Archive for the “Bridge Records” Category
David Starobin, guitar
New Rochelle Suite,
Poul Ruders (with Daniel Druckman, percussion)
Three Places in New Rochelle,
David Starobin (with Daniel Druckman, percussion)
David Starobin is an amazing performer, we all know this. His technique is clean and clear, making the impossible sound fluid and effortless. We forget how hard some of this music is because he performs it so well, making everything seem idiomatic. Starobin’s performances on Family Album
do not disappoint on any level. The music performed is high-level stuff and the performances of each piece is flawless.
The CD uses multi-movement solo guitar music as bookends, pitting six of William Bland’s preludes (4, 3, 15, 6, 8, and 9 out of the 48 preludes Bland composed in 2005) against Paul Lansky’s Semi-Suite. Bland’s music captures the idea of “prelude” better than anything I’ve heard in recent months. These pieces are short jewels of brevity and craft. Each prelude feels like the beginning of something larger without leaving a residual absence when the prelude concludes. They are beginnings, yet they are complete and elegant.
There is nothing semi about Lansky’s suite. Each movement sparkles and ripples through the guitar. Where the Bland work (not bland by any means) is crafted of smaller gestures and moods, Lansky’s individual movements are longer and more robust. As one word of warning, the booklet that came in the CD appears to be a mistaken Frankenstein of the Starobin album with notes from Melvin Chen’s recording of Shostakovich piano music. The track listing for for everything after the Ruders piece is missing and the program notes do not provide a lot of information about the names of the Lansky movements (CDDB merely numbers the movements). I don’t know if this has been corrected in subsequent printings of the album.
The other solo guitar piece, Bailarín by Tania Leí³n, is a brief and elegant work that slithers around the guitar both melodically and rhythmically. The moments come in fits and starts and as the piece progresses the gestures become longer and more rhythmically coherent. It is everything that the other solo guitar compositions are not and makes an excellent midpoint to the disc.
Poul Ruders and David Starobin each contribute works for guitar with percussion. Both works were written to be performed by David and his daughter Allegra (hence the Family Album title for the CD). Both pieces use limited percussion resources in each brief movement and their “doing more with less” attitude of percussion writing is extremely gratifying. The Ruders composition is rather light in character but not in artistry. The movements are short and do not try to be more than they should be. Poul Ruders can do more with a snare drum and a vibraslap than most composers can do with 8 active percussionists. They are inspiring pieces as well as entertaining.
Starobin’s own composition is quite compelling. Two of the three places that inspired the work are restaurants which I find amusing in and of itself. The third piece is a rather touching and serious work connected to his wife, providing a spiritual contrast to the other two while still feeling musically necessary. Again, the percussion writing is effectively controlled. Sirens whine in the first movement, ambient water and water-gongs punctuate the middle, and larger toned gongs fill the final movement. The guitar writing is fresh, idiomatic, and poetic. I want to visit these places.
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Pull My Daisy
David Amram Quartet
Pull My Daisy; Lover Man; Take the “A” Train; Saint Thomas; Summertime; Gracias, Amigos; Tennessee Waltz; Red River Valley; Blue Monk
David Amram: piano, vocals, congas, flutes, french horn, cowbell, pennywhistles, claves & percussion; Victor Venegas: bass; Akira Tana: drums; Vic Juris: guitar; Paquito de Rivera: alto sax, clarinet, bells and conga.
This CD of jazz standards was previously released on Premier Recording (PRCD 1046) and does not contain any new material from that release. David Amram and his quartet provide smooth and entertaining live performances of each of these pieces and each track is a lot of fun. Of particular note are the many pennywhistle smack-downs throughout the CD. I could hardly believe how wild and crazy the pennywhistle could be! When I saw the instrument in the litany of everything that Mr. Amram was going to play, I didn’t expect it to occupy as much air time as it does. I was happy to hear a lot of it.
The arrangements are very sensitive well crafted. The subdued Summertime is a depressing joy to hear and the skulking and skittering Take the “A” Train has some real charm to it (especially as Vic Juris crams as many music quotes as possible into his solo). In general, this is a very nice disc of jazz standards with solid performances and entertaining arrangements.
