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SOUNDS OF AMERICA

C O L A S A N T O

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P H O T O G R A P H Y

The New Orford Quartet offer impressive Brahms performances on their new disc heavens, a few anxious moments aside, prompting extra concentration from its interpreters. The New Orford players are as keenly alert to the contrapuntal conversations as they are to matters of timbral warmth and focus.

The timing of the three Brahms quartets makes them impossible to fit on to one CD but the New Orford clearly need to record the Third, Op 67 in B flat – paired, perhaps, with one of the quintets. Donald Rosenberg

Pisaro A mist is a collection of points Phillip Bush pf Greg Stuart perc Michael Pisaro sine tones New World F 80772-2 (58’ • DDD)

For A mist is a collection of points, his first New World release, Cal‑Arts composer Michael Pisaro has charted out an hour’s worth of meticulous interplay between pianist Phillip Bush, percussionist Greg Stuart and Pisaro’s own sine tones. In Mist’s three mesmerising, slow-moving 20-minute episodes, Pisaro gives full voice, laid out with a superb sense of timing, to his roots in John Cage, experimental music, extended durations, indeterminacy and silence. In fact, this CD is ideal for meditation if your goal is to sublimate your breathing to the mostly regular, decidedly deep pulse that arises out of the decaying of sounds; the effect is intensified by the aural haze of sine toneinduced spectral decay created in the process.

During the time that Pisaro’s musical landscapes are accumulating, there are enough moments of sine-derived radiance to compensate for long stretches when you’re not sure whether you’re hearing actual tones or their decay, and whether it matters, which becomes more distracting than it sounds. This dilemma and others have been anticipated by a reasonably friendly user’s manual in the guise of a booklet-note essay by composer and writer Jennie Gottschalk. Gottschalk can be as poetic and elliptical as the music itself, as when she describes the effect of throwing rice over the cymbals in Part 3 but, in sum, it’s a pretty good road map. Gottschalk suggests you listen on speakers, not headphones; that way, you take advantage of Joe Panzner’s mastering of the recording, which she calls crucial to fully experiencing the ‘weird fragilities’ of the piece. Laurence Vittes

‘Excelsior’ M Bates Red River Burhans Excelsior Limbacher Air A Shapiro Perpetual Spark Fifth House Ensemble Cedille F CDR90000 148 (64’ • DDD • T)

Fifth House Ensemble is a group of young Chicagobased musicians who have a flair for inventive programming. Their newest disc, ‘Excelsior’, shows how devoted they are to living composers, with three world-premiere recordings sharing the bill with Mason Bates’s Red River. All of the pieces contain bursts of colour within narratives revolving around natural phenomena.

The Bates score, from 2007, paints five portraits related to the Colorado River, whose twists and turns mingle with evocations of local people and wonders. The composer creates illuminating and animated episodes, some peppered by snazzy electronic elements. Bates has a gift for balancing exuberance with stillness, and for deftly weaving clarinet, violin, cello and piano with contemporary sounds.

The disc’s other extended work is the eponymous Excelsior, Caleb Burhans’s gramophone.co.uk

GRAMOPHONE FEBRUARY 2016 III