Playlist 25 April

Artist.  Piece.  Composer.  CD Title. Date.  Label

Trio Anima Mundi.  Piano Trio No. 1, Op. 6: I. Allegro.  Dag Wiren.  Hurlstone, Hyde, d’Ollone & Wiren: Romantic Piano Trios.  2013.  Divine Art

Gregory Fulkerson & Robert Shannon.  Violin Sonata No. 1: I. Andante.  Charles Ives.  Charles Ives: Sonatas for Violin and Piano.  1991.  Bridge Records

Yolanda Kondonassis.  Hear the Dust Blow.  Hear the Dust Blow.  Five Minutes for Earth.  2022.  Azica Records

Asasello-Quartett.  String Quartet No. 3, Op. 30: I. Moderato.  Arnold Schonberg.  Insights.  2016.  Genuin

Goeyvaerts String Trio.  Genesis I: Elementi per tre archi Op. 19, No. 1.  Henryk Gorecki.  Whispers of Titans.  2016.  Challenge Classics

Eliesha Nelson.  Wending.  Jeffrey Mumford.  Permutations.  2015.  Sono Luminus

Chicago Chamber Musicians, Emily Lodine & Lorraine Hunt Lieberson.  Six American Painters: No. 1. Bingham.  John Harbison.  Harbison: Chamber Music.  2006.  Naxos

JACK Quartet.  Tetras.  Iannis Xenakis.  Xenakis Edition, Vol. 10: String Quartets.  2009.  Mode Records

Lincoln Trio.  Trio No. 2 for violin, cello, and piano: I Lento.  Ernest Bacon.  Lincoln Trio: Trios from the City of Big Shoulders.  2021.  Cedille

Mika Stoltzman & Richard Stoltzman.  Fuga y misterio.  Astor Piazzola.  Palimpsest.  2019.  Avie

Alan Rinehart.  Beginning of the Day: I.  William Beauvais.  Dreams Laid Down: New Music for Classical Guitar.  2018.  Ravello Records

Yuki Numata Resnick.  Dead Wasps in the Jam-jar.  Clara Iannotta.  For Ko.  2016.  Innova

American Composers Orchestra.  Kingdom Come.  Ingram Marshall.  Kingdom Come. Hypnotic Delays, Fog Tropes II.  2001.  Nonesuch

Kronos Quartet.  Fratres.  Arvo Part.  25 Years.  2013.  Nonesuch

Maxine-Karen Johnson, William Wiley & Evelyn Zuckerman.  Music for Viola, Percussion and Piano: I.  Nancy Van de Vate.  Van de Vate: Music for Viola, Percussion and Piano.  2011.  Vienna Modern Masters

Miranda Cuckson & Blair McMillen.  Sonata No. 2 For Violin And Piano, Sz. 76: I. Molto moderato.  Bela Bartok.  Bela Bartok, Alfred Schnittke & Witold Lutoslawski.  2016.  ECM New Series

Yolanda Kondonassis.  Fault Line.  Stephen Hartke.  Five Minutes for Earth.  2022.  Azica Records

Playlist 18 April

Artist. Piece. Composer. CD Title. Date. Label

Nathanial Bartlett. Vermont Counterpoint. Steve Reich. Precipice: Modern Marimba. 2006. Albany Records

Todd Welbourne et al. Continuum. Joseph Koykkar. Expressed in Units. 1992. Northeastern Records

Laura Krentzman & Erberk Eryilmaz. B-A-C-Homage: I. B-A-C-Homage. Elizabeth R. Austin. Spectra, Vol. 2: A Concert of Music by Members of Connecticut Composers, Inc. 2018. Navona

Trio Appassionata. We Happy Few. Eric Moe. Gone into night are all the eyes. 2014. Odradek Records

Guitalian Quartet. Absinthium. Carmelo Nicotra. Contemporary Italian Music for Guitar Quartet. 2013. Bridge Records

Matt Haimovitz. Partita No. 1 for Solo Cello “Songs & Poems” Movement I-III. Philip Glass. Philip Glass: Partitas for Solo Cello. 2017. Orange Mountain Music

Couloir. Drifting Seeds. Baljinder Sekhon. Wine Dark Sea. 2013. Ravello Records

Nicola Benedetti et al. Butterflies Remember A Mountain. Arlene Sierra. Arlene Sierra Vol 3. 2018. Bridge Records Inc.

