SOUNDS OF AMERICA
shofar never sounds in Stern’s oratorio. Instead, brasses play heraldic calls as metaphoric presences that lend atmosphere and resonance to the narrative. A hint of Jewish modality flavours the music without suggesting cinematic influences. Soloists and chorus engage in dramatic and lyrical encounters drawn from passages from the Old Testament. It is a work of dignified power.
In his settings of the Oliver poems, Perera places the chorus in a series of glistening soundscapes in collaboration with string quartet and piano. The final titular poem basks in reflective beauty before taking euphoric wing on the words ‘I start the day in happiness, in kindness’.
The Boston‑based Coro Allegro, led by David Hodgkins, performs each score with fine balance and interplay. The ensemble singing is at all times keenly gauged to the emotional moment and the soloists bring vivid definition to their duties. Donald Rosenberg
‘But Not Forgotten’ ‘Music by African-American Composers’ Akpabot Scenes from Nigeria – Pastorale Batiste Episodes Cochran Soul-Bird Hilliard Coty Joplin Weeping Willow: A Ragtime Two Step DR Moore Night Fantasy US Moore Introduction and Allegro Still Romance Traditional Amazing Grace (arr H Stevenson) CC White Basque Folk Song Marcus Eley cl Lucerne DeSa pf Sono Luminus F DSL92156 (50’ • DDD)
Clarinettist Eley addresses the repertoire’s race divide As glaring as the plight of the woman conductor in modern American concert life is that of the African‑American composer whose music the classical music establishment almost never plays. On this recital, clarinettist Marcus Eley celebrates African‑American composers in order that ‘their unique voices be heard and not forgotten’.
The music thrives with life, whether in the formal abstract lines of Dorothy Rudd Moore or Alvin Batiste, or more free‑form escapades. There are lyrics with tunes of indescribable sweet beauty: a Basque Folk Song by Clarence Cameron White, a Pastorale from Samuel Akpabot’s Scenes from Nigeria. Quincy Hilliard’s sophisticated Coty turns into wild abandon. Todd Cochran’s Soul-Bird soars transcendent above them all, at eight minutes the longest piece on the disc; it is well deserving of the honour.
‘But Not Forgotten’ also celebrates the artistry of Marcus Eley, listed on his website as ‘Actor, Clarinetist, Host and Arts Administrator’. Throughout, Eley applies his pure, limpid tone eloquently in music of a varied range of styles; perhaps the most personal playing comes in Joplin’s sad Weeping Willow rag, or in a lovely arrangement of Amazing Grace.
Add in Lucerne DeSa’s full‑bodied, elegant playing and the gratifying natural acoustic at Endler Concert Hall on the campus of the University of Stellenbosch in South Africa’s Western Cape Winelands, and the result is an exceptional musical experience in every way. The booklet‑notes are documentary in authority and the sound is of the highest audiophile quality. Laurence Vittes
Brittelle ‘Loving the Chambered Nautilus’ Future Shock – for string quartet; for cello. Acid Rain on the Mirrordome. Loon Birds in Meshed Crystal. Loving the Chambered Nautilus William Brittelle elecs American Contemporary Music Ensemble / Clarice Jensen New Amsterdam Records B NWAM038 (36’ • DDD)
NAR profiles the ‘conceptually complex’ work of its co-director William Brittelle creates classical music that hip classical music consumers ought to be listening to. Referencing ancient history like ’50s rock, Brittelle brings together threads in self‑described ‘retro‑ futuristic electro‑acoustic chamber pieces’ in which viola player Nadia Sirota, Clarice Jensen and the American Contemporary Music Ensemble lay down five strings‑ against‑electronics tracks seething with alien life forms and aural intoxication, like the spiral chambered shell of the title’s marine creature.
At first, fanciful titles like Acid Rain on the Mirrordome and Loon Birds in Meshed Crystal don’t make any sense. Suddenly, you begin hearing all kinds of layers and connections, the titles make sense, and you’re hooked. Put more conventionally, Brittelle creates an enveloping environment in which it is easy to lose track of individual incidents, like getting lost in a Bruckner symphony.
Loving the Chambered Nautilus, which debuted in August 2010 at Le Poisson Rouge and received its full premiere two years later at The Kitchen in New York City, was designed to be easily toured. Although the information is not included with the CD package (there are no booklet‑notes at all and none are needed; the effect is all through the heart and gut), the composer’s website provides a user‑ friendly DIY kit for putting on Loving the Chambered Nautilus at concert halls, art galleries, night clubs and perhaps backyard barbecues. Caveat emptor: the website also states that William Brittelle ‘must be present at all shows to perform the backing track’. Laurence Vittes
‘Salón mexicano’ R Castro Caprice vals, Op 1. Vals caressante. Vals amoroso, Op 31 No 11. Mazurka melancólica. Barcarole, Op 30 No 2. Vals sentimental, Op 30 No 1. Vals bluette. Vals melancólico, Op 36, No 2 Ponce 8 a Mazurka de salón. ‘Marchita el Alma…’. ‘Todo pasó…’. Mazurca de salón. Canciones mexicanas – ‘Por ti mi Corazón…’ Rolón Vals capricho, Op 14 Villanueva Sueño Dorado: Mazurka. Causerie: Vals lento. Tercera Mazurka, Op 27. Ebelia: Mazurka de salón. Amor: Vals de salón. Vals poético: Vals de salón Jorge Federico Osorio pf Cedille F CDR90000 132 (74’ • DDD)
Mexico-born pianist moves from Spain to Latin America Collectors familiar with Jorge Federico Osorio’s previous Spanish music and Manuel Ponce releases for Cedille will know what to expect from ‘Salón mexicano’, a collection of lightweight yet ear‑tickling salon pieces by Manuel Ponce, Felipe Villanueva, Ricardo Castro and José Rolón. The music abounds in catchy tunes, surface charm and effective keyboard‑writing that is both lyrically simple and glitteringly virtuoso.
Osorio takes to this repertoire like the proverbial duck to water. His effortless control of the thick chordal hurdles and complex runs throughout Rolón’s ambitious eight‑minute Vals capricho is a case in point, as well as the elegantly timed rubato effects in Villanueva’s Tercera Mazurka.
In Castro’s Vals bluette Osorio achieves marvellous changes of colour and harmonic shading with very little help from the sustain pedal, and tosses off rapid right‑hand filigree within the boundaries of his basic tempo. Even less inspired concoctions such as Villanueva’s Ebelia benefit from Osorio’s poise and dignity, and listen to how he serves up the climactic descending interlocking octaves with fire and bravura, yet without a vulgar trace. Ponce’s wistful ‘Todo paso…’ takes tender wing in Osorio’s sensitive hands, although the aforementioned Osorio/Ponce release gives far fuller indication of this composer’s broad stylistic and expressive range.
The sound is slightly dry yet conveys a vivid and detailed image of Osorio’s piano. Informative, well‑written notes by Andrea Lamoreaux round out another lovely release by one our most cultivated pianists. Jed Distler gramophone.co.uk
GRAMOPHONE DECEMBER 2012 V