SOUNDS OF AMERICA
the late Romantic and modern eras. His musical forces also are responsive to those demands, though it sometimes takes them a while to get going.
Judging by the results here, tenor Paul Groves is not naturally prone to undisciplined exuberance, nor is mezzo Jennifer Johnson Cano normally so introspective – traits that frequently run through their respective texts. Both rely on vocal power rather than precision (they’re opera singers rather than recitalists), and by those standards they succeed.
Their efforts, though, are often undercut by the recording quality. Although the sound captures the energy of a live performance, it also enhances its flaws. Why, for example, is Groves – a tenor of heroic proportions – entirely overpowered in his initial entrance by a mere handful of instruments? The ear boggles. Ken Smith Selected comparisons: Irwin, Wedd, Manchester Camerata, Boyd
(10/11) (AVIE) AV2195 Curtis, Guillory, Orch of the Swan, Woods
(10/11) (SOMM) SOMMCD0109
Rohde ‘One: Chamber Music of Kurt Rohde’ Violin Concertino a . One b . Double Trouble c . Four Remixes d a Axel Strauss vn c Kurt Rohde, c Ellen Ruth Rose vas b Genevieve Feiwen Lee pf/spkr ad Left Coast Chamber Ensemble / a Matilda Hofman; c Empyrean Ensemble / Mary Chun Innova F INNOVA839 (76’ • DDD)
San Francisco-based composer joins in playing his own music Accompanied by booklet-notes that cover Kurt Rohde’s music from every conceivable angle and include especially ponderous aesthetic statements such as ‘to create forcefields of memory and feeling…that tell us what it feels like to be a person today’, this CD from Innova introduces this composer (based at the University of California, Davis) with a variety of 15- to 20-minute musical entities that follow no identifiable musical stream but can leave no listener undisturbed.
Instead, each piece, as the notes imply, follows its own uniquely arresting course with determined intensity and a concentrated use of resources. Nothing seems to happen casually, so the influences that permeate Rohde’s music – from the Baroque to (in the inconclusive Four Remixes) the Beatles, Elton John and Joni Mitchell – become indivisible parts of a dynamic, energetic, occasionally noisy and sometimes turgid flow. It’s what you might expect from a young composer faced with the 21st century’s overwhelming backlog of musical influences. The fact that the performers play as if they’d been an intimate part of the compositional process produces gripping results.
The Violin Concertino, with its use of traditional tune types and rhetoric, is the most immediately accessible music on the disc. Its slow, haunting middle movement makes the perfect bridge between the outer movements’ virtuoso displays for 1998 Naumburg Awardwinner Axel Strauss. The title-track, a setting of Jakob Stein’s poems about Judaism and (perhaps) existential reality, features Genevieve Feiwen Lee as pianist and speaker in an ambitious but ultimately self-indulgent Alice in Wonderland-type adventure. Laurence Vittes
‘Concerti for Piano with Percussion Orchestra’ Gillingham Concerto for Piano and Percussion Orchestra Mobley [Pleez], (Plez), /Pliz/ Noon Piano Concerto No 3, Op 232 Santos Moppets Ji Hyun Kim pf McCormick Percussion Group / Robert McCormick Ravello F RR7862 (60’ • DDD)
McCormicks play Gillingham, Mobley, Noon and Santos For their fifth Ravello release, the McCormick Percussion Group, whose leader Robert McCormick was a member of the Harry Partch Ensemble and principal percussionist of the Florida Orchestra for 20 years, present two eight-minute-long tours de force as the prelude to the two three-movement concertos.
Throughout, the composers use percussion as a conventional partnering orchestra that just happens to take a Partch-like delight in sound; David Noon’s Piano Concerto No 3 is particularly adventurous in this regard, using eight percussionists playing 84 instruments. Also throughout are conventional harmonies and structures, meaning that any orchestra with the courage to programme this genre would find a very happy audience. Equally consistent is the soloist’s role, which Ji Hyun Kim handles with industry and, when the music allows, both spellbinding virtuosity and limpid eloquence.
The more conventional of the two concertos is David Gillingham’s Concerto for Piano and Percussion Orchestra, commissioned by a consortium of universities in Pennsylvania and North Carolina and a high school in Ohio. The music abounds with influences ranging from Saint-Saëns (think the ‘Aquarium’ section from Carnival of the Animals) to Satie, unified by neo-romantic waves of sound that, at times, suggest Rachmaninov. By contrast, Noon’s 30-minute concerto constantly surprises with unpredictable turns, such as hints of the timpani solo in Britten’s Young Person’s Guide; it is also rich in brooding, rhapsodic emotion and ends with a brilliant last movement that confounds listeners one last time – with a whimper before the final bang.
The artistically designed booklet-notes give a minimum of details about the music. The crisp, large-scale recording will delight any audiophile. Laurence Vittes
‘Dimensions’ ‘Works for String Orchestra’ Babin Couleurs a . La suite du promeneur a
R Burns Revolutions a Burwasser Flux b
Debussy Préludes – La fille aux cheveux de lin (arr Stoltzman) c Hutter Deploration d
Kronfuss River of Time e March Sanguis venenatus a e Gabriela Kummerová cor ang c Richard Stoltzman cl ae Moravian Philharmonic Strings / Petr Vronský; b Concordia Orchestra / Marin Alsop; c Slovak Radio Symphony Orchestra / Kirk Trevor; d Czech Philharmonic Orchestra / Robert Ian Winstin Navona F NV5895 (52’ • DDD)
Eight works for strings from four different orchestras The booklet-notes for ‘Dimensions: Works for String Orchestra’ refer to the music of the disc’s seven composers as capturing ‘the fluidity of time and emotion, and [illustrating] the impact of past experiences on the present and future’. Whether these pieces actually reflect such misty imagery is up to each listener to decide. The music tends towards the conflicted and the impassioned, with only short bursts of mirth breaking through the darkness.
Two scores by Louis Babin reveal a penchant for varied atmospheres and haunting gestures. Couleurs is built on urgent changes of rhythm and string sonority, while La suite du promeneur comprises five miniatures of waltzing ardour. The chromaticism in Gregory Hutter’s warm Deploration has roots in Mahlerian angst. Slow, aching lines and mild dissonances also inhabit Andrew March’s intensely felt Sanguis venenatus. Wind instruments join the strings in Debussy’s familiar Girl with the Flaxen Hair (arranged by the soloist, clarinettist Richard Stoltzman) and Rudy Kronfuss’s poetic River of Time (the solo line was apparently intended for English horn, which sounds more like a brass instrument). Reynard Burns’s Revolutions delivers on its swirling title with myriad waltz figures. The most mercurial work is Daniel Burwasser’s Flux, which moves from effusive romanticism and playfulness to tenderness and mysticism.
The repertoire’s grab-bag nature is mirrored in the performing forces – no fewer than four orchestras under four conductors. The editing could be better: some pieces fade abruptly away, others end with sounds of musicians waiting for the mikes to be turned off. But the playing is altogether elegant and involved. Donald Rosenberg gramophone.co.uk
GRAMOPHONE MARCH 2013 V