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A Trumpet Legacy
Concerto for Trumpet and Orchestra – William Perry
Concerto for Trumpet and Orchestra in F Major – Amilcare Ponchielli
Concerto for Trumpet and String Orchestra – Johann Melchior Molter
Concerto for Trujmpet and Orchestra – Oskar Bōhme
Two Dance Pieces for Trumpet and Orchestra – William Perry
Armando Ghitalla, trumpet; Slovak Philharmonic Orchestra; Cappella Istropolitana; William Perry, conductor
This disc pays homage to trumpeter Armando Ghitalla by releasing his final studio recordings. Each piece is solidly recorded and showcases Mr. Ghitalla’s bold and dynamic sound. The language of the CD uses very typical early Romantic harmonies with clear forms and direct emotional communication. The one exception to that is, of course, the Molter concert since it comes from the Baroque. That piece is rich with all-combinatorial hexachord sets and non-retrogradeable rhythms.
Kidding! I kid because I love.
Being a former trumpet player, I find a lot to like about this CD. Each work is smooth and showy without becoming overly smarmy (although a few moments get close). Mr. Ghitalla’s tone in the Molter concerto strains a bit, but that is understandable when you have to blast through the stratosphere to the upper partials to play the ridiculous high Baroque writing. He maintains a level of control over his technique throughout the entire disc.
I especially like the recording of the Bōhme concerto. Contrasting to the Molter, the Bōhme is dark and brooding making it an excellent foil for the bright and perky Baroque escapade. Mr. Ghitalla’s interpretation is lush and inviting with the inevitable flash of showmanship. This is a solid disc that belongs with anyone who likes trumpet concertos (and I do).
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Mari KimuraThe Old Rose Reader,
I love this disc. Mari Kimura is a superb violinist, a compelling composer, and a Max/MSP junkie. If I wasn’t already married…
This CD features pieces for violin and electronics that runs the gamut of possibilities. Ms. Kimura performs against an “old-school” tape part, with live computer manipulation, and with musical robots. The aesthetics on the disc are just as varied as the electrical manipulations. Ms. Kimura’s performances, however, do not change. They are always musical, dynamic, thoroughly engaging, and captivating. I love this disc.
The CD opens with Jean-Claude Risset’s Variants, which uses live signal processing. The violin part is angular, hectic, and playful. The processing (revised in 2006 from the 1994 version) is seamlessly integrated to the gestures and never grows stale. The violin sound takes on 4th, 5th, and 6th dimensions through the ethereal chorusing effects. The music is not about the violin, nor is it about the processing. The music is about both and it is always refreshing to hear a master composer who remembers that.
Toccata by Conlon Nancarrow, is a feature of the musical robot, and is the finest recording of this piece that I have ever heard. Ms. Kimura throws some serious smack down on the artificial piano. The rough and aggressive sound from these performers still sounds effortless and it creeps me out to think of that dichotomy.
The next two pieces are by Ms. Kimura herself. Polytopia is a stunning piece for violin and interactive computer. The opening processing shows that Ms. Kimura has learned all the right things from Mr. Risset. Going beyond that, though, Ms. Kimura takes us through a vibrant array of sound worlds and processing. These sound worlds are all built upon simple pitch-shifting and delay techniques which further displays Ms. Kimura’s creativity. GuitarBotana uses another musical robot, the GuitarBot. There is also a YouTube movie of Ms. Kimura playing this piece, but the audio leaves much to be desired. GuitarBotana is just as mind-blowing as the Nancarrow Toccata. Ms. Kimura puts herself in a slippery and mercurial landscape that would be torturous on most performers. Instead, since she made the map, she navigates the world without a single misstep.
Frances White’s The Old Rose Reader is a meditative and abstractly poetic work that juxtaposes a lyrical melody with fragmented readings about roses. The music is fascinating as the various sound objects hang in the air. At this point of the disc, the listener has been craving this kind of tender and serene music. Ms. White’s piece is perfectly programmed (in a computer and non-computer sense).
ComeCryWithMe, as one might expect, is an emotionally charged work. Milica Paranosic has created quite a compelling world. Ms. Kimura’s approach to the recording is quite innovative. She has improvised several different paths through the piece and then layered them on top of the emotionally direct soundscape created by the computer. The end result is visceral and haunting.
