SOUNDS OF AMERICA
aside, the piece seizes the ear through repeated figures that initially change slowly in tandem with colourful and percussive electronics. The piece becomes more insistent in motion and volume, with patterns morphing and darting about the keyboard. Dennehey creates sonorities at once glistening and hypnotic.
In Reservoir, inspired by a Bill Viola video ‘of a man gradually being submerged in water’, the composer simulates the aura of floating and moving upwards using churning figures and bright clusters. A sudden change in atmosphere and motion conjure ‘a reservoir of collected resonances, amplified by the use of the sustain pedal’. Every moment is suffused with delicate or dramatic propulsion, reflecting the urgency of the aquatic imagery. Lisa Moore, founding pianist of the Bang on a Can All-Stars, plays both works with mesmerising command of Dennehy’s simmering soundscapes and finely graded dynamic palette. Donald Rosenberg
Heitzeg . Laitman ‘Wild Songs’ Heitzeg Is Everybody Else Alright?. Loveblessing. Three Graces for Hildur. Wild Songs Laitman Four Emily Dickinson Songs Polly Butler Cornelius sop Victoria Fischer Faw pf Heather Barringer, Patti Cudd perc Innova F INNOVA825 (34’ • DDD • T)
Songs for friends and the Earth by attuned vocal composers For people who think back nostalgically to Schubert and his musical circle and marvel at the small, private pleasures they enjoyed, here is evidence that such musical society and magic exist today, and that living composers such as Steve Heitzeg and Lori Laitman write music that is similarly attentive to the intimate, hidden beauties implicit in composing music for friends, as opposed to eternity. Beyond those physical beauties, the music and poetry together, from Aeschylus to Terry Tempest Williams, is aligned as only art songs can be to the vibrations and moods of the time.
The CD’s title-work lays out powerful pleadings for planet Earth by Rachel Carson, Jane Goodall and Williams in a quirky musical environment in which shapes, rhythms, colours and tones, both incorporated and transformed from the clicks, tweets and trills of nature’s flora and fauna, provide a compelling context for the soprano’s eloquent spinning-out of the emotional vocal lines.
The overall experience of this recital, beyond its purely musical impact, draws inspiration from the process Cornelius followed for the selection of poetry and music: Laitman’s exquisite Four Emily Dickinson Songs celebrates her own father’s 80th birthday; Heitzeg’s Three
Graces was composed to honour new music advocate Linda Hoeschler’s mother, his Loveblessing for a wedding. Cornelius’s engaging booklet-notes include complete texts. The sound is fine, handling the lovely dimensions of Cornelius’s dynamic range with ease. Laurence Vittes
Liebermann ‘Little Heaven’ Six Songs on Poems of Nelly Sachs, Op 14. Struwwelpeterlieder, Op 51 a . Appalachian Liebeslieder, Op 54 b
Brenda Rae sop b John Hancock bar a Edward Klorman va William Hobbs, b John Musto pf Albany F TROY1359 (53’ • DDD)
Liebermann songs rooted in European soil and language Despite being (mostly) in German, these songs would hardly be confused with true German Lieder. Not that the text settings lack linguistic facility, or the music falls short in emotional impulse. Rather, the difference is one in perspective. Lowell Liebermann has fully assimilated the musical heritage of his ancestors but his viewpoint lies comfortably across the Atlantic, making his songs something of a commentary on their tradition.
That said, as an integrated programme it occasionally makes for confusing listening. The only thing that Six Songs on Poems of Nelly Sachs (a setting of Holocaust remembrances) shares with Struwwelpeterlieder (a series of Grimm-like children’s stories) is a morbid underpinning – though ending a morality tale on the danger of playing with matches by quoting the end of Götterdämmerung does reveal a particularly well-developed sense of irony. Liebermann’s American side comes through most clearly in Appalachian Liebeslieder, a comic pastiche about a German tourist who falls in love with a mechanic when her car breaks down.
The range of content, though, is made easily digestible not just by variations in musical forces but also by the performers themselves. Soprano Brenda Rae is a lovely singer who knows just how and when to sound ugly for dramatic effect. The wonderfully Americannamed baritone John Hancock reveals superb comic inflection, and pianists William Hobbs and John Musto strike the precise balance that the music requires. Ken Smith
Zaimont ‘Art Fire Soul – Piano Works of Judith Lang Zaimont’ Piano Sonata. Calendar Collection – Spring; Summer; Autumn. Jupiter’s Moons. Wizards: Three Magic Masters. Nocturne: La in de siècle. A Calendar Set: 12 Virtuosic Preludes. Cortège for Jack. Suite Impressions – Jazz Waltz. American City:
Portrait of New York. Hitchin’: A Travellin’ Groove. In My Lunchbox. Hesitation Rag. Re lective Rag. Judy’s Rag. Serenade Elizabeth Moak pf MSR Classics F b MS1366 (156’ • DDD)
MSR’s Moak follows Naxos’s Atzinger in Zaimont for piano Writing about Christopher Atzinger’s CD devoted to piano music by Judith Lang Zaimont (Naxos, 8/12), I cited the nearsimultaneous release of Elizabeth Moak’s twodisc survey of the composer’s complete solo piano output, which I had not yet heard. So it wasn’t a total surprise when the Moak/Zaimont package arrived in the mail for review. As I previously wrote, Zaimont has a knack for creating well-crafted, wide-ranging, stylistically accessible and passionate keyboard music that can be challenging and audience-friendly at the same time. What is more, it is idiomatic enough to sound harder than it actually is to execute, a characteristic I ascribe in part to Zaimont’s own keyboard virtuosity. There’s little to choose between Atzinger and Moak, although my slight preference for the latter may have to do with MSR’s clearer, more detailed sound in contrast to Naxos’s relatively diffuse and distant microphone placement.
The works are sensibly divided: concert pieces on disc 1 and character pieces on disc 2. If you’re new to Zaimont, it might be a good idea to start with the ‘12 Virtuosic Preludes’ in A Calendar Set that opens disc 2. This cycle often seems to update Russian Romanticism according to the 20th century’s last decades. Earlier I mentioned the Rachmaninov-like layout of July’s full-throated chords and assymetrical phrases, or that same composer’s signature swirling passagework in September. Her three piano rags serve up fresh harmonic ideas within the genre’s strict rhythmic precepts. While the In My Lunchbox suite is designed for 11-year-old pianists, it takes a mature musician to give character and shape to the asymmetrical patterns. Moak’s sensitive ear for voicing chords and precise gradations of touch lend themselves brilliantly to the short pieces comprising the suite Jupiter’s Moons.
However, the 30-minute Sonata reveals the full scope of both Moak’s attention to small details and feeling for large-scale momentum. She plays the ‘Impronta digitale’ movement’s extensive single-note toccata-like patterns in a more detached manner than Atzinger, yet matches his long-lined sweep and energy. The stark and powerful Cortège for Jack, written in memory of composer Jack Beeson, is recorded here for the first time. Informative annotations add to a release that ought to attract listeners and musicians alike. Jed Distler gramophone.co.uk
GRAMOPHONE NOVEMBER 2012 XIII