As a veteran of the childhood recorder experience, the appearance of this album in my list produced some skepticism: my own involvement with the recorder was long ago, obligatory and not particularly memorable. Which probably heightened my delight listening to this delicious survey of works by American composers for recorder by Danish virtuoso Michala Petri.
Each of these highly individual works showcases the range and agility of the instrument’s family in unique ways. Anthony Newman’s Concerto for recorder, harpsichord and strings cleverly nods to the recorder’s traditional association in a quasi-Baroque setting but with distinctly contemporary tints. The other three works are in a more contemporary idiom but with their own distinct characters. Roberto Sierra’s atmospheric and zesty Prelude, Habanera & Perpetual Motion channels the pan flute vibe of Latin America. Steven Stucky’s ghostly Etudes showcases the instrument’s quicksilver flexibility, and Sean Hickey’s A Pacifying Weapon, contrasting the recorder against a complement of winds, brass, percussion and harp, is a tour de force with twistingly, fiendishly difficult heroics contrasted by meditatively ponderous reflective moments.
All these roles feed Frank’s insatiable interest in new music of all forms. One fascinating exploration he recently made was a single numbered symphony, in ascending order, each by a different female composer. (He actually went considerably more in depth and farther afield than that, but let’s start here).
This has been my listening for the last several days, and it’s a fascinating range of either works or composers I didn’t know.
N.B. While I’ve posted youtube links where possible, I urge you to purchase these works. Streaming pays next to nothing to the living composers. Album purchases actually compensate the artists.
Symphony No. 1 in f minor, op. 41 (1916-17, rev 1920) [ca. 48’]
by Dora Pejačević (1885-1923, Croatia)
Recorded by Deutsche Staatsphilharmonie Rheinland-Pfalz conducted by Ari Rasilainen
Symphony No. 2 (1993) [ca. 18’]
by Chen Yi (b. 1953, China; based in U.S.A. since 1986)
Recorded by The Women’s Philharmonic conducted by JoAnn Falletta (New Albion NA 090) Published by the Theodore Presser Company
Symphony No. 3 in c minor (1938-40) [ca. 29’]
by Florence Price (1887-1953, U.S.A.)
Recorded by The Women’s Philharmonic conducted by Apo Hsu (Koch International Classics 3-7518-2) Published by G. Schirmer
Symphony No. 4 ‘A Passing Shadow’ (2000) [23’]
by Tsippi Fleischer (b. 1946, Israel)
Score published by the Israel Music Institute (IMI 7265)
Players of the Prague Philharmonic conducted by Jiri Mikula (Vienna Modern Masters VMM 3053)
Symphony No. 6 ‘Patria eterna’ (1988-89) [26’]
by Liana Alexandra (1947-2011, Romania)
Recorded by the Romanian Radio Orchestra conducted by Paul Popescu
Score from the Liana Alexandra Estate available at the International Music Score Library Project via a Creative Commons Licence
Symphony No. 7 in f minor (1855-56 premiered 1862) [ca. 34’]
by Emilie Mayer (1812-1883, Germany)
(sometimes misidentified as Mayer’s Symphony No 5, a work which is actually lost)
Performed by the Kammersymphonie Berlin conducted by Jürgen Bruns (Dreyer Gaido) Published by Furore Verlag
Symphony No. 8 ‘Indian Sounds’ (1991)
by Gloria Coates (b. 1938 U.S.A.; based in Germany since 1969)
Performed by Kathleen Eberlein and Rose Bihler Shah (voices and stones) with the Musica-viva-ensemble Dresden conducted by Jürgen Wirrmann (New World Records 80599)
Symphony No. 9 ‘Celestial Symphony’ (2014-15) [ca. 15’]
by Barbara Harbach (b. 1946, U.S.A.)
London Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by David Angus (MSR Classics MS 1614) http://www.msrcd.com/catalog/cd/MS1614
I’ve recently had the pleasure of getting to know the joyous and talented pianist Adam Marks, who has introduced me to the works of Grażyna Bacewicz, an artist who I confess I’d never heard of before. Based on this excellent recording of her piano music, I’m looking forward to exploring all of her material. These lively, compelling, colorful, contrasting, thoroughly engaging works are brought to scintillating life by Anita Krochmalska.
Sometimes I think the Universe is truly looking out for me by planting things in my lap just when I need them. Amidst the mounting tension of last week’s mid-term elections in the U.S., something prompted me to select this album from my ever-evolving To Listen To list, and thank you whoever for that. These tranquil, iridescent, meditative sketches by Japanese composer Mamoru Fujieda are mental balm, all the more amazing in that they were constructed from digital data extracted from measuring electrical fluctuations on the surface of the leaves of plants. Exquisitely conveyed by pianist Sarah Cahill, this album of simple, contrasting, imaginative works is one I’ll be frequently returning to.
Every winter I always look forward to Viva 21st Century 25 hour marathon of concert music written since 2000, hosted by the heroic Marvin Rosen on Princeton’s WPRB radio. I didn’t get around to contributing anything to this year’s broadcast – hopefully next year. In the meantime, the archived mp3 files (available till the end of January) make for fascinating listening, a real diaspora of work that I – and I think most Americans – wouldn’t otherwise get to hear, both from well- and lesser-known composers.
If I ever get commissioned to write a cello concerto – and I’m very much hoping I will some day – it is going to be hard to not have it be heavily influenced by British composer Mark Bowden’s captivating Lyra, performed by Oliver Coates and the BBC National Orchestra of Wales on a compendium album of the composer’s work. This alternately lyrical, kinetic, vibrant dance between soloist and orchestra is one of the most inspiring pieces of new concert music I’ve heard in a while. The instrumental writing is kaleidoscopic and fresh, and the piece leads the ear along in a way I really admire. Highly recommended.
Since 2005, Marvin Rosen has held a yearly 24-25 hour marathon during the December holidays of new “concert” music as part of his “Classical Discoveries” show on Princeton, NJ radio station WPRB, devoted to music written within the previous ten years or so. This heroic and invaluable endeavor offers music by a panoply of composers from around the world, from the well known to the not so much. In the latter category, I’ve had the great honor of being included in the roster twice, last year with my Opus 20 songs for low male voice and piano.
Catching up on this fantastic panorama of contemporary concert music, generally during the holiday break from my Day Job or afterwards, is one of my favorite ways to immerse myself in concert music and exposes me to hosts of composers I might otherwise never get to know. Like Will Robin’s newer but equally invaluable Symphomania, I can’t recommend this series enough. Happily you can access it at your own rate and leisure at http://www.classicaldiscoveries.org/aboutmr.html.