Robert Rowe’s Submarine is one of the most picturesque works on the disc. The signal processing seems tightly controlled while maintaining a healthy amount of spontaneity. This work also takes advantage of Ms. Kimura’s “subharmonic” technique in which she is able to play her G string an octave lower by some mystical bowing method. The growly low Gs are peppered throughout the CD but are most featured on this selection.
The final piece, Axon, by Tania Leí³n, reminds us that beat making is an integral part of the electronic music world. Ms. Kimura’s work on the piece is two-fold. Obviously she performs the dickens out of the thing. She also created the processing based on Ms. Leí³n’s musical descriptions. The end result is a free-for-all in the best possible way. Events emerge, beats struggle to start up, and energies get initiated and deflected. This teases us along and we never quite get the release that a full-blown beat track would provide, only enough hints to make us want more.
I love this disc. Did I already say that?
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SZABí“/KASTNING: Resonance. Sí¡ndor Szabí³, Kevin Kastning, baritone guitars. Greydisc 3503. 56 minutes.
On the basis of this disc, I feel confident saying that Sí¡ndor Szabí³ and Kevin Kastning are both remarkable guitar players and remarkable musicians. Their disc of baritone guitar duos feels like a summit meeting of players in complete sympathy with each other, operating on the same wavelength. (For those wondering about the baritone guitar, it has an intimate, smoky sound, and can be heard doubling the voice on “Into the Fire”, from Bruce Springsteen’s The Rising.
The music on the disc is a collection of pieces that Szabí³ and Kastning composed together. There isn’t enough documentation with the disc to tell how written out the pieces are or how much of the composition took place in studio. In either case, they are meticulously planned and executed pieces, mostly tonal and contrapuntal, with some excursions to the edge of pantonality. The pieces are well-constructed, with a casual, lived-in feeling.
The recording is excellent. The sound of the guitars is clean and warm, with clear attacks and no distortion.
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LAMPERT: Music From There. Steve Lampert, trpt; Rich Perry, t sax; Jamie Baum, fl; Adam Kolker, b cl; John Hebert, bass; Rick Cutler, Jeff Hirshfield, drums; Jim Clouse, perc; Sue Lampert, vocals. Bridge 9235. 59 minutes.
Steve Lampert’s Music From There is a 12 movement genre-hopping suite that incorporates free jazz, composed jazz, composed “classical” passages, and electronics. In terms of its overall sound, it reminds me more of Miles Davis in his electric period than anything else, though that may have as much to do with extensive use of harmon mutes on the trumpets than anything else.
There’s a lot to recommend this disc. The playing is very good, the ensemble very tight, especially when it swings, which is probably not often enough. The sound is great, as usual for Bridge. Recommended for fans of the genre.
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SMIT: Beyond Circumference; Three Poems of Marcia Willieme; The Marigold Heart. Georgine Resick, soprano; Warren Jones, piano. Bridge 9227. 61 minutes.
Leo Smit’s (1921-1999) career as composer and pianist touched many of the mainstream trends of 20th century American music, and a good deal of Europe’s music as well. Towards the end of his life he became more and more focused on art songs, and art songs set to the poetry of Emily Dickinson in particular.
The result was Smit’s magnum opus, The Ecstatic Pilgrimage, a set of six song cycles of Dickinson’s verse. Each of the six cycles gathers together poems with common themes. This Bridge disc includes Cycle 4, Beyond Circumference (Eighteen Songs about Death, Faith and Immortality), and Cycle 5, The Marigold Heart (Fifteen Songs about Love, Loss and Renunciation).
Smit’s experience with Dickinson (annotator Nils Viegland writes about the composer’s “devotion to Dickinson and his obsessive preoccupation with her thinking and her life”) led him to write songs that embody an almost total identification between the music and words. Dickinson’s spare, imagistic, and enigmatic verse is tightly wedded to Smit’s settings, as if composer and poet had actually collaborated. The songs are short and to the point””the piano introductions briefly set the scene in terms of tonality, tempo, and mood before the singer enters and the words and music interpenetrate each other the rest of the way.
