SOUNDS OF AMERICA
is another opportunity to hear Prokofiev’s distinctive voice in all its poetic and invigorating glory. Bailey exults in the music’s lyricism, just as he savours the charm and ferocity that are so ingrained in this composer’s sonic sensibility. The piano part is equally demanding, and Natasha Paremski brings exceptional finesse, clarity, and intensity to the score, always mindful of balances with the cello. Throughout this stimulating performance, you get the impression that the musicians are inhabiting the dramatic narratives. Donald Rosenberg
‘Modernists’ Lennon/McCartney Revolution 9 (arr Marks) Orfe Journeyman Read Thomas Final Soliloquy of the Interior Paramour Rihm Will Sound Varèse Poème électronique (arr Hause) Wuorinen Big Spinoff Alarm Will Sound Cantaloupe F CA21117 (39’ • DDD)
Each of the six pieces here, all of about the same length and at similar moderate speeds, is an exercise in getting into the heads of avant-garde classical music creators and trending creative notions. Each represents a significant contribution to the growing repertoire of classical music that’s being created, as Verve’s new ‘Re:works’ compilation demonstrates on a mass-market level, for parallel-universe audiences who prefer their classical music on vinyl in clubs spun by DJs: reworked, remixed, remashed and otherwise deconstructed.
The most spectacularly audacious is Evan Hause’s ingenious reorchestration entirely for acoustic instruments of Edgard Varèse’s iconic Poème électronique, which works so naturally that it becomes essentially a new piece. The most simply audacious is Matt Marks’s arrangement of ‘Revolution 9’, which turns The Beatles’ raucous, sly descent into musical chaos – which, reflectively, looks like a descent into the social chaos that killed John Lennon – into a surreally elegant rethink rising to occasional Wagnerian heights and ending in incongruously collegiate cheers of ‘Block that kick! And hold that line!’
Of the four pieces written for Alan Pierson’s 23-piece ensemble, Augusta Read Thomas’s potent Final Soliloquy of the Interoir Paramour packs the power and punch of an operatic scena, using two Wallace Stevens poems vocalised by alto Kirsten Sollek and countertenor Caleb Burhans to explore intensely radiant extremes; and Wolfgang Rihm is at his relentlessly anticipatory best in Will Sound, which ends in biblical waves of sound.
Two entertaining instrumental workouts emerge: Charles Wuorinen’s manic Big Spinoff and AWS pianist John Orfe’s miniconcerto Journeyman. Laurence Vittes
‘Rhythm of Silence’ Di Fiore Miniature Eisenga Theme from Wiek Mellits Agu Sommacal I Buried the Truth Susman Quiet Rhythms: Prologue and Action – No 4; No 9; No 18 Erika Tazawa pf Belarca F BELARCA005 (55’ • DDD)
the sound is a tad dry for music that would benefit from a more resonant patina, such intelligent programme-building and committed performances warrant serious attention and exposure. Jed Distler
‘Transitions’ Davidovsky Synchronisms No 3 Fulmer Speak of the Spring Gosfield …and a Five Spot. Four Roses Oliver La Rosa flexura Reich Cello Counterpoint Thorvaldsdóttir Transitions Michael Nicolas vc Sono Luminus F DSL92202 (61’ • DDD)
Elements of minimalism, repeating figurations and obsessive gestures are the threads linking all of the works on this beautiful disc. The three selections from Francesco Di Fiore’s Miniature range from toccata-like movement to a sparse and stark ballad. Douwe Eisenga’s Theme from Wiek slowly builds up from alternating threeand two-note phrases in both hands. It may be ‘new-agey’ on the surface, yet genuine compositional rigour governs the unfolding momentum.
If the left-hand ostinato and descending four-note scales that open Matteo Sommacal’s I Buried the Truth seem pleasantly innocuous, huge sonorities and bigtime virtuosity are lurking around the corner, just ripe for pianist Erika Tazawa’s powerful fingers to gleefully relish and devour. Half of the first movement of Marc Mellits’s tryptich Agu consists of high-lying slow-moving chords. The second half lives in the lower registers, where the slow chords resemble, for lack of a better analogy, a ‘Keith Jarrett hymn’ (and that’s a compliment!). ‘Triumph of the Water Witch’ is pure rock-out power chords: Prokofiev meets Jerry Lee Lewis. The conclusion, ‘You’re a Fake!’, gently and most attractively carves nine minutes from the aforementioned Keith Jarrett hymnal.
I haven’t yet mentioned producer William Susman’s short pieces interspersed throughout the recital, because I’m saving the best for last. Susman achieves texturally shimmering and harmonically ravishing results through subtle voice-leading and assiduously controlled structures. For example, in Prologue and Action No 18, the opening two-note ostinato pattern gives way to slower music and wider intervals, like a flower blooming before your eyes. Although
On his debut album for Sono Luminus, Brooklyn Rider’s new cellist Michael Nicolas integrates classical music’s 20th-century roots into his championing of new composition. The timing of the tracks, too, seems entirely symbolic of musical continuity: 61'16". Armed with a résumé that ranges from touring with South Korea’s classical boy-band Ensemble Ditto to playing with the International Contemporary Ensemble (and directing a residency at the 2015 Havana Contemporary Music Festival, Nicolas displays an international variety of sources, hair-raising chops and a tendency to exaggerate with amazing sensitivity.
The music ranges from Mario Davidovsky’s iconic Synchronisms for cello and composed electronics – retro now but groundbreaking when it was written 50 years ago – to brand new music by four relative kids who are basically writing today’s classical music as we speak. Nicolas in his booklet-notes describes the emotional pairings he is drawn to: the ‘intensity and hyperexpression in the Davidovsky and Oliver, fragility and expansiveness in Fulmer and Thorvaldsdóttir, rhythmic drive and transformation in Reich and Gosfield’.
His journey through cellistic time and space includes Jaime Oliver La Rosa’s excursion into the future, using his MANO hand-movement recorder to fashion his ambiguously titled flexura. Anna Thorvaldsdóttir’s title-track, the only piece for cello alone, explores how the cello is tuned and makes beautiful sounds. In the midst of it all one relative icon resides. That would be Steve Reich, whose multitracked Cello Counterpoint octet remains as astounding as ever, and assertively mainstream. Sono Luminus’s fabled recording studio in western Virginia captures it all without missing a beat. Laurence Vittes gramophone.co.uk
GRAMOPHONE AWARDS 2016 VII