SOUNDS OF AMERICA
Composer Gregory T Glancey offers compelling, and often psychologically complex, sound worlds on his chamber album Ashes to Impulse mentor, the composer and jazz pianist Dick Hyman. She sang wonderfully well back then and her artistry has clearly ripened. In addition to her rich timbre and supple agility in all registers, the singer’s diction is such that you don’t regret the lack of written texts. Composer Nils Vigeland provides a succinct booklet essay that befits this ideally engineered and altogether recommendable release. Jed Distler
Weininger Hakol Hevel (All is Mere Breath) Amy Buckley sop Blythe Gaissert mez Brian Mextorf bar Empire City Men’s Chorus / Vince Peterson Navona (NV6587 • 45’) Sung texts and translations available from navona.com
The Empire City Men’s Chorus deliver a poignant and powerful rendition of Nicholas Weininger’s nine-movement cantata, a heartfelt homage to the victims of the pandemic, which was premiered last March. Weininger skilfully weaves together texts from the Tanakh, eloquently sung in Hebrew by the chorus and presented in Robert Alter’s powerful English translations by the three soloists.
The cantata unfolds as a tapestry of colours and profound mourning, with occasional echoes of an ancient musical language, wherein the orchestra plays a virtuosic role. The dialogue between the orchestra and the chorus propels the narrative into the realms of music’s and humanity’s deepest questions and dreams.
Soprano Amy Buckley, particularly when paired with Blythe Gaissert in their glorious duet of hope and strength in the seventh movement, delivers a transcendent performance. Brian Mextorf contributes heroically, and all three infuse an emotional intensity that at times pushes the boundaries of reason. The chorus, embodying the composer’s vision, eloquently sing of breath and its spiritual meanings. The orchestra, featuring a dynamic brass choir and impassioned strings, play an integral role, as solo roles for horn, trumpet, clarinet, cello and others enrich the musical landscape along the way, contributing to seamless transitions between choral, orchestral and soloist elements.
As the CD’s title – derived from the Hebrew verse ‘All is mere breath and herding the wind’ – suggests, the cantata captures the beauty and breadth of the ephemeral nature of existence. Weininger’s composition, written in 2020, resonates profoundly in the present moment, making it a timely and resonant exploration of the human experience. Laurence Vittes
‘Perseverance’ ‘Music by African American Composers for Clarinet’ DN Baker DUOa Bland For Clarinet Cochran The Banyan Tree US Moore Afro American Suite (arr Eley)b Price Adorationc D Thompson II TranscenDanced Richard Thompson Legend of the Moors (exc)e Ware The Featherheartc
Marcus Eley cl with abdeGiovanna Moraga Clayton vc dRafael Rishik vn ceTodd Cochran, bd Lucerne DeSa pf Imaginary Animals (669936779734 • 72’)
Two things are likely to strike you listening to ‘Perseverance’, Marcus Eley’s new release of African American chamber music. First is the extraordinary beauty of the sound of Eley’s clarinet, velvety throughout all its registers, not to mention its immense expressivity. The second is the sheer variety of musical expression from these eight composers, three of them women, the earliest of whom was born in 1887 and the youngest of whom is 29.
Eley’s virtuosity and musical imagination are front and centre in the two solo clarinet works. For Clarinet by Edward Bland (1926-2013), who was a brilliant saxophonist and clarinet player, displays the composer’s idiomatic grasp of the instrument. The Banyan Tree by Todd gramophone.co.uk
GRAMOPHONE FEBRUARY 2024 III