A special eight-page section focusing on recent recordings from the US and Canada
M Abel ‘Spectrum’ 1966a. The Book of Esther – Two Scenesb. The Long Marchc. Out the Other Sided. Reconciliation Daye. Trois femmes du cinémaf f Isabel Bayrakdarian, bHila Plitmann sops abKindra Scharich mez cChristy Kim l bMax Opferkuch cl c Jeff Garza hn bAdam Millstein vn eDavid Samuel va bceDominic Cheli, aJeffrey LaDeur, fCarol Rosenberger pf dTrio Barclay Delos (DE3592 b • 92’ • T)
Mark Abel continues to demonstrate his versatility in the works on the newest Delos release of his music, ‘Spectrum’, a generous two-disc helping of song-cycles, chamber pieces and excerpts from an opera still roaming around the California-based composer’s fertile brain. As the previous recordings revealed, Abel writes in a poetic tonal style, at times reminiscent of Samuel Barber, peppered by flavourful harmonies and piquant turns of phrase.
Abel’s affinity for setting words is in appealing bloom in songs of diverse atmosphere and feeling. In Trois femmes du cinéma he salutes revered artists who may not be on every movie maven’s radar. Salient aspects in the lives of the French actress and novelist Anne Wiazemsky, Mexican actress Pina Pellicer and Ukrainian Soviet director Larisa Shepitko are touched upon in Abel’s poignant and forceful narratives, set to his own texts, and beautifully limned in the performances by soprano Isabel Bayrakdarian and pianist Carol Rosenberger.
The two scenes from the evolving opera The Book of Esther, set to texts by Kate Gale, can’t suggest how the drama ultimately will unfold with orchestra, but the characters and their challenges are drawn with skilful and spare urgency. The first scene, ‘The Maiden Esther’, details the woman’s anxiety as she contemplates royal life. ‘Two Queens’ finds her receiving advice from her predecessor, Vashti, who encourages Esther to be bold. On this recording, the scenes are scored for violin,
clarinet and piano, which bring the simmering emotions into intimate focus. Soprano Hila Plitmann and mezzo-soprano Kindra Scharich likely would be as potent in these roles on stage as they are in the recording studio. Scharich also does eloquent work, with pianist Jeffrey LaDeur, in Abel’s 1966, three songs set to Abel’s own texts about his fresh experiences as an 18-year-old.
Animated and pensive writing also pervade three instrumental works: Reconciliation Day for viola and piano, Out the Other Side for violin, cello and piano, and The Long March for the novel combination of flute, horn and piano. They are all performed with elegant vibrancy. Donald Rosenberg
Brink Utility Music Matt Demerritt woodwinds Tyler Niedermayer cl Meredith Moore hn Joe Auckland tpt Juliane Gralle brass Dan-Iulian Dru ac vn Nick Revel va Joe Zeitlin vc Gabe Noel db Max Gaertner perc Sono Luminus (SLE70027 • 36’)
For his first standalone release, Julian Brink has repurposed and reorchestrated an incomplete score for an unfinished film. Utility Music was largely improvised by Brink and 11 experimental instrumentalists ‘in bedrooms’ in Los Angeles, New York, London, Frankfurt and Hamburg. From his West Hollywood bedroom Brink could record only in ‘the few quiet hours after the dying down of street noise in the evening’. Mix engineer Brian Losch made it sound as if the musicians on their real and toy instruments and on non-instruments alike were performing together in a single space. The 11 short, delectable tracks ‘toss boundaries’, as the trombonist provocateur Juliane Gralle observes. Taken together, it feels like there might still be a movie in there, somewhere.
‘Miniatures’ has the feel of a haunted, southern Viennese waltz surrounded in fog, its central beauty emerging serenely through the mist accompanied by drops of ringing pizzicatos. ‘At Night’ features cellist Joe Zeitlin creating other-worldly shadings of tone and colour then lifting them gently from the musical score. The two ‘Simple Trio’ tracks, which offer a vade mecum of ‘uncomplicated transitions between notes to make the samples sound more realistic’, feature the trio of Zeitlin, violinist Dan-Iulian Dru≠ac and viola player Nick Revel of PUBLIQuartet, which Brink describes as ‘the heart of the album. I try to forget that they haven’t all met each other and aren’t playing together in the same room.’
‘Albatross’ channels John Cage and Morton Feldman with mesmerisingly deceptive, irregular beats, wonderfully quiet. The last track, ‘Pattern Shells’, influenced by Villa-Lobos, is a spontaneous splurge of brass and tropical birds. Laurence Vittes
Mozart ‘Maestrino Mozart: Airs d’opéra d’un jeune génie’ Ascanio in Alba – Dal tuo gentil sembiante. Bastien und Bastienne – Mein liebster Freund hat mich verlassen. La inta semplice – Amoretti che ascosi; Colla bocca, e non col core. Lucio Silla – In un istante … Parto, m’a fretto; Fra i pensier più funesti di morte. Mitridate, re di Ponto – Ah ben ne fui presaga … Pallid’ombre; Al destin che la minaccia; Nel grave tormento. Il sogno di Scipione – Biancheggia in mar lo scoglio. O temerario Arbace! … Per quel paterno amplesso, K79. Die Schuldigkeit des ersten Gebots, K35 – Ein ergrimmter Löwe brüllet Marie-Eve Munger sop Les Boréades de Montréal / Philippe Bourque ATMA Classique (ACD2 2815 • 66’ • T/t)
Marie-Eve Munger’s new recording is a tour de force of scholarship and artistry. The Canadian soprano has collected arias and recitatives from 10 dramatic works by ‘Maestrino Mozart’, as the album is called, and shaped them with shimmering virtuosity, all the while gramophone.co.uk
GRAMOPHONE DECEMBER 2022 I
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