TYONDAI BRAXTON – TELEKINESIS
METROPOLIS ENSEMBLE, ANDREW CYR, conductor
BROOKLYN YOUTH CHORUS, DIANNE BERKUN MENAKER, conductor
THE CROSSING, DONALD NALLY, conductor
NONESUCH 075597909678 35’
A short but exciting listen is to be found here in this work recent work combining acoustic instruments with synthesizer, electronics and vocals. In four roughly equal parts this work is an evocation of the potential power of the mind.
CHANGES: CONTEMPORARY GUITAR MUSIC
ARTURO TALLINI, electric guitar, prepared guitar, classical guitar, vocalise
JAMES DASHOW & DOMENICO ASCIONE, electronics & pre-recorded tape
NAXOS 8.574394 59’47
Beginning with Steve Reich’s celebrated 1987 Electric Counterpoint this is a varied but cohesive programme highlighting different aspects of modern guitar music. Arturo Tallini proves to be very versatile in his use of the different instruments and including the vocalise forming part of Arthur Kampela’s Percussion Study III from 1987. The performers own arrangements of 2 1940s John Cage compositions from include one for prepared guitar (A Room). The other composers are Elliott Carter (Changes) and the most recent and longest piece here, the wittily titled iPiece by James Dashow.
FLORENCE PRICE – SONGS OF THE OAK
WURTTEMBERGISCHE PHILHARMONIE REUTLINGEN, JOHN JETER, conductor
NAXOS 8.559920 60’59
Whilst it is a tragedy that Florence Price’s music was so unappreciated for so long it is good to see so much of it now being rediscovered and enjoyed. This CD fits very well as part of the American Classics series as much of FP’s music conjurs up pictures of American landscapes and other associations, not least of which here are the use of material from spirituals in the two Concert Overtures. Songs of the Oak and The Oak, both expansive medium length works take centre stage here and the CD ends with the rhythmic and highly melodic Colonial Dance and Suite of Dances.
ALFRED MOMOTENKO – CREATOR OF ANGELS: CHORAL WORKS
LATVIAN RADIO CHOIR, SIGVARDS KLAVA, conductor
ONDINE ODE 1413-2 63’07
The title track of this lovely recording begins with the contemporary Eastern European sacred choral sound of which I never tire. This is expansive and transcendent music but which does not just stay in that now more familiar sound world. There are moments when the music harks back to older traditions of plainchant and glossolalia (which also has a contemporary Pentecostal/charismatic link). All these influences can be seen to full effect in the longest composition here, On the Passion. Beautiful performances throughout of this composer who was new to me.
SCRIABIN – THE POEM OF ECSTASY / PROMETHEUS
YEVGENY SUDBIN, piano
SINGAPORE SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA, Lan Shui, conductor
BIS BIS-2362 56’08
Scriabin’s music is often complex and on a massive scale. This is certainly the case here with the large orchestral forces employed by the composer in the 2 named works. The Poem of Ecstasy is intended to be a feast for the senses and an expression of Sciabin’s passionate spiritual beliefs. Timbral relief comes with the Piano Sonata No 5 being placed between the Poem and Prometheus whilst also reminding the listener of the importance of the piano in Scriabin’s output. Fine performances throughout.
ELMAS – COMPLETE PIANO WORKS VOL 1
MIKAEL AYRAPETYAN, piano
GRAND PIANO GP914 69’02
I have only recently discovered some of this Armenian composer’s works for the piano and this first volume in a complete series is to be welcomed. Mikael Ayrapetan’s performances bring this music to life and make for a very enjoyable collection. This volume places the Seven Nocturnes together with a number of Ballades, Barcarolles and Romance in Eb Major.
ARCHIBALD JOYCE – CARAVAN SUITE
RTE CONCERT ORCHESTRA
ANDREW PENNY, conductor
NAXOS 8.555218 66’47
Although Archibald Joyce is a worthy entrant into this ongoing series I found the music to be less entertaining than on previous programmes. I think this is because much of the music takes us back to a slightly earlier period, and although still light it is perhaps a little more restrained. That is not to play down the popularity of Joyce’s music, especially known for his Waltzes which would have not merely been listened to but danced to and therefore becoming a very important part of people’s experience and culture.
