensembles do not, based on the evidence supplied here, appear to mix well. If the accompaniment doesn’t swing it doesn’t matter how fiery the fiddle hoedown is down front.

 

Like Black Bend’s tale of two dissimilar demeanors, one sizzling and another mawkish, the Lonesome Roads CD leaves a decidedly mixed impression of Visconti’s work.

 

 

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