CDs June 2022

ZIBUOKLE MARTINAITYTE – EX TENEBRIS LUX
PAVEL GIUNTER, percussion ROKAS VAITKEVICIUS, cello
LITHUANIAN CHAMBER ORCHESTRA, KAROLIS VARIAKOJIS, conductor
ONDINE ODE 1403-2  75’16

This is the second release from Ondine of works by Zibuokle Martinaityte, here focussing on works for strings. Born in Lithuania and now living in New York, it is possible to draw parallels in her writing with Eastern European independent thinkers Arvo Part and Henryk Gorecki. Despite the limited resources there is much variety in timbre and the slow moving, gradually unfolding music still has moments of surprise and heightened intensity. The opening piece, Nunc fluens. nunc stans., was written in 2020 as a direct response to the pandemic. The title roughly translates “the now that passes creates time; the now that remains creates eternity”. The work from which the CD takes its title was written slightly later, completed in 2021, is also written as a response to Covid -19. The final work, Sielunmaisema (“Soul-landscape, a particular place that a person carries deep in the heart and returns to often in memory”) was written in 2019 and is the longest work here. It reflects on the passing of the year, with four season-inspired movements.

UN MILAGO DE FE – A MIRACLE OF FAITH
MUSIC BY BEATRIZ BILBAO, ARIEL RAMIREZ, MARY LOU WILLIAMS
& OSVALDO GOLIJOV
BORDER CROSSING choir & instrumental ensembles
AHMED ANZALDUA, conductor
BRIDGE 9568  59’57

This is a very well thought out presentation of music of faith from Latin America. There are some really exuberant moments as well as some more reflective passages and many contrasting sounds from voices, percussion, piano and string bass. I found the whole CD quite energising and loved the blending of the now well-known Misa Criolla (-Ramirez) with Mary Lou Williams’ St Martin de Porres, two pieces by Osvaldo Golijov and the no-holds barred Fiesta de San Juan by Beatriz Bilbao which opens the CD.

JAMES KALLENBACH – ANTIGONE
The Writings of Sophie Scholl & the White Rose Movement
LORELEI ENSEMBLE
BETH WILLER, conductor
NEW FOCUS RECORDINGS FCR333  36’42

It took me a while to appreciate the concept and structure of this new choral work. Having done so I can see how well crafted it is. The blending of the ancient Greek drama – Sophocles’ Antigone with the words of Sophie Scholl, writing as a nonviolent resistance campaigner in Germany during the 2nd World War in new choral settings by James Kallembach is very effective. The voices blend very well and the whole presentation is superb. I intend now to spend more time with text and recording as well as perhaps doing a little historical research in order to gain a greater understanding of the source material and the timeless message they contain.

OPALESCENT
LOS ANGELES GUITAR QUINTET
LAGQ RECORDS LAGQ 0322  57’25

A gently arresting release of music that can transport the listener to other realms! Like the ‘thin places’ to be found in the landscape this music seems to point to more profound realities and this is reflected in many of the titles here, by a number of contemporary composers. Beginning with Andrew York’s Hidden Realm of Light and including Aerial Boundaries by Michael Hedges there are also works by Kevin Callahan, Frederic Hand and Robert Beaser. The whole. Project centres around two works by Philip Houghton – Opals and Wave Radiance. Tilman Hoppstock’s Suite Transcendent completes the programme. Beautiful.

MY LAI  – Music – JONATHAN BERGER  Libretto – HARRIET SCOTT CHESSMAN
KRONOS QUARTET
VAN-ANH VANESSA VO, t’rung, dan bau, dan tranh
RINDE ECKERT, vocalist
SMITHSONIAN FOLKWAYS SFW CD 40251

Written 50 years after the tragic events in Vietnam this opera looks back through the eyes of heroic American helicopter pilot, Hugh Thompson jr, who intervened to try to stop the American massacre of innocent people. as he is dying of cancer in 2005. This is a remarkable piece of music and drama, allowing the enormity and the far-reaching imact of the tragedy to be displayed. Blending traditional Vietnamese compositional styles and instrumentation with western opera as well as material from the Jewish Kaddish and the traditional spiritual My Lord, what a morning, this is a moving, deeply spiritual piece. It tells of the horror of war, the inhumanity shown to many on the one hand and the bravery and rightness of an individual who will take a stand for justice and compassion. The juxtaposition of elements of a gameshow serve as a jarring indictment of the events that took place. A fine recording and wonderful presentation with extensive booklet notes including much historical background material including a complete list of names as a memorial for each of the 504 people killed in the My Lai massacre. Profoundly moving.

SOLUS ET UNA
AMIT PELED, cello
MOUNT VERNON VIRTUOSI CELLO GANG
ALLISON FREEMAN, piano
CTM CLASSICS

The Bach cello suites have a very special spacious quality which has ensured that performers and listeners return to them again and again. It is always good to hear fresh performances as these recently recorded and released by Amit Peled. As with a number of other recent CDs in the sleeve notes there is mention of that yearning for going beyond ourselves to find something bigger, something more, the source of inspiration and resilience. The two solo (Solus) items here are the Cello Suites No 4 in E flat major and No 5 in C minor. Included after these is the Una  – a recording of Amit Peled with his cello ensemble and an arrangement for 8 cellos and piano of the Andante from Brahms’ Symphony No 3.