HERBERT HOWELLS – PIANO MUSIC 2
MATTHEW SCHELLHORN, piano
NAXOS 8.571383 69’26
Howells is renowned for his choral and organ music. His piano music is less well known and these releases are very welcome. As in the first volume Matthew Schellhorn surveys this music over the whole of Howells’ career. Mostly miniatures, there is much to enjoy here and it is interesting to see the development in compositional style throughout. The CD ends with the longest work, his 1971 Sonatina and also includes A Little Book of Dances from 1928. Beautiful performances of this well crafted music in what are, incredibly, almost exclusively world premiere recordings.
LETTER TO THE WORLD: DAVID LEISNER, COMPOSER
MUSIC FOR VOICE & INSTRUMENTS
KATHERINE WHYTE, soprano, ANDREW FUCHS, tenor, MICHAEL KELLY, baritone
AZICA ACD-71353 63’40
Texts by Emily Dickinson, Emily Bronte, Wendell Berry and others as well as from the Tao te Ching are set by David Leisner for a variety of forces. Love and faith are among the themes of the four pieces – Confiding, (various), Das Wunderbare Wesen (Lao Tzu), Simple Songs (Emily Dickinson) and Of Darkness & Light (Wendell Berry).
NETZEL-SANDSTROM-TARRODI: PIANO CONCERTOS
PETER FRIIS JOHANSSON, piano
GOTHENBURG SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA, RYAN BANCROFT, conductor
BIS BIS-2576 79’50
This CD contains some very exciting music. Three Swedish piano works are presented here – two contemporary ones and the other a recent reconstruction by the pianist of an older forgotten work by Laura Netzel. Andrea Tarrodi’s Stellar Clouds – Piano Concerto No 1 (2015) is brooding and, at times, unsettling but full of excitement. I particularly enjoyed Sven-David Sandstrom’s almost-concerto, Five pieces for piano & orchestra (2017) – exciting and varied, making great use of the combined forces.
NIKLAS SIVELOV – SYMPHONIES Nos 1 & 5
MALMO OPERA ORCHESTRA, JOACHIM GUSTAFSSON, conductor
Further exciting contemporary Swedish sounds are to be found on this CD. The two symphonies here by Sivelov date from 2013 and 202o. Both make great use of variety of timbre, tonality and rhythm. There is a stark, stripped back feel to the opening of the 5th Symphony which contrasts hugely with some of the more energetic writing of other movements here.
LA FEMME – FROM ORIENT TO OCCIDENT: A JOURNEY OF FEMALE COMPOSERS
FLAKA GORANCI, soprano
WORLD CHAMBER ORCHESTRA, KONSTANTINOS DIMINAKIS, conductor
NAXOS 8.551470 76’58
This is a very interesting concept album, highlighting not only the creativity and artistry of women but also giving priority to their beliefs and passions. Sources range from the mediaeval period to the present day with an emphasis on the more contemporary. A variety of styles and media are employed – art song, piano solo, western and eastern influences, acoustic instruments and electronic timbres. This is a far-reaching project to educate and inspire and a very enjoyable programme.
PAUL GUNN – THE LUDWIG SUITE
PAUL GUNN, voice & piano
With additional vocalists and instrumentalists
BANDCAMP. Digital download EP (name your price)
What do the writings of Robert Graves about Odin’s dogs, Debussy’s personal relationships, Beethoven’s love of wine and the frustrations of being silenced by lockdown have in common? They are all inspirations for Paul Gunn’s latest offering of original music performed by him, his five piece band and other additional musicians. Crossing between classical and rock genres this album has shades of Rick Wakeman and Andrew Lloyd Webber’s variations as well as much more. Diverse musical talent blends well and is used to good effect.