SOUNDS OF AMERICA
recognise as post-Romantic; while the Zarathustra Music recording, taken from the three live performances (‘no patch sessions’), lives up to its name. As good as the sound is on the CD, however, it must have been something to see during the live performances, three percussionists heading out to roto-tom stations placed strategically throughout the hall to rail down, as described in Richard Guérin’s thrilling booklet-notes, ‘an antiphonal barrage, a hailstorm of rhythmically charged particles’. Laurence Vittes
Lansky Contemplating Weathera. Travel Diaryb. It All Adds Upc a Western Michigan University Chorale; aBirds on a Wire / Kimberly Dunn Adams; bMeehan/Perkins Duo perc cQuattro Mani Bridge F BRIDGE9447 (74’ • DDD)
Paul Lansky, who retired in 2014 as Princeton’s William Shubael Conant
Professor of Music, makes his 21st appearance on Bridge with three works written over the past decade that reflect his return to instrumental music after 35 mostly electronic years.
The most striking is Travel Diary, an incongruously beautiful series of meditations on the different stages of a percussion ensemble’s road trip, played exquisitely by the Todd Meehan/Doug Perkins Duo tending an array of glowing bells and chimes, old signalling devices, horn calls, Morse code and more conventional instruments. The newest work is Contemplating Weather, commissioned by Western Michigan University School of Music to celebrate its 100th anniversary; premiered in 2014, the 35-minute work uses simple, proud verses by Kentucky-based poet Jonathan Greene to look back at the days ‘when bad weather was just bad luck and good weather could be a sublime experience’. The work’s 11 movements, which have the rough outlines and even the feel of a Bach cantata – the recitatives replaced by short, simple movements called ‘Clouds’ – feature the university’s Chorale and its new-music ensemble, Birds on a Wire. It All Adds Up is a suite of six short pieces for two pianos arising from a graduate seminar Lansky taught at Princeton in 2005, ‘navigating the area between tonal and posttonal harmonies’; the performances by Susan Grace and Alice Rybak transform theory into engrossing musical facts. Whether recorded in Kalamazoo, Waco or Colorado Springs, the sound is of audiophile quality throughout. Laurence Vittes
Sabey Owla. Ecstatic Aspenb. Phoenixc. Espejismod. Arc Flickere. Winter Shoref e Reiko Manabe fl cFelix Olschofka vn/elecs b Hilary Demske pf dPablo Gomez gtr/elecs a Arditti Quartet; fensemble / Efrain Guigui Albany F TROY1560 (68’ • DDD) f Recorded live at Wellesley College, 2006
San Francisco State University’s Benjamin Sabey writes music that reveals a brilliant technique and a keen ear for sound, timbre and arc, which makes each of these six pieces a unique experience, riveting and comprehensible in its own self-referencing universe. They are not easy listening – and they may be serving as exercises for larger works to come – but they are already musical to their very core.
A composer on whom Roger Reynolds was the major influence, the newly tenured Sabey offers two works for solo instrument with interactive electronics, Phoenix for violin and Espejismo for guitar, that are particularly intriguing. Both Felix Olschofka in Phoenix and Pablo Gomez in Espejismo have sole control of the live signal processing, and the results, whether the human or the electronics are in charge, spin out musical lines, often charged with beauty, that are inevitable even when desperate or chaotic. The purely acoustic music is no less resourceful. In Ecstatic Aspen, pianist Hilary Demske navigates a score with no rests or ties, with note-heads floating between stems; in which the composer expects the moment, the hall and the instrument to function as spontaneous players. In Arc Flicker, flautist Reiko Manabe gently lays out a landscape of beautiful, fragile pain.
The title-track, Winter Shore, is a tour de force for a virtuoso sextet which, according to Michael Hicks’s poetical booklet-notes, ‘sonically inspects and inventories the plots and subplots of the drama of cold ocean confronting land’. Laurence Vittes
‘The New American Art Song’ RI Gordon Quiet Livesa Heggie Of Gods and Catsb. Grow old along with me!b Liebermann Night Songsc Roven Songs from the Undergroundd
Daniel Okulitch bar aRicky Ian Gordon, bJake Heggie, cLowell Liebermann, dGlen Roven pf GPR F (71’ • DDD)
What’s particularly new about ‘The New American Art Song’, an absorbing disc featuring the outstanding Canadian baritone Daniel Okulitch? The selections, for sure, are recent creations by American composers Ricky Ian Gordon, Jake Heggie, Lowell Liebermann and Glen Roven. But are these works innovative in any ways that set them apart in the genre of contemporary art song? Maybe not, yet the 29 pieces that Okulitch performs, with each composer as pianist, are beautifully crafted settings of verses by an array of celebrated and lesser-known poets. All are cast in an accessible tonal style with keen attention to words and vocal shapes. They’re songs that would be welcome on a recital programme alongside repertoire new or old, American or otherwise.
Gordon’s Quiet Lives explores people on the edge of society, and its eight songs, exultant and touching, include several to texts by Dorothy Parker (not in witty mode) and Langston Hughes. The Heggie cycle Of Gods and Cats consists of two charming songs set to lyrics by Gavin Geoffrey Dillard that are almost over too quickly. (Happily, Okulitch ends the disc with another Heggie piece, the glowing ‘Grow old along with me!’, set to Robert Browning.) Far more expansive, Roven’s cycle Songs from the Underground comprises 15 songs – both dramatic and comedic – which reveal a vivid musical imagination. Liebermann’s three Night Songs are effusions of lyricism.
Okulitch uses his rich baritone with sensitivity and flair, savouring the nuances in these fresh songs in close collaboration with their respective composers. Donald Rosenberg
‘Paganimania’ Al‑Zand Paganini Reverie Beaser Pag‑Rag Ha Scène V Jing Jade Clappers Mobberley Capricious Invariance Nistades Niccolo Prangcharoen Pact Ink Christopher Janwong McKiggan pf Albany F TROY1543 (63’ • DDD)
Paganini’s 24th Caprice provides the basis of the present collection of new gramophone.co.uk
GRAMOPHONE AUGUST 2015 V