SOUNDS OF AMERICA
Jenny Lin plays Mozart, Gesualdo and Scarlatti originals that are then adorned by Uri Caine and reproduces piano performances with unprecedented accuracy. One might call it a digital state-of-the-art player piano. I can personally attest to this, because I’ve been recording selections for Steinway’s Spirio library.
Now that I’ve made my disclaimer, let’s discuss these Spirio-derived recordings. The programme intersperses Scarlatti sonatas and Gesualdo transcriptions with sets of miniatures by Uri Caine, all performed by Jenny Lin. In the two-piano miniatures, Lin plays a through-composed part on top of which Caine improvises. He does the same thing throughout Lin’s solo Scarlatti and Gesualdo tracks. Because the Scarlattis are set in stone, Caine has to work around them, enhancing and embellishing the originals in fits and starts. By contrast, the more spacious, slowermoving Gesualdo arrangements allow Caine room to truly develop fully formed second piano parts.
Caine’s fluent miniatures evoke the shades of Stravinsky, Prokofiev and Copland, with nods towards Milhaud and Ligeti and to Caine’s formidable jazz background. For example, No 9 for two pianos commences with spare bluesy lines, later supplanted by jagged chords. A blues in B flat suggests itself but quickly disappears; rhythms grow increasingly fragmented yet are pacified with gentle trills. After Lin plays the famous first movement of Mozart’s K545 Sonata straight (and beautifully), Caine deconstructs it in the manner of a Carl Stalling Bugs Bunny soundtrack. Sometimes Caine’s stylistic mash-ups in the solo miniatures seem a tad forced and self-aware, yet there’s no doubting his restless creative energy and superb ear. But it leaves one wondering how Jenny Lin’s unadorned Scarlatti might sound… Jed Distler
‘Wine Dark Sea’ Grantham J’ai été au bal Mackey Wine Dark Sea: Symphony for Band Ticheli Clarinet Concertoa Welcher Spumante a Nathan Williams cl The University of Texas Wind Ensemble / Jerry Junkin Reference Recordings F RR137 (70’ • DDD)
The repertoire for wind ensemble is vast and colourful. On their dynamic new release, The University of Texas Wind Ensemble and conductor Jerry Junkin take up four recent, worthy examples. Along with superbly balanced and vibrant playing, the performances confirm that American composers have no shortage of imagination when writing for wind, brass and percussion.
Dan Welcher uses the ensemble as an exuberant body in Spumante, a whimsical burst of energy filled with bright thematic material and fizzy interplay. Cajun tunes provide the impetus for Donald Grantham’s J’ai été au bal, which dances merrily along through asymmetrical rhythms and features a genial tuba solo (beautifully rendered by an unidentified player).
Hints of music by George Gershwin, Aaron Copland and Leonard Bernstein peer through the engaging writing in Frank Ticheli’s Clarinet Concerto, whose three movements pay homage to those composers. It’s a jazzy and affectionate piece performed with élan by Nathan Williams (who deserved a biography in the booklet).
The disc takes its title from John Mackey’s Wine Dark Sea: Symphony for Band, which explores aspects of The Odyssey in three movements of cinematic vibrancy. Mackey created the work from a version of the story by his wife; the results are powerful, glistening and eerie, evoking Odysseus’s adventures with exceptional drama and multi-hued finesse. Led by Junkin, the Texas musicians give the score a boldly detailed and sonorous account – one, especially at moments when Odysseus faces demons, that will fill up whatever environment in which this disc spins. Donald Rosenberg gramophone.co.uk
GRAMOPHONE JUNE 2016 VII