SOUNDS OF AMERICA
Eastman School of Music since 1997, stand astride an immense stretch of essential American literature. The bold, eloquent performances, recorded in immaculately audiophile sound, make a claim for the lost American generation of Hanson and Barber, and three works here deserve special mention.
Hanson’s early Concerto da camera, Op 7, reconstructed in its piano quintet form, is derivative of some unspeakably gorgeous Romantic, storm-tossed fantasy. It has an infectious glee in laying notes on paper that the composer often lost in the professionalism of his maturity. This was a collaborative effort on all counts, with Adam Neiman providing elegant pianism redolent of an MGM 1940s biopic, and the Sibley Music Library at Eastman providing access to handwritten sketches and the manuscript score.
A second indispensable item on this CD is the world premiere recording of the original finale to Barber’s String Quartet, Op 11, five minutes of charming student exercise, intoxicated musically with romance and the Continent, composed during a European idyll. It was popular at the time with the quartets that played it, and with audiences too, but Barber replaced it in 1943 with something abrupt and makeshift, an angry recap of the first movement. The original stands well on its own.
The Ying Quartet’s arrangement of Randall Thompson’s choral Alleluia, which opened the Berkshire Music Center at Tanglewood in 1940, captures the rapt beauty of the music’s consolation and faith, complete with a quiet ending that has more emotional impact than most fortissimos. Laurence Vittes
‘Moto perpetuo’ ‘Moving Works for Cello’ Ascioti Adirondack Meditation a Bartholomew Beneath the Apple Tree b Beeler Dance Suite c . One Good Turn Deserves Another. Variations on Re-Do-Mi A Gottschalk Cello Sonata, ‘In memoriam’ a March Three Pieces Sherrill Divertimento for Strings d
Ovidiu Marinescu vc with b Kim Troler fl cd Sylvia Davis Ahramjian, ad Dana Weiderhold vns d Scott Wagner va d Charles J Muench db a Janet Ahlquist pf Navona F NV5901 (69’ • DDD)
Marinescu curates and plays momentum-themed cello disc Not everything on cellist Ovidiu Marinescu’s new disc flashes by as the first part of the title suggests. The subtitle reveals that the programme also includes moments of rumination and brooding personality, qualities that suit the dark, sagacious timbre of the cello, amid episodes of rustic charm and extrovert vitality. It’s a highly eclectic mix of repertoire.
All American: the Ying Quartet and pianist Adam Neiman play music by Samuel Barber and Howard Hanson
Marinescu makes his bold and expressive way through works by six composers who generally write in styles with tonal roots, with a few excursions into piquant harmonic territory. The cello isn’t always placed centre stage. In three of the eight pieces, Marinescu teams with colleagues in chamber-music conversations of winsome and impassioned appeal.
Three works by Alan Beeler reveal the composer’s ability to devise miniatures that are as engaging as they are concise, especially his Dance Suite for violin and cello. Andrew March’s Three Pieces for solo cello, whose ‘Moto perpetuo’ movement gives the disc its title, portrays the instrument as a moody and nimble philosopher.
The influence of folk music can be heard in three warm-hearted scores: Greg Bartholomew’s Beneath the Apple Tree (for flute and cello), Bill Sherrill’s Divertimento for Strings and Nicholas Anthony Ascioti’s Adirondack Meditation (for violin, cello and piano).
Marinescu has an opportunity to go temperamentally wild in Arthur Gottschalk’s Cello Sonata, subtitled In memoriam. The three movements pay tribute to individuals – named in the digital liner notes – who are at once rapturous, argumentative and prickly. Hints of jazz pervade the final movement, which finds the piano stuck in a harmonic groove as the cello takes violent flight throughout its range. Donald Rosenberg
‘Zia’ Evangelista Spanish Garland GL Frank Leyendas: An Andean Walkabout L Harrison String Quartet Set Kats-Chernin Fast Blue Village 2 Vali Nayshâboorák (Calligraphy No 6) Del Sol Quartet Sono Luminus F DSL92164 (74’ • DDD)
Bay Area composers in San Fran quartet’s sun project Inspired by the Zia, a Native American people in New Mexico, the San Francisco-based Del Sol String Quartet have adopted the symbol of a sun radiating in four directions – a rather mixed message, it would seem, since it’s influences from north, south, east and west that instead converge here.
This collection’s guiding figure, in any case, is Lou Harrison, the mid-century prophet of multiculturalism whose String Quartet Set (1978-79) is both the oldest and longest piece on the disc. Next in terms of duration is fellow Bay Area composer Gabriela Lena Frank, whose Leyendas: An Andean Walkabout (2001) uses the string quartet medium to reimagine a range of Peruvian sounds from panpipes and guitars to plaintive funeral singing.
Other beams of music congregating here are equally well-travelled. José Evangelista’s Spanish Garland (1993) routes its Iberian sources by way of Montreal; Reza Vali’s Nayshâboorák (Calligraphy No 6) (2005-06) is Persia via Pittsburgh. The Uzbek roots of Elena Kats-Chernin’s Fast Blue Village 2 (2007) find themselves blooming in Sydney.
Throughout the recording, the Del Sol’s playing is lush and sonically balanced, with a rhythmic propulsion that remains quick off the mark. One could grumble that the programme is overly folk-like and ingratiating, though an Austrian ensemble playing Haydn properly would likely fall under the same category.
In that way, the Del Sol have bypassed the rather too obvious model of Bartók and gone straight to the roots of the form. Haydn might not recognise all the sources here but he’d know where they came from. Ken Smith
GRAMOPHONE JULY 2013 V