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SoundS of AmericA

and his sound maintains its glow even at the most torrential moments.

Hobson’s noble artistry is as vibrant and controlled in dramatic episodes as it is in music of lilting melancholy. He brings graceful spaciousness to the Nocturne No 1 in B major and invests the Mazurka No 3 in D major with lilting buoyancy. It’s a lovely release that makes one eager for the remaining volumes. Donald Rosenberg

Clyne ‘Blue moth’ Fits + starts a . Rapture b . 1987 c . Choke d . Roulette e . steelworks f . Beauty g e Caleb Burhans, e Martha Cluver vocs b Eileen Mack cl d Argeo Ascani bsax a Benjamin Capps vc f Colleen Clyne spkr c Seattle Chamber Players; e Ethel; f Members of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra; a Anna Clyne tape/ a vc Tzadik F TZa8084 (61’ • ddd)

london-born Clyne at work in the states Apart from the fact that all of the pieces here involve live performers with prerecorded tape, this collection on first listening can leave you fairly befuddled: just who is Anna Clyne and what does her music sound like? Is it ethereally lyric like Roulette (2007), where an amplified string quartet emerges from a sonic bed of hushed, wordless vocals? Or is it more of the headbanging noise aesthetic of Rapture (2005), where a solo clarinet at the extremes of its range virtuosically squeals the closest thing to electronic feedback I’ve heard lately from an acoustic instrument? Or is it more the Reich-like, marimba-driven propulsion of Steelworks (2006), which benefits simply from having greater musical contrast in its ensemble personnel? Only the most recent piece here, Beauty (2011), is for tape alone – though in remixing sounds from all the live performers in the previous pieces it emerges as a fitting tribute to Clyne’s hands-on sense of collaboration.

The London-born composer, now in residence at the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, shows clear evidence of her time in America: like the poet Walt Whitman, she is large, and contains multitudes, layers and layers of which unfold on subsequent hearings. If anything ties these works together, it’s Clyne’s unerring ability to push and release emotional intensity from within a given piece, regardless of its surface appeal. You may find yourself lured in spite of yourself by the mellow siren call of 1987 (2008); but even in the harshest moments of Rapture, it’s impossible to turn away. Ken Smith

Delibes sylvia – suite. Coppélia – suite San Francisco Ballet Orchestra / Martin West Reference Recordings F RR125 (73’ • ddd)

dance scores from illustrious Californian ballet orchestra Delibes’s ballet scores, well known as they are in some circles, have long fallen in the artistic cracks. Dance audiences generally watch more than they listen, while symphonic audiences usually encounter performances that treat the scores as a series of brilliant orchestral effects rather than an episodic structure bound together into a coherent story. This pairing of suites from the composer’s ballets by the San Francisco Ballet Orchestra, the first and still arguably best-standing ballet orchestra in the US, avoids both extremes. Under current music director Martin West, the orchestra revels in the immediacy of the music without ever losing sight of the overall narrative.

Much of this success has to do with the simple fact that there are no dancers around. Tempi, for example, seem determined by the flow of the music itself, rather than the physical practicalities of a ballet corps. So too does the recorded acoustic avoid the trappings of a dance venue, where muffling the footfalls often takes precedence over richness in acoustical quality. Engineer Keith O Johnson’s results befit the label’s audiophile status, creating a sonic space that merges the immediacy of a dance hall with the vibrancy of a concert hall.

Even so, there will be those who remain resistant to hearing ballet scores presented as concert music – admittedly, my mind drifted a couple of times – but rest assured, this is definitely the kind of thing you’ll like, if you like this kind of thing. Ken Smith

Lansky shapeshifters a . With the Grain b . Imaginary Islands c b David Starobin gtr b Quattro Mani pfs Alabama Symphony Orchestra / Justin Brown Bridge F BRIdGe9366 (71’ • ddd) c Recorded live, may 2010

acoustic concertos from electro ‘magnate’ lensky Even listeners familiar with Paul Lansky’s music are likely to be intrigued by this new disc, ‘Imaginary Islands’. The American composer has spent the better part of his career writing electronic music of magnetic and disarming personality but recently he’s turned to the acoustic realm of the symphony orchestra to extend his art.

The three works here reveal Lansky’s gift for exploring timbre and texture within a series of appealing soundscapes. The opening piece, Shapeshifters, is a four-movement concerto for two pianos in which the soloists interact subtly with one another and the instruments of the orchestra. Each movement holds the ear as shapes continuously shift, especially in the finale, ‘Topology’, in which Lansky takes the musicians on a ride full of Latinate rhythms and swinging gestures. Pianists Susan Grace and Alice Rybak, who comprise the Coloradobased duo Quattro Mani, are indefatigable protagonists alone and conversing with the Alabama Symphony Orchestra and conductor Justin Brown.

The four movements of the guitar concerto With the Grain (2009) depict various wood grains through distinctive use of colour and motion. Lansky allows the solo instrument to assert itself with lyrical and expressive urgency, minus balance issues with the orchestra. It’s a superb vehicle for guitarist David Starobin, who makes elegant work of the score’s engaging ideas.

The orchestra is on its own in Imaginary Islands, whose three movements conjure scenes of tranquil beauty and urban energy. Brown and the Alabamans provide the music with all of the luminosity, spaciousness and zest that burst forth from Lansky’s fertile imagination. Donald Rosenberg

Schubert die schöne müllerin, d795 Bryce Westervelt ten R Timothy McReynolds pf Bryce Westervelt F (66’ • ddd)

Westervelt and mcReynolds are miller and millstream The title-character in Schubert’s Die schöne Müllerin drives the narrator crazy, literally, which poses major challenges for the singer portraying the addled young man. Suggest madness too early and the tragic denouement is spoiled. Tenor Bryce Westervelt doesn’t make the mistake of letting his emotions go awry before necessary in his discerning performance of the song-cycle with pianist R Timothy McReynolds. Westervelt approaches the score with a decided advantage: his compact voice has a youthful bloom in the middle and upper registers, and his mixture of innocence and anticipation sensitively reflects the narrator’s first blush with love, realisation that things aren’t what they seem, and resolve to end it all at the bottom of the brook, his closest friend.

The performance is most rewarding when Westervelt has opportunities to savour Schubert’s tender or melancholic lyricism, as in the long lines of ‘Ungeduld’. There are a moments elsewhere when he doesn’t manage


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