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SOUNDS OF AMERICA

The other two works are initially more abstract in their impact: Notes from the Underground for full orchestra, based in part on riffs from Duke Ellington and dedicated to Ralph Ellison, referencing his landmark 1964 collection of essays Acts and Shadows; and Wayang V for solo piano and orchestra, inspired by Balinese gamelan music and highlighted by a brilliant array of percussion, winds and solo violin.

The recordings, made between 2007 and 2013 in and around Boston, are as full-range, intense and virtuoso as the performances, handling the demands of Davis’s improvised jazz-based but virtually unlimited style with audiophile ease. For the booklet-note, Davis and colleague George E Lewis contribute similarly virtuoso comments and analyses of the compositional processes in a historical framework upon whose resolution, Davis’s music clearly argues, America’s identity so critically depends. Laurence Vittes

Kotche  ‘Adventureland’ Anomalya. The Hauntedb. The Traveling Turtlec. Triple Fantasyd b Lisa Kaplan, bYvonne Lan pfs bMatthew Duvall,  a Glenn Kotche, bDoug Perkins perc deighth  blackbird; cGamelan Galak Tika / Evan Ziporyn;  ad Kronos Quartet  Cantaloupe F CA21098 (58’ • DDD)

Joined by the Kronos Quartet, eighth blackbird and Evan Ziporyn’s Gamelan

Galak Tika, Chicago-based percussionist/ composer Glenn Kotche and his magical drum-kit take off on a series of abstract sonic experiments with powerful back stories. Called ‘Adventureland’ for its ‘confluence of new territory’ (and inescapably if unintentionally recalling the iconic Walt Disney theme parks), Kotche’s fourth studio album is his first for ensembles.

B L A K E S B E R G

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As the composer’s deftly varied instrumental vocabulary begins to become familiar, including some minimal effects processing and electronic percussion added after the fact, his booklet-notes, which are formatted as if they had been printed out from an iOS device, enhance the experience. The Haunted responds to visits to a pig-iron blast furnace in Alabama and other environments associated with death; Anomaly, resulting from a Kronos Quartet performance in 2006, deals with friends, family and PHO T O G R A P H Y

Adventures and anomalies: the Kronos Quartet both inspire and perform music by Glenn Kotche circumstance; The Traveling Turtle refers to the slow pace of life on the road (and tangentially Bali, hence the gamelan); the exquisite Triple Fantasy is a ‘dense stew of elements’ from the recording itself.

The 14 tracks of the two large suites and two smaller works, which are refreshingly sequenced not in conventional order but based on what Kotche thought would have ‘the best flow and architecture’, can of course be reordered so that Anomaly and The Haunted play through in their seven- and five-movement entireties. However, as the composer told me, ‘this is an album in the classic sense of the word more than a presentation of the compositions’. Laurence Vittes

Rossini  ‘Virtuoso Rossini Arias’ Le comte Ory – Que les destins prospères. La donna del lago – O fiamma soave. La gazza  ladra – Vieni fra questa braccia. L’occasione fa  il ladro – D’ogni più sacro impegno. Otello – Che ascolto!. Semiramide – Ah dov’è, dov’è il cimento. Il turco in Italia – Tu seconda il mio disegno. Zelmira – Terra amica Lawrence Brownlee ten Kaunas City Symphony  Orchestra / Constantine Orbelian  Delos F DE3455 (55’ • DDD)

Everything Lawrence Brownlee touches with his sterling tenor springs to expressive life. His timbre is honeyed, and he phrases with exceptional discernment and vibrancy.

And, to say the least, Brownlee has the technical prowess needed to tame the acrobatic beasts in the Rossini arias on his newest recording.

The eight arias he performs with the Kaunas City Symphony Orchestra and conductor Constantine Orbelian are prime bel canto challenges in which only a select number of singers find success. At one moment, Rossini spins long lines requiring utmost control of breath and nuance. Then there are those wild flights full of scales, florid passages and fearsome jumps to the heights.

Brownlee never sounds ruffled by the obstacles. At the end of ‘D’ogni più sacro impegno’ (from L’occcasione fa il ladro), he holds a high B flat for what my timepiece clocked in at 15 seconds. Rossini sprinkles other stratospheric notes (more than a few Cs and Ds) throughout the arias to test the mettle of even the bravest tenor. Brownlee manages these daring feats with bountiful panache.

There is far more to this artist’s vocal arsenal than fancy tricks. Brownlee caresses lyrical phrases and elegantly conveys each character’s emotional circumstance. ‘Ah, dov’è, dov’è il cimento’, Idrino’s Act 1 aria from Semiramide, receives intensely felt shading. Brownlee is the epitome of the tender lover in the title character’s ‘Tu seconda il mio disegno’ (from Il turco in Italia).

All told, it’s a pleasurable excursion in the realm of Rossinian delights, with Orbelian and the Kaunas musicians serving as deft collaborators. Donald Rosenberg gramophone.co.uk

GRAMOPHONE AUGUST 2014 V

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