Altius Quartet. The Present Moment. Bruce Babcock. Quadrants, Vol. 3. 2019. Navona

Orchestre de l’Opéra Bastille. To Remain In Love. Olivier Messiaen. Messiaen Mystic. 1996. Deutsche Grammophon

Joel Smirnoff. Platinum Spirals. Joan Tower. Joan Tower Chamber & Solo Works. 1990. CRI

Stick & Bow. Paranoid Android. Radiohead. Resonance. 2019. Leaf Music

Zodiac Trio. Klezmer Fantazye. Andrew List. Dreamtime. 2016. Blue Griffin Recording, Inc.

Zephyr Quartet. Windmill. Stephen Whittington. Windmill. 2017. Cold Blue Music

National Polish Radio Symphony Orchestra. Threnody for the Victims of Hiroshima. Krzystof Penderecki. Orchestral Works Vol 1

Playlist 11 April

Artist. Piece. Composer. CD Title. Date. Label

Leila Josefowicz. San Andreas Suite I & II. Mark Grey. Beethoven Ravel Salonen Grey Messiaen. 2005. Warner Classics

Jack Van Geem & Nancy Zeltsman. Piano Sonata No. 1 (Arr. N. Zeltsman for Marimba Duo): IV. Molto vivace. Roger Sessions. American Gifts for Marimba Duo. 2020. Bridge Records

Trio Solis. Piano Trio in F-Sharp Minor (1952): I. Largo – Allegro espressivo. Arno Babajanian. Diamonds in a Haystack. 2012. MSR Classics

Kronos Quartet. John’s Book of Alleged Dances: X. Standchen – The Little Serenade. John Adams. Adams: Gnarly Buttons – John’s Book of Alleged Dances. 1998. Nonesuch

Eighth Blackbird. 2×5: I. Fast. Steve Reich. Steve Reich: Double Sextet. 2×5. 2010. Nonesuch

Roman Mints. Tango – Etude No. 2. Anxieux e rubato. Astor Piazzola. Dance of Shadows. 2014. Quartz Music Ltd

Lisa Oshima & Stefan Stroissnig. Violin Sonata No 1 in F Minor 1. 2. Sergei Prokofiev. Prokofiev. 2016. Quartz Music

Trio de l’Ile. Piano Trio. Gayane Chebotaryan. Babadjanian. Chebotaryan & Piazzolla: Piano Trios. 2020. Divine Art

Quatuor Bozzini. String Quartet in Four Parts: I & 2. John Cage. John Cage: Four. 2014. Collection QB

Capella Amsterdam. Clocks and Clouds for 12 female voices. Gyorgy Ligeti. The Ligeti Project. 2002. TELDEC

Gamelan Sekar Kembar & Scott L. Hartman. Main Bersama-Sama. Lou Harrison. Lou Harrison: Chamber & Gamelan Works. 2006. New World Records

Andras Schiff. In the Mist. Leos Janacek. Leos Janacek A Recollection. 2001. ECM New Series

Monty Cole. Marcus Reddick. Five Miniatures. Christopher Schmitz. ACE Composers 21st Century Cnamber Music. 2016. Ravello

The Bama Players. Suite for Sarro. Bunny Beck. Patterns Chamber Works. 2019. Navona

Kronos Quartet. John’s Book of Alleged Dances: IV. Pavane: She’s So Fine. . Adams: Gnarly Buttons – John’s Book of Alleged Dances. 2005. Nonesuch

Scott Fields Ensemble. Koa. Scott Fields. Frail Lumber. 2011. NotTwo

Playlist 4 April

Artist. Track. Composer. CD Title. Label. Date. Piotr Szeweczyk. Toward the Other Shore. Suzanne Sorkin. Violin Futura. Navona. 2016 Third Coast Percussion Ensemble. Bend. Peter Martin. Perpetulum. Orange Mountain. 2019 Keith Jarrett. 24 Preludes and Fugues, Op. 87: No. 1 … Continue reading

New Percussion in 11 Movements

ANDY AKIHO
SANDBOX PERCUSSION
SEVEN PILLARS

Pillar I, Amethyst, Pillar II, Pillar III, Spiel, Pillar IV, mARImbA, Pillar V, Pillar VI, carTogRAPh, Pillar VII.
Aki Rhythm Productions ARP-R001

Edgar Varese’s groundbreaking piece for percussion ensemble, Ionisation, shook the world in 1931, and in 1976 Steve Reich’s Music for 18 Musicians brought vibraphones and marimbas to the fore.

Now a new composition joins the ranks of percussion masterpieces: Andy Akiho’s Seven Pillars, here performed by Sandbox Percussion. It’s a perfect match: Akiho is redefining how percussion instruments sound and are played, while Sandbox Percussion’s recordings and videos demonstrate mastery of their craft. Their sheer discipline and virtuosity shine throughout this recording.

