Reviews Sounds of America even the densest moments to enable the remixes to be so dramatically effective (and a four-channel version of their “Bruit Secret Mix” for Quartet No 2 is available “on request”). Laurence Vittes
Makan 2 a . Zones d’accord b . Target c . Resonance Alloy d c Laurie Rubin mez b Alex Waterman vc c California EAR Unit; a Either/Or (Jennifer Choi vn d David Shively perc) Starkland F ST217 (69’ • DDD • T/t) Keeril Makan’s political creations fashion order out of chaos
This is not an easy disc to listen to casually, but gradually the yowling power, the perception of literal banging on cans and the extraordinary extremes to which Keeril Makan asks the strings and singer to go become coherent musical expression. On a purely musical level, these first recordings of four works by Makan are about creating expectations out of chaos, tuning the listener’s ear and creating a sound world in which music emerges unexpectedly out of violent textures, gestures and cries.
The title piece, Target, sets a text assembled from poems by Jena Osman and phrases taken from leaflets dropped over Afghanistan in the wake of September 11. Tremendous tension is achieved by ratcheting up a bass drone under Laurie Rubin’s tortured vocal lines; at other places, the singing is brutally interrupted by snapped strings and glissando-ing pizzicatos. Makan comments: “When I composed Target in 2003-04, I thought the subject matter, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, would quickly become dated. Unfortunately, Target remains stubbornly relevant.”
The CD opens with 2, consisting of strings of rhythm and blocks of sound in which Makan finds surprising commonalities between David Shively’s percussion array and Jennifer Choi’s high harmonic screeching. Zones d’accord, commissioned for a new dance piece by French choreographer Françoise Murcia, is toe-tapping music for the extremely educated toe with a big cello riff and some hair-raising scraping in the double bass. Resonance Alloy is a 30-minute endurance test in which Shively, in an unedited performance, negotiates his way brilliantly through alternating waves of aggressive onslaught and evanescent, amatory sighs.
The intense, original recordings were made with 24-bit, 48k/88.2k sampling. The three non-vocal works were recorded using DPA microphones, Millennia pre-amps, Prism converters and Merging Pyramix DAWs. Laurence Vittes
Vivaldi The Art of Vivaldi’s Lute Sinfonias – RV127; RV157. Concertos – for Two Violins and Lute, RV93; for Viola d’amore, Lute and Strings, RV540. Trio Sonatas – RV82; RV85. In turbato mare, RV627 a a Jennifer Ellis Kampani sop Ronn McFarlane lte Bach Sinfonia / Daniel Abraham Dorian B DSL92132 (68’ • DDD • T/t) Ronn McFarlane’s lute is ever present in this varied and pleasurable programme
Vivaldi’s output is so vast that listeners have opportunities to hear only a fraction of the composer’s creative gifts. So this new disc by the Bach Sinfonia,
which is based near Washington DC, provides pleasurable engagement with music beyond famed climatic concertos and other works that have raised the composer to such a high status. The recording’s title, The Art of Vivaldi’s Lute, may be a bit misleading, since that delicate instrument comes to the fore only in a portion of the programme. But the lute is present throughout the music-making, both in solo and secondary roles, and it can have no better champion than Ronn McFarlane, whose playing is the epitome of grace and rhythmic animation.
McFarlane is very much the protagonist in the Concerto in D major for two violins and lute, RV93, in which the lute weaves lilting material in conversation with the other soloists. It’s possible for the dulcetvoiced lute to get lost amid string textures but conductor Daniel Abraham and his ensemble maintain balances that promote articulate interplay. Each work receives distinctive treatment, among them the Concerto in D minor for viola d’amore, lute, strings and continuo, RV540, in which William Bauer’s invigorating viola d’amore artistry meshes vibrantly with McFarlane’s elegance.
There’s also a chance to hear Vivaldi in motet mode. Soprano Jennifer Ellis Kampani is the expressive, nimble soloist in In turbato mare irato in tandem with the Bach Sinfonia’s refined flexibility. Donald Rosenberg
Remembering JFK Bernstein Fanfare for the Inauguration of John F Kennedy (arr Ramin) a . Symphonic Dances from West Side Story a . Gershwin Piano Concerto in F ac Lieberson Remembering JFK –
An American Elegy b La Montaine From Sea to Shining Shore ef Thompson The Testament of Freedom – The God who gave us Liberty e
Gershwin Rhapsody in Blue de b Richard Dreyfuss narr c Tzimon Barto pf a National Symphony Orchestra / Christoph Eschenbach; d Earl Wild pf e National Symphony Orchestra / Howard Mitchell Ondine M b ODE 1190 2D (126’ • DDD • ADD • T) Recorded live at the a Kennedy Centre, Washington DC, January 2011 and at the e Constitution Hall, Washington DC, January 1961 JFK’s ‘original’ inauguration concert and its 50th anniversary, both caught live
The inauguration of President Kennedy in January 1961 seemed to usher in a new age for prominent creative artists in the United States. They were immediately invited to the White House. When Stravinsky was there Kennedy asked him how he felt and he answered: “Quite drunk, thank you, Mr President.” All that didn’t last and Kennedy was assassinated in 1963.
These two CDs document significant Washington celebrations. Gershwin was featured in both the 1961 Inaugural Concert and the 2011 50th Anniversary Concert. In 1961 Earl Wild played the Rhapsody in Blue – a punchy dry interpretation taking some risks that all come off – and in 2011 Tzimon Barto was the soloist in the Piano Concerto. It must be almost impossible to find something different to do with such an over-exposed piece. In the first movement Barto breaks up his opening solo at every opportunity and makes the orchestra do the same: his pauses and some pianissimo effects seem exaggerated.
The novelty, commissioned for the occasion, is Peter Lieberson’s Remembering JFK – An American Elegy with spoken passages taken from Kennedy’s speeches. It’s in the tradition of Copland’s Lincoln Portrait but whereas Copland uses the speaker only in the final section, Lieberson’s music functions like a film soundtrack. Further, Copland knew how to leave space for the speaker who sometimes struggles here to get through the orchestral texture.
In the final section, with extracts from a speech about world peace as “the most important topic on earth”, Lieberson simply scores the fourth of Brahms’s Eleven Chorale Preludes for organ. The mood is appropriate but the use of Brahms prevents Lieberson from putting his own stamp on the work. Peter Dickinson
GRAMOPHONE OCTOBER 2011 XIII