Turning Point Ensemble, Owen Underhill, conductor
featuring Franí§ois Houle, clarinet
- Liquid, by John Korsrud
- Schrift by Yannick Plamondon
- Concerto by Franí§ois Houle
- Kya by Giacinto Scelsi
This ATMA release of music for clarinet and chamber ensemble certainly gets the title right. John Korsrud’s opening work begins with a rhythmic drive but quickly succumbs to a freely flowing and whirling series of colorful passages. The return of the opening pulse is simultaneously surprising, welcome, and inexorable. Yannick Plamondon’s Schrift takes a few timid steps at the beginning but then plunges the clarinetist feet first into blissful and graceful streams. The harmonic language is rich and shimmering and the textures blend seamlessly from chaotic to plaintive and achingly beautiful without effort. Plamondon uses the strings, piano, and percussion scoring to its maximal coloristic potential. Schrift is a work that truly breathes in all the right places.
Franí§ois Houle is all over this disc (and I mean that in every way you can imagine). His technique and musicality are perfectly matched to the flowing runs, soaring long tones, and any multiphonics that are thrown his way. As a composer, his Concerto is the beefiest work on the disc and encompasses an eclectic and quirky musical language. A frantic opening culminates with quasi-jazzy brass punctuations and then thins out into driving yet playful escapades. The single 20 minute span contains a well delineated fast-slow-fast form. The net result is as if Stravinsky’s Ebony Concerto had been given a bunch of steroids with a twisted helping of Gershwiny activity. The final scrambling cadenza has great use of slap tonguing and monophonic counterpoint. The ending, with the small clarinet sound and high pizzicato, is hands down the best ending on the CD.
Scelsi’s Kya is a prime example of Scelsi’s style and of the expressive emotional potential that can be (and, in this recording, is) realized from his language. Pitch centricity abounds while all players bend and twist around the drones in a haunting and mesmerizing fashion. If the previous work was Stravinsky and Gershwin, this work falls somewhere between Klezmer and Alvin Lucier’s drone compositions. The music and the performance is ultimately captivating and engrossing. You just want to sit and soak in it again and again.