Akiho’s multi-movement composition calls for tuned and non-tuned instruments, some made of wood, some of metal, some tiny as a glass bottle, some large as an orchestral bass drum, some complex as a five-octave marimba, some simple as a metal pipe. Across the 11 movements, densities, textures, and tempos vary. One can imagine a tap dancer here and there. Musicians play a vibraphone with brushes, a glockenspiel with wires, a marimba with a violin bow.  Akiho calls for harmonic overtones to complement pure sounds, sounding for all the world like computer processed samples.

Each movement is notated with the precision of a Dutch master engraver. Ocean sprays of rhythms, showers of sprinkles, glistening sparkles. Here and there a suggestion of late 1990s laptop music (think Squarepusher).

Although one will appreciate this music without knowing its formal structure, the liner notes speak at length about the composition’s form, even to the extent of including a removable die-cut paper assembly that can be arranged into a 3-D model of the 11 movements, which form a palindrome: Pillar 4 forms the centerpiece; the instrumentation of Pillars 3 and 5 parallel each other, as do 2 and 6, and 1 and 7. Four solo pieces fill out the package.

As a lifelong amateur percussionist I greatly enjoyed this release. It has opened my ears to what percussion ensembles can do. And I recommend reading Zachary Woolfe’s December 2 NY Times feature One Composer, Four Players, ‘Seven Pillars’.

Dover Quartet plays Beethoven’s Middle Quartets

DOVER QUARTET
Beethoven Complete String Quartets, Volume 2: The Middle Quartets
Cedille Records 90000 206 (3 compact discs)

The 250th anniversary of Beethoven’s birth is being celebrated across the globe. In 2020, the Dover Quartet released Beethoven’s six early (Op. 18) quartets (Cedille 90000 198) and now the five “middle quartets” appear in this, part two of the Quartet’s planned complete cycle.

This recording includes the three Op. 59 Razumovsky quartets, the “Harp, named for its plucked string figures, and the Op. 95 ‘Serioso,’ originally intended only for “a small circle of connoisseurs.”

The freshness and sizzle of the Dover performances is due at least in part to their practice of remaining adventurous in the recording studio, using the opportunity for multiple ‘takes’ to play in ways they hadn’t yet explored in concert, says Cedille founder and president James Ginsburg.

Over the years I have enjoyed many of the innumerable recordings of Beethoven’s middle quartets, including the Cleveland Quartet (Telarc, 1993), the Kodaly Quartet (Naxos, late 1990s, and re-released 2019 as part of a 90-CD box set), the Budapest String Quartet (recorded at the Library of Congress 1940-1960 and released on Bridge, 2000), and the Kuijken Quartet (Challenge Classics, 2010).

Here, the Dover performances sparkle and thrill. Their virtuosity is immediately apparent and it’s not surprising that the group holds residencies at the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia, Northwestern University’s Bienen School of Music, and the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, where they inspire the next generation of performers and connoisseurs.

Your Horoscope: Poetry and Music

Houses of Zodiac

Paola Prestini, composer
Jeffrey Zeigler, cello

As a member of the Kronos Quartet Jeffrey Zeigler performed music by dozens if not hundreds of living composers. He continued to champion contemporary music on his 2014 solo release for Innova Records, “Something of Life,” which included music of six composers including Philip Glass, John Zorn, and Paola Prestini. With the release of Houses of Zodiac, Zeiger expands his performance of Prestini’s work.

One hears echoes of medieval chant in this largely melancholy music. Prestini composed ‘Houses of Zodiac: Poems for Cello,’ as part of a larger project including a film and an immersive video installation that combines spoken word, movement, music, and image “to explore the intersection of mind, body, and nature.”

Prestini says the project takes its title from the twelve houses of the zodiac as facets of the self. Throughout, Prestini explores the subconscious and extracts musical meaning from the phrases of Anaïs Nin (read by Maria Popova of Brain Pickings), Pablo Neruda, Brenda Shaughnessy, and Natasha Trethewey. In turn, Zeigler articulates resulting phrases Prestini imagined and set to paper.

Recent Music from Stanley Grill

TRANSFIGURATION

Stanley Grill, composer
Brett Deubner, violas
Navona Records NV6355

I was introduced to Grill’s music with his string quartet, Afterwards, There were No More Wars.

So many associations present themselves during the course this new release, Transfigurations. Mozart, Beethoven, Appalachian music, bluegrass, Eleanor Rigby. Stanley Grill apparently composed this music drawing on nearly every conceivable historical style.