The music is tonal in mid-century American manner, and Smit’s rhythmic style is fluid. His writing for both the piano and the voice is exceptional. Both performers are given parts that allow them to shine, but the words and the musical partnership with the words is what always comes first.
The disc is rounded out with Smit’s Three Poems of Marcia Willieme, written after he had finished the Dickinson cycles. The poems are similar in tone to the Dickinson, their rhetoric more modern. Smit’s settings are sensitive and expressive.
Soprano Georgine Resick has a warm, American-sounding soprano voice, and her diction and phrasing are excellent. Every word comes through. Pianist Warren Jones is an able and sensitive accompanist. Bridge’s sound is just right for the material and the booklet is great””the texts are included and there are fascinating pictures of the composer and various colleagues.
Anyone interested in singing, the art song, and/or Emily Dickinson will find this an essential disc.
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Virtuoso Accordion. HAAPAMí„KI: Power; TIENSUU: Aufschwung, Zolo; ZUBITSKY: Carpathian Suite; SCIARRINO: Vagabonde blu; GRISEY: Passacaille; LINDBERG: Jeux d’anches. Mikko Luoma, accordion. Bridge 9221. 66 minutes.
I mentioned to a friend that I had been sent this disc for review. The response: “Did you draw the short straw?” The question was understandable, given the accordion’s image, at least in the United States. The pieces on this disc, and Mikko Luoma’s performance of them, could go a long way towards revising that view, given enough exposure.
Mr. Luoma is a remarkable performer, coaxing an amazing variety of sounds and texture out of the accordion. The pieces on the disc, while all virtuosic, cover a considerable stylistic range as well, allowing Mr. Luoma to display versatility as well as virtuosity.
Sampo Haapamí¤ki’s Power is a fine opener, a lively essay in movement and, well, power. Jukka Tiensuu is represented with two pieces written 25 years apart. Aufschwung (1977) and Zolo (2002) illustrate the Finnish composer’s development and growing mastery of his materials, with convincing harmonies and a good sense of structure.
Vladimir Zubitsky’s Carpathian Suite probably comes the closest to what we tend to think of as “accordion music” on the program, with its references to folk materials and its dance rhythms. It’s an energetic and expressive work.
Gerard Grisey’s Passacaille and Jeux d’anches, by Grisey student Magnus Lindberg, are colorful pieces full of late Modern rhetoric and harmony, with a hint of spectralism. Salvatore Sciarrino’s Vagabonde blu is quietly forceful. The composer avails himself of all of the resources of the instrument and produces a compelling musical statement.
Bridge has performed yet another service to our music with its release of this unusual and very good disc.
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LANSKY: Etudes and Parodies (2004); Semi-Suite (2001); Ricercare Plus (2000, 2004). William Purvis, horn; Curtis Macomber, violin; Mihae Lee, piano; David Starobin, guitar; Brentano String Quartet. BRIDGE 9222 65 minutes
Paul Lansky is well-known for the large body of electronic music he has produced over his long career. According to Mr. Lansky’s notes for the new disc of his recent instrumental music:
I was comfortable, successful, and imagined sailing happily into senior citizenship doing nothing more than sitting at home in my bathrobe crafting sounds on my computer. Then as I zoomed past my 50th birthday I gave in to the urgings of some instrumentalists to write pieces for them . . .
I, for one, am glad he gave into those urgings, some of the fruits of which can be heard on this outstanding Bridge disc.
Etudes and Parodies is a substantial seven-movement piece for horn, violin, and piano. (This bring me to the only real issue I have with this release””Mr. Lansky’s titles. They are often misleadingly modest, as in the case of Etudes and Parodies, which is a far more ambitious work than the title suggests, or downright cutesy, as in the case of Semi-Suite. It’s a quibble, I know, but I can’t help but wonder if these titles ill-serve the composer and his music.)
The many virtues of all of the pieces on the program are amply displayed in the trio. The music is tonal and memorably melodic, without ever being cloying or backward looking. The rhythmic energy, which has always been an important component of the composer’s electronic music, is even more apparent in this music, with the instruments giving syncopations a punch that is really only hinted at in computer generated sound. Mr. Lansky’s structural sense, his feeling for how sounds move through time, is sure and poetic. Etudes and Parodies seems to end with a fast, final climax. That expectation is thwarted, however, with a lyrical slow movement.
