"James Fry is a
composition professor at the University of North Dakota. The overall
title of the disc is Kaleidoscope. The works on this disc
are mostly set forth in short movements of particular character.
Fry's style ranges from a fairly thorny modernism (the piano etudes)
to pleasant Neoclassicism (Impressions for guitar) to Stravinsky
emulation (Gloria for SATB chorus and piano duet). Kaleidoscope for clarinet and piano is structured in three movements, fast-slow-fast.
The first and third are based on a steady pulse, while the second
is a freely sung lament. The pitch language is atonal with a noticeable
concern for harmonic progression and voice leading. The piano takes
an accompanist's role for much of the piece, and both instrumentalists
play with confidence and excitement.
At least half of the
first movement of the two-movement Concerto for clarinet and wind
ensemble is comprised of a cadenza for the clarinet with minimal
accompaniment. Theres almost no real interplay between ensemble
and soloist. The frenetic second movement integrates the two a bit
better, though theres not much of a feeling of concerto here. Theres
some nice rhythmic vitality in the second movement, including a
quotation from The Rite of Spring. The piece seems unfinished,
though, as if it should have another movement.
Twelve Studies for piano
runs a gamut of mood types as well as techniques, though no approach
receives more than a couple of minutes of exploration. The first
study is the longest, at just under two and a half minutes; five
of the pieces are less than a minute long. Fry calls for some in-strings
work from the pianist, but restrains himself from using sounds completely
outside the pianos usual timbral range. The movements tend to swing
between fast, extroverted fingerwork and free-tempo, recitativelike
passages. The difficult passages speed by cleanly at the fingertips
of Jane Solose. Her sister Kathleen joins her in Drift of the
Eastern Gray for piano duo, eight short character pieces and
a more substantial finale.
Fry show great understanding
for the guitar in the three-movement Impressions (1997).
The wonderfully idiomatic writing never sounds contrived. Fry employs
a Neoclassic, tonally centered language here to lovely effect. Russian
guitarist Vladimir Mityakov plays with a beautiful tone and sure
knowledge of the piece, which encompasses quiet harmonics, jazz
or rocklike strumming, and more traditional contrapuntal passages.
From its first chord,
Gloria (1988) sounds utterly derived from Stravinskys Mass. It begins
in declaiming, homophonic chords and progresses to more lyrical
writing, never wandering far from the sound world of Stravinsky,
with only slightly more demure references to the Poulenc Gloria.
This is often very fine
music, eclectic and well crafted, emotive and challenging and exciting.
The performances are first rate, and the several recording venues
and personnel maintain a consistently high level of quality throughout.
The disc is thoroughly enjoyable."