Yet unlike his forebears, Grill composed this collection of pieces specifically for one player, and one viola, to be layered through overdubbing.

During the COVID lockdown Grill and violist Brett Deubner collaborated via remote recording sessions to create this collection of multilayered works for viola. Deubner became a duo, a trio, or a quartet, as occasion required. 

The happy Sonatine for Three Violas, the multifaceted Sea and Sky for Two Violas, the deep and sometimes dark Transfiguration for Four Violas, join the rich and deep catalog of Grill’s ongoing work.

Dance to the Music of Time

Third Coast Percussion
FIELDS
Cedille Records CDR 90000 192

This music is sophisticated, gorgeous, and very difficult to play well.

And play well Third Coast Percussion Ensemble does.

FIELDS unifies opposites: acoustic versus processed sounds, activity versus repose. It manifests the impossible as several metres layered atop each other sound simultaneously.

FIELDS comes about as Third Coast Percussion sought a composer for a project with Hubbard Street Dance Chicago. Dancers pointed to the work of English singer, songwriter and producer Devonté Hynes, also known as Blood Orange.

Hynes composed this music for the Chicago musicians then sent a digital mix and sheet music so Third Coast could then orchestrate it for their own instruments. The music then was turned over to Hubbard Street to begin creating the dance. Hynes had in mind the image of an open field where the music and dance could both play.

Rich textures inform this music. Metal sounds, wood sounds, some passages warm like an orchestra, some suggesting a cathedral organ. But its depth never becomes murky. Rhythmic precision guides all. Meters switch seamlessly from 4/4 to 6/4 to 5/8 to 9/8 in a clockwork kaleidoscope.  

One hears bright colors: dunes in the Painted Desert, orange and purple streaks of sun in cloud, the chromium and silver of a passing jet. One feels changing weather patterns: an approaching storm, a lethargic sunrise, strong seashore winds. One travels deep into the earth into where caverns and underwater chambers oscillate and burble.

On stage, the dance of bodies. In the studio, the dance of mallets.

Trio Ensemble, Symphonic Sounds

Lincoln trio

Trios from the city of big shoulders
Lincoln Trio 
Ernst Bacon, Trio No. 2 for violin, cello, and piano (1987)
Leo Sowerby, Trio for violin, violoncello and pianoforte (1953)
Cedille Records CDR 90000 203

Poet Carl Sandburg referred to Chicago as

“Player with Railroads and the Nation’s
             Freight Handler;
        Stormy, husky, brawling,
        City of the Big Shoulders…”

This Cedille Records release celebrates two composers who called Chicago home: Ernst Bacon (1898-1990) and Leo Sowerby (1895-1968).

Ernst Bacon was a pianist, teacher, and Pulitzer Prize winner. After studying piano, music theory, and composition in Vienna, he taught opera at the Eastman School of Music and directed the Works Progress Administration’s Federal Music Project in the 1930s. He taught at Syracuse University and was awarded three Guggenheim Fellowships.

Bacon composed his Trio No. 2 in his late 80s. Dark harmonies remind one of Stravinsky and Bartok. Here, a Shostakovich-like march leads to a pastoral scene where country folk watch fairies spin in the fading daylight. There, a loopy horseback ride stops at a big breakfast of singing kettles, biscuits, bacon, eggs. Peasants outside dance what sounds like a Bulgarian tango.

Leo Sowerby was a teacher, church musician and Pulitzer Prize winner. And a prodigy: The Chicago Symphony Orchestra performed His Violin Concerto in 1913 when he was all of 17 years old. He served as Music Composition Fellow at the American Academy in Rome, then taught at Chicago’s American Conservatory 1925-62. He completed his Trio for Violin, Violoncello and Piano in 1953.

Listening to this one is reminded that he lived through both World Wars. The funereal tone and clash of violent forces suggest epic social disruptions, yet, even as in Shostakovich, a ray of dark humor peeps around a corner. A Day of Reckoning sits beside a skippy humoresque of a waltz. A hesitant, searching piano passage grows into a clashing thunderstorm. A battlefield smokes, a city burns.

Even serenity is troubled, any sense of relief is tainted. Stravinskyan sawing and clawing, Bartokian sparkly spindles, angular melodies worthy of Thelonious Monk. A sense of determination and a victory under pressure, but at a price of many losses. The trio ends with a turgid, roiling percussive grunting.

Sitting on the shoulders of their predecessors, both composers celebrate the city and the times that shaped their lives.

For historical notes I acknowledge my debt to Dr. Elinor Olin, NIU School of Music.