Crosby offers a well-played program of American piano
music by Griffes (Roman Sketches), Mrs.
Beach (Three [Griegish] Pieces)
Century Music - by Mark Alburger
many pieces are there for clarinet and contrabass?
Certainly a few, if we can judge from the recent Capstone
release, Cassandra, with clarinetist Roger
Heaton and contrabassist Corrado Canonici (nice alliteration!)
energetically with Chianan Yen's Clone, with
a nice vibrant sound coming from both players. The
content has something to do with the Fibonacci series
and music-as-DNA-codes, the latter recently discussed
in the New York Times. But the music doesn't sound
scientific; it sounds ecstatic.
Ha, on the other hand, has a stiller, neoclassic take By the Blue Shore, where slow and fast passages
vary like the weather on an Eastern afternoon. Ji
Young Jung strips these notions down to basics in
a solo clarinet Garak, that shares, with Blue
Shore, a heightened interest in ornamentation.
and Diversions, John Gilbert intends the players
to "more or less satirize their own virtuosity."
A refreshing notion. The beginning has a bit of ridiculous
call-and-response à la one of Crumb's Madrigals.
The Stravinsky jokiness of "big and little voices"
(the clarinet is big in sound, the bass less so) works.
There's a Crumbian bravura (ha! hee! huh!) as well
to Ronald Mazurek's Maiastra (Magic Bird),
but this time in the Davidovsky Synchronisms tradition of an inventive work for bass and electronic
tape. Lots of downward glissandi and vibrato. This
is followed by the brief, intriguing Anagrams and
Aphorisms of William Toutant, where delicate sounds
meet in stimulating interplay.
proves himself in the same league as Bertram Turetzky
in Riccardo Santoboni's virtuoso, tutta forze Kaddil.
This is followed by the wonderfully weird Night Scenes
of Carlos Delgado for clarinets, contrabass, and electronics.
Seagulls and sustains, anyone?
piece comes last, Dino Ghezzo's Eyes of Cassandra for clarinets, contrabass, synthesizer, and tape.
Ghezzo pulls out all the stops with funny and threatening
sounds galore. The cover shot is of the Greek messenger
of doom in full scream, and that's it. Whee! Whew!
series of confident performances we turn to the very
confident composer Andrea Cavallari and his Self-Portrait,
also on Capstone. The American-born Cavallari has
lived mostly in Europe, and he manifests a European-oriented
modernism that apologies for nothing. The performances
from his San Felice Contempoensemble are all magnificent
(flutist Michele Marasco, pianists Ju-Ping Song and
Michele Innocenti, violinist Adelino Hasani, bassist
Canonici, sopranos Gerlinde Samann and Charlotte Zeiher,
alto Caterina Calvi). We can tick off the influences
of Crumb and Varèse (Fantasia per Flauto),
Stockhausen (the solo-piano Selfportrait),
and Berio (a Magnificat for two sopranos and
altos), but it all comes out rather fresh. Canonici
sounds as good here in Achrome as he did on
the preceding album a committed performance
of a demanding work.
Ritratti is a virtuosic, energetic scuttering and bubbling
for flute and piano; Passages thrashes and
emotes out for solo violin. Red utilizes Schoenberg's
notion of non-repeating orchestrations in each of
its eight brief movements Pierrot ensemble
(augmented by percussion, with viola exclusively)
to boot. "Red is... Red, Red, Red" has a
good beat and you can dance to it (well, not really,
but it is strikingly rhythmic). "Anguish"
is a perpetual motion overlain with sustains
the title is perfect. "Red is a Song" is
a gorgeous vocalise that recalls the vocal/flute duet
in Pierre Boulez's Le Marteau sans Maitre.
Capstone album, pianist Richard Crosby's American
Portrait is virtuosity in a more traditional vein.
His Americans are traditional ones, mostly from a
broad mid 20th century (teens to the 80's), beginning
with the Roman Sketches (1917) of Charles Tomlinson
Griffes. These impressionist-romantic pieces ("The
White Peacock," "Nightfall," "The
Fountain of the Acquo Paola," and "Clouds")
are certainly more Debussyan than Respighian, but
the arpeggios and arching phrases work in any language.
is the order of the day, beginning Three Pieces (1932) by Amy Beach (a.k.a. Mrs. H.H.A....), and that
scherzo is "A Peterborough Chipmunk" which
scampers altogether programatically. The following
"Young Birches" tremolo in the breeze, with
the help of a lovely melody. And "The Hummingbird"?
Yes, it buzzes around....
contexts, the Lee Hoiby Narrative (1983)
by far the latest work on the album, by a space of
more than 40 years is not a stand out, but
a blend in, fitting nicely with the overall mood of
the album in its tranquility and turbulence.
Grant Still, always the surprising master, turns in Seven Traceries (1940). Among the standouts
are "Muted Laughter," a polytonal chuckling
that relates to Heitor Villa-Lobos, and the solemn
intonings that seem to anticipate Messiaen "Out
of the Silence." "Wailing Dawn" contains
tragic wiffs of birdsong. "A Bit of Wit"
seriously brightens the day.
keep a good melody down, and David Guion does his
bit to keep the folk tune "The Arkansas Traveler"
moving. Unlike Percy Grainger, who used to program
Guion's version regularly, I've hung around with too
many children over the years not to hear this as "I'm
Bringing Home a Baby Bumblebee." Memorable, with
Moreau Gotschalk's appealingly rhythmic Banjo (ca. 1855, but not sounding out of place in this 20th-century
collection) and the wonderful Prelude No. 1 by George Gershwin round out the festivities.