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sounds of america

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P h o t o g r a P h y level so that John Eargle’s sound can be allowed to glow. A good starting point is the exquisite second section of Lumen in Christo, which shows a staggering virtuosity in handling allusional musical textures and themes.

Despite its own change of direction, the Seattle Symphony has not forgotten its loyal supporters. It has entered into an agreement with the online Naxos Music Library to provide Symphony subscribers streaming access to Naxos’s Seattle Symphony reissues. Laurence Vittes

Pritsker William James’s Varieties of Religious Experience Chester Layman spkr �����������������������������������William James Marc Molomot ten������������������������������������������ Experience #1 Lynn Norris sop ���������������������������������������������� Experience #2 Chanda Rule mez����������������Experience #3, Gospel Voice Charles Coleman bar����������� Experience #4, Leo Tolstoy Kim Pritsker spkr ������������������������������������������������� Announcer Gene Pritsker, Greg Baker egtrs Dann Barrett vc Larry Goldman db Composers Concordance Records F COMCON007 (43’ • DDD)

William James opera from the Sound Liberation founder Philosopher William James’s The Varieties of Religious Experience may not seem a natural choice for musical theatre treatment. Tell that to Gene Pritsker, a protean and prolific composer who has written a 42‑minute chamber opera based on the book. It is scored for two electric guitars, cello and bass, accompanying a cast of four solo singers plus two speakers: the role of William James played by a male narrator, and a female announcer. Although the musical textures are often jaggedly melodic and restless (Frank Zappa’s pop‑influenced classical composing comes to mind), they essentially provide an active yet never over‑busy backdrop for the text that predominates.

The piece gains dynamic momentum and variety as it unfolds. I especially like soprano Lynn Norris’s solo turn in ‘The less real of the two’, which is supported by ethereal tremolos in different registers, and a clever gospel piece, ‘Closer to me than my own breath’, where mezzo‑soprano Chanda Rule’s breathy phrasing couldn’t be more stylistically apt. The longest section features baritone Charles Coleman (who happens to be an excellent composer in his own right) as Leo Tolstoy. His rich timbre and clear pronunciation certainly help to enliven the eloquent words. In fact, the cast’s generally excellent diction is a big asset, considering that no texts are included. The dry, unresonant close‑up engineering creates an intimate listening experience that I assume was

Bench Baroque: John Mark Rozendaal, Rachel Barton Pine and David Schrader of Trio Settecento intentional on the composer’s part. Recommended. Jed Distler

‘A French Soirée’ Lully Ballet royal de flore – Divertissement F Couperin Allemande. Sarabande. Sicilienne. Gavotte. Troisième concert Marais La guitare. Prelude. Chaconne Rebel Sonate huitième Rameau Quatrième concert Leclair Sonata in G Trio Settecento Cedille F CDR90000 129 (79’ • DDD)

Pine’s ensemble move to the French Baroque Musicians who excel in works of the Romantic era and beyond aren’t always as adept (or at all skilled) in music of previous times. Rachel Barton Pine is one artist who shifts persuasively from modern to Baroque violin, as when she performs with her superlative Chicago‑based early music ensemble Trio Settecento.

Pine and colleagues John Mark Rozendaal (viola da gamba) and David Schrader (harpsichord) are in top form on ‘A French Soirée’, the group’s newest disc and a follow‑up to their recorded voyages to Italy and Germany. As played by these musicians, the composers – Couperin, Leclair, Lully, Marais, Rameau, Rebel – are confirmed as titans of the period, even on the most intimate scale.

The first half of the programme is a divertissement of short selections by Couperin, Lully and Marais that were enjoyed by Louis XIV. Among them is a character piece, Marais’s La guitare, for the composer’s favoured instrument, the bass viol, and played here with robust flair by Rozendaal. Trio Settecento apply bountiful charm to delicate moments, as in the ‘Muzette’ from Couperin’s Troisième concert, and digs into the scintillating writing in Rameau’s Quatrième concert with earthy delight. Whatever the demands, the musicians ornament with stylish sensitivity, savour the expressive sophistication and achieve utmost clarity of texture. Pine and Rozendaal use vibrato sparingly, while finding a spectrum of shadings to colour phrases. With Schrader contributing his own brand of articulate and glistening artistry, the trio turns this delectably considered soirée into an evening to cherish. Donald Rosenberg

‘Muses Nine’ ‘Eight American Composers Plus One Pianist’ M Bauer Six Preludes, Op 15 Beach Dreaming, Op 15 No 3. Honeysuckle, Op 97 No 5. Scottish Legend, Op 54 No 1. From Blackbird Hills, Op 83 M Bonds Troubled Water Diemer Toccata M Joyce Medium Piano L Larsen Mephisto Rag Thome Spiral Journey Zwilich Lament Becky Billock pf Muses Nine F (63’ • DDD)

Billock profiles eight US composers at the keyboard It’s too bad that this release is sometimes hampered by constricted sound and a tinny piano that is not ideally tuned, for Becky Billock is obviously a solid and committed pianist who does ample justice to her recital of 20th‑ and 21st‑century works by American gramophone.co.uk

GRAMOPHONE JUNE 2012 XI

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