The guitar writing in Semi-Suite is idiomatic and subtle. The piece includes references to guitar techniques from many musical traditions, subsumed into Mr. Lansky’s individual voice. Its form is that of a Baroque dance suite, and it really does dance.
The program closes with Ricercare Plus, a three movement piece for string quartet that references the past in structural (the repeating patterns of the “Ricercare”) and playing (long passages without vibrato) techniques. Like the other pieces, Ricercare Plus acknowledges the past with longing for it.
The performances are nothing short of remarkable. This music is not easy to play, but the incredibly clean and expressive readings make it sound like it is. Bridge’s sound is, as with every Bridge disc I’ve heard, warm, present, and full.
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Stefan Wolpe: The Man from Midian / Violin Sonata
The Group for Contemporary Music
Stefan Wolpe: Dr. Einstein’s Address About Peace in the Atomic Era, Songs: 1920-1954
Patrick Mason, baritone; Robert Shannon, piano; Leah Summers, mezzo-soprano; Jacob Greenberg, piano; Leah Summers, mezzo-soprano; Jacob Greenberg, piano; Ashraf Sewailam, bass-baritone; Susan Grace, piano; Tony Arnold, soprano
I’ve always been pretty fond of the music of Stefan Wolpe. His music is perhaps best known for his later serial works such as Piece in Two Parts, Form, Form IV, String Quartet, etc. This is music that focuses on rows that often have more than 12 tones, and while highly chromatic, is often quite melodic. In any case, Wolpe’s serial music is very different from the music of other serial composers, and fit in particularly well with other NYC composers like Ralph Shapey and Morton Feldman (both of whom studied with Wolpe).
The music on these two albums represents earlier efforts. In the case of The Man from Midian, this is ballet music for two pianos based on the story of Moses and was written a few years after he left British Mandate Palestine for the US. The music reveals Wolpe’s nascent style, which incorporates various elements from Palestinian music. Wolpe never approached Palestinian music in a way reminiscent of chinoiserie; rather, he found ways to incorporate Middle Eastern scales with his European-based approach. In other words, Wolpe melded several traditions together in a way that created something new, rather than something false. The Man from Midian is a very compelling piece, and quite distinct from Enactments, for three pianos. It is an easily approachable work, less dense than some of Wolpe’s later music, yet still complex in its use of various folk melodies and scales. The Violin Sonata, on the same Naxos disc, is quite a find. It was inspired to a large extent by his future wife, and is a very pleasant work that, at the same time, portends a lot of Wolpe’s more complex works that were yet to come. I would think of the Violin Sonata as a significant step in the composer’s evolution. The performances on this album are first-rate and clearly enthusiastic.
The Bridge album of various songs by Wolpe includes 18 world premieres. The languages span German, English, Hebrew and Yiddish. While Wolpe spent many years in Palestine after leaving his native Germany, his approach to Hebrew and Yiddish settings is secular rather than religious. In other words, he was interested in the Yiddish poetry from a cultural perspective, no different from that of any other language other than the fact that it represented his own heritage.
The most noteworthy piece on this very diverse album is the title track, Dr. Einstein’s Address About Peace in the Atomic Era. Written shortly after Truman announced plans to pursue the H-bomb (aka “The Super” in Edward Teller-speak) and Einstein spoke out against the bomb, this represents Wolpe’s outrage against nuclear proliferation and is a very moving work for baritone and piano.
The other song cycles are interesting for their variety. The Arrangements of Yiddish Folk Songs (1925) are exactly that, and are interesting in that they represent an earlier Wolpe style, but are also amazing for the time in which they were written. This is not “safe” or bland music, but clearly indicates a composer attuned to the music of his time. The songs struck me as reminiscent of some of Wolpe’s early piano music.
The remainder of this excellent album consists of Ten Early Songs (1920), Songs from the Hebrew (1938-54), Der faule Bauer mit seinen Hunden. Fabel von Hans Sachs (1926), and Epitaph (1938). All of these are of interest, and while my personal tastes perhaps run more to Wolpe’s later works, this is a very nice album to listen to. The performances appear definitive, which is good since with the exception of the Songs from the Hebrew, none of these have been previously recorded.
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