THE POOR BRANCH  – 19TH C GUITAR MUSIC BY IVAN KLINGER
JAMES AKERS, guitar
RESONUS RES10302  64’18

This release of premiere recordings of guitar music by Klinger (1818-1897) is lovely. There is a timeless quality to the sounds of a solo guitar and here, in original compositions and arrangements, this music, from an area now part of Ukraine, this music from a relatively obscure composer has been given new life by James Akers who seems very at home with it. An enjoyable release.

THESE DISTANCES BETWEEN US – 21st  C SONGS OF LONGING
MUSICAL SETTINGS BY BRANDWEIN, HILL, RUDMAN AND SANTORE
EMILY JAWORSKI KORIATH, mezzo, TAD KORIATH, piano
JONATHAN SANTORE & CRAIG BRANDWEIN, computer generated electronics
NAXOS 8.559908  64’52

Part of the Naxos American Classics strand this is a fascinating compilation of songs from from four contemporary American composers of texts by varied authors including Amy Lowell, John Charles McNeill, Sulpicia & Rilke. There is well developed rapport between the performers and Emily’s wider work includes specialism in electro-acoustic music for voice which is represented by the additional electronics provided by two of the composers. A welcome addition to recordings of this developing repertoire.

FERNANDO LOPES-GRACA: DIVERTIMENTO – SINFONIETA – CINCO VELHOS ROMANCES PORTUGUESES – QUATRO INVENCOES
PORTUGUESE SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA, BRUNO BORRALHINHO, conductor
NAXOS 8.574373  63’25

This bold, inventive music sounds fresh and invigorating in this latest release of the Portuguese composer’s work. There is much variety of orchestration and rhythm throughout. The performances of each of these four medium length pieces bring much to enjoy.

ADOLF BARJANSKY – COMPLETE PIANO WORKS  2
JULIA SEVERUS, piano
GRAND PIANO GP881 64’11

I continue to really enjoy these single composer volumes from Grand Piano. Here is mostly virtuoso music in the 2nd volume of Odessan late 19th century composer Adolf Barjansky. Writing in late romantic style, this is music written on a grand scale, much of it not for the feint-hearted as piano and performer are given a good work out in inventive music that is often lively and with much depth. Piano Sonatas 2 & 3 are linked with his Moderato.

TAKASHI YOSHIMATSU – PIANO WORKS FOR THE LEFT HAND
YUMIKO OSHIMA-RYAN, piano
NAXOS 8.579121  51’31

The world of one handed piano music is a very inspiring place indeed. It never ceases to amaze me how listening to some of this repertoire, born out of adversity, it is often impossible to tell that only one hand is being used. Here we have some very contrasting music written by contemporary Japanese composer which spans the sound reminiscent of reflective film scores to rock, blues, tango and boogie-woogie. A great set of recordings of wonderful performances of this rarefied music that deserves to be heard and recognised more widely.

TAN DUN – PIANO MUSIC
RALPH VAN RAAT, piano
NAXOS  8.570621  73’06

This is a very welcome release of music which is influenced by both Chinese and Western musical traditions, more recent musical developments and older traditions. Blue Orchid is a variation on Beethoven’s Diabelli Variations. The Film Music Sonata uses the composer’s own material for the soundtrack to the film, The Banquet. The Fire and Traces together show very different approaches to composition, one being a very virtuosic piece, the other making much use of silence. Tan Dun’s tribute to his teacher, C-A-G-E (In Memory of John Cage) makes references back to the timbres of the prepared piano and the opening work Eight Memories in Watercolour is a series of miniatures based on elements of the natural world and our place within it. A lovely collection.

ALAN HOVHANESS – PIANO WORKS VOL 2
ALESSANDRA POMPILI, PIANO
DYNAMIC CDS7946  56’08

The subtitle to this volume is “Journeying over land and through space” and all the pieces here are evocations of particular places with some very distinctive sounds reflecting different traditions. The three longest works are Komachi (evoking natural sounds of Japan), the premiere recording of Greek Rhapsody No 1 and Sonata: Journey to Arcturus. Hovhaness’ orchestral music is much more widely known than his piano repertoire so it is good to have this 2nd volume available now.

SELIM PALMGREN – COMPLETE PIANO WORKS 5
JOUNI SOMERO, piano
GRAND PIANO GP908  78’07

This survey of Palmgren’s piano music continues with another release of neglected gems in a variety of styles and moods. A number of the pieces here are recorded for the first time including the opening Exotisk Marsch with its evocation of things ‘oriental’. Lots to explore and enjoy.

TREVOR DUNCAN – BRITISH LIGHT MUSIC 8
SLOVAK RADIO SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA, ANDREW PENNY, conductor
NAXOS 8.555192  68’27

I have made no secret of really enjoying previous volumes of this series from Naxos. Trevor Duncan was another prolific composer of so-called light music but is known today almost exclusively for his A Little Suite, which became well-known as the the source of the theme tune for the television series Dr Finlay’s Casebook. It is included here alongside many lesser known but equally well crafted pieces where melody is always to the fore. Encore!

BORIS LYATOSHYNSKY – COMPLETE SYMPHONIES
UKRAINIAN STATE SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA, THEODORE KUCHAR, conductor
NAXOS 8.503303 (3 CDs) 188’20

A timely release of these repackaged recordings from the 90s here we have the complete symphonies of the composer regarded as the father of 20th century Ukrainian music. In these times of war there is rightly a focus on the culture of this country. This is substantial music which was written at a time when it was often difficult to speak with an original voice. Lyatoshynsky’s work brought him into conflict with the authorities. There is much emotion and variety of colour in this music which straddles later romantic and modernist movements. An important release which reminds us of our often limited knowledge of musical geography.

SP

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