Classical CD Reviews

JEREMY BECK works – IonSound Project/Rob Frankenberry – Innova

Some wonderful new sounds from the Steel City well worth hearing!

Published on July 19, 2011

JEREMY BECK works – IonSound Project/Rob Frankenberry – Innova

JEREMY BECK: In Flight Until Mysterious Night for flute, clarinet, marimba, violin, cello & piano; Sonata No. 2 for cello & piano; In February for soprano, clarinet, violin & piano; Gemini for flute, cello & piano; Slow Motion for vibraphone & piano; Third Delphic Hymn for solo violin; September Music for flute, clarinet, violin, cello & piano‘ – IonSound Project/Rob Frankenberry, dir. – Innova Recordings 797, 69:21 (Distr. By Naxos) ****:

Jeremy Beck is one of the multi-talented, gifted individuals making some very positive contributions to the American new music scene and deserves wider recognition! An attorney by trade, practicing in Louisville, KY, Beck also attended Yale University and has been trained as a composer by Jacob Druckman, Lukas Foss, David Loeb and others. His music is uplifting, buoyant and also soothing, beautiful and a complete pleasure to listen to!  Beck’s output is completely tonal, written with great sensitivity to the needs and talents of the performers and is very accessible to the audience.

The opening work, “In Flight Until Mysterious Night”, was written specifically for Rob Frankenberry and the IonSound Project. The composer and pianist Frankenberry met while both were living in Pittsburgh and is written for the exact instrumentation comprising the IonSound Project; flute, clarinet, marimba, violin, cello and piano. The title of the work is taken from a line from the Greek drama, ”Ion” by Euripedes. The words which reflect light “streaming and …rays blazing” sets the tone for this single movement work, containing three sections: fast, slow, fast. This very attractive work reminded me a bit of Michael Torke and makes a strong impression.

Beck’s “Sonata No.2” for cello and piano is a work dating from the composer’s days at Duke, where he studied with Stephen Jaffe. Written in standard three movement form; it is sweeping and lyrical, making a strong addition to the contemporary solo cello repertoire. The tonalities revolving around C minor and Ab major also lend to little bursts of jazz-inflected sound. The middle movement is especially moving and graceful. A wonderful work, played here with great sensitivity by Elisa Kohanski, cellist and Rob Frankenberry, piano. The other solo string piece in this collection, “Third Delphic Hymn” for solo violin leaves a similar impression. The work was originally for viola, dating from 1980, and has also been written for cello. In this performance, violinist Laura Motchalov plays with a mysterious quality, capitalizing on the relative “open” quality of the melodies built on tetrachords. Beck indicates that the title is a reference to both ancient musical theory but also to the two Delphic Hymns composed centuries ago to honor the god Apollo – this “third” is a very nice piece!

“In February” is a beautiful and placid work for soprano, clarinet, violin and piano after an original text by the composer. A very peaceful work surrounding a somewhat melancholy text, soprano Margaret Andraso is joined by clarinetist Kathleen Costello, violinist Laura Motchalov and pianist Rob Frankenberry play with great sense of line and with sensitivity to the solo voice.

“Gemini” for flute, cello and piano is another fine example of Beck’s sense of melody. The piece opens a bit somberly, reflectively but segues into a very spiky – again somewhat jazzy – interlude in C before the introspective principal material returns. The work closes in brilliant fashion and makes excellent use of the talents of each member in the trio. “Slow Motion” for vibraphone and piano has some similar qualities (also reminded again just a bit of Torke). This is a bright, catchy and ebullient little work that does contain plenty of motion but is never actually ‘slow” – in the booklet notes, Beck concedes the joke. There is some very nice writing here where – in sections – the piano is treated almost as a second marimba and vice versa. Marimbist Eliseo Real joins Frankenberry and plays with great technical prowess and a real sense of joy.

The work that concludes the set, “September Music”, was – in some ways – my favorite work in the collection. A quintet for flute, clarinet, violin, cello and piano, this piece does have a somewhat autumnal quality to it. Written for the California ensemble Pacific Serenades, the work has three movements; each titled to reflect a particular mood: ‘Youth, Retrospect, Joy Revealed’.   There is a sort of reminiscent quality to the whole work that works in the “seasonal” sense as well as in the implied stages of life.

I found Jeremy Beck’s music to be a revelation!  It is a complete pleasure to hear music with a sense of itself and unabashedly tonal, emotional and sensitive to both the performer and the listener. As a clarinetist, I am going to try to get my hands on “September Music” and “In February”.  Beck has two other Innova CDs which have achieved great acclaim and he has also accomplished much as an opera composer, including his recent chamber opera, “Review”. Mr. Beck is – again – one of those gifted, energetic and multi-talented people who writes beautiful music (he is probably also a very fine attorney with a speciality in artistic rights)  I am so glad to have discovered his music!   I believe anyone would enjoy this disc a great deal!

Kudos to Philip Blackburn, and everyone at Innova, for continuing to find and promote important new American composers such as Jeremy Beck. I look forward to more!

— Daniel Coombs




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