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A special eight-page section focusing on recent recordings from the US and Canada
Bowles ‘Complete Piano Works, Vol 1’ Bernstein For Paul Bowlesb Bowles Four Latin American Piecesa. Two Portraitsb. Portrait of Fiveb. La Cuelgab. Constance Askew in the Gardena. Folk Preludesb. Three Piano Arrangementsb. Six Preludesa. Three Songs (arr Kasparov)c. Sonata for Two Pianosc Thomson Souvenir: Portrait of Paul Bowlesb c The Invencia Piano Duo (aAndrey Kasparov, bOksana Lutsyshyn pfs) Naxos American Classics B 8 559786 (59’ • DDD)
Because Paul Bowles concentrated his creative energies on fiction writing from his late thirties up until his death in 1999 at the age of 88, his early career as a composer gets relatively little attention. Hopefully this first volume in a series of releases devoted to Bowles’s piano music will rectify that situation. Most of the works here are miniatures that are modest in scope yet generous in charm and wit, the exception being Bowles’s 1947 Sonata for two pianos, composed for and first recorded by the great American duo of Arthur Gold and Robert Fizdale.
Terse and punchy counterpoint characterises its first movement, along with unexpected silences and quick allusions to waltzes. A long, austere and melancholically melodic Molto tranquillo follows, giving no hint of the rhythmically complex, clusterfilled third movement to come. Andrey Kasparov and Oksana Lutsyshyn are both on top of the notes and inside the music; the rhythmic complexities and tricky tutti attacks don’t faze their ensemble synchronicity one iota. Bowles’s application of mixed metres in the two Huapangos from the Four Latin Amerian Pieces are cut from the same cloth as Copland’s better-known El Salón México, although La Cuelga’s quick‑change modulations signify an original voice, as do the ungeneric twists and turns throughout a group of small portraits written in tribute to friends.
The latter works gain context heard alongside portraits of Bowles by Virgil talks to... Piotr Szewczyk The violinist on commissioning and performing works for his album ‘Violin Futura’
What inspired you to start this project? I wanted to create a new collection of short solo violin works by tapping into the creative potential of living composers. While many great contemporary pieces are out there already, there wasn’t a collection similar to Paganini’s 24 Caprices written in the 21st century yet. Instead of having one composer write them all, each piece in ‘Violin Futura’ was written by a different composer, showcasing an incredible diversity of contemporary music.
How did you choose the composers? I reached out to composers I knew personally, and then I announced a call for works to select the next group, and asked them to write new pieces for this project.
What were the biggest challenges? As with all contemporary music, the first challenge was interpreting pieces that have never been played before and representing very different aesthetic directions. How much interpretative freedom does each piece allow for? What are the parameters I can work within? The other challenge was to organise them in a sequence that would create an engaging narrative for the listener, creating a larger ‘meta-piece’.
What’s next? I want to continue performing these fascinating works and hope they will inspire other violinists to commission composers for their own projects, and realise how many incredibly talented living composers are out there. For more information, please visit www.violinfutura.com.
Thomson and Leonard Bernstein. Among the Six Preludes, notice No 3’s sly references to Chopin’s A major Prelude, while the raggy asymmetry of No 4 might be described as Charles Ives without the rough edges. Several piano arrangements preserve incidental music from theatre productions for which the original orchestral scores are lost. Three lovely examples of Bowles’s prolific song output are rendered in stylistically apt piano-duet arrangements by Kasparov, who also provides informative and scholarly annotations. A valuable release at any price. Jed Distler
Nelson ‘Watercolors’ Bowlsa. On the Question of Angelsb. Sapphirec.
Two Cabaret Songsd. Two Love Lyricsd. Watercolorsd. Zoo Storiese Sonja Bruzauskas mez cAnne Leek ob aAlexander Potiomkin cl eBrian Thomas hn acChristopher Neal, bSophia Silvios vns cWayne Brooks va ac Christopher French, bAnthony Kitai vcs e Timothy Hester, abdTali Morgulis, bcRoy Wylie pfs Delos F DE3499 (74’ • DDD • T)
Septuagenarian composer Robert Nelson – who joined the music faculty at the University of Houston in 1968 and is currently Professor Emeritus of Music Theory and Composition, as well as gramophone.co.uk
GRAMOPHONE JULY 2016 I
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