Classical CD Reviews

‘Slices’ = Works of BERNS, SAINSBURY, SUNDIN, BAKKER, BEELER, RUSNAK & FLETCHER – Moravian Philharmonic Winds – Navona

Mostly tasty slices and quite the variety to sample.

Published on October 30, 2012

‘Slices’ = Works of BERNS, SAINSBURY, SUNDIN, BAKKER, BEELER, RUSNAK & FLETCHER – Moravian Philharmonic Winds – Navona

‘Slices’ = REYNARD BURNS: Carnival; LIONEL SAINSBURY: Soliloquy; HÅKAN SUNDIN: Daugava; HANS BAKKER: Duo voor Viool en Klarinet; ALAN BEELER: Cadenzas; Flute, Clarinet, Viola & Piano Quartet No.2; CHRISTINA RUSNAK: Kyripo; WILLIAM A. FLETCHER: Avalokiteshvara’s Taxi – Moravian Philharmonic Winds/various ensembles – Navona Records NV5874 (Distr. by Naxos), 54:32 ****:

As the promotional material to this new chamber music collection acknowledges, this a very eclectic collection of music by composers from all over the world – all of whom were new names to me. The listening is entertaining, the works are mostly very interesting and the fact that these works represent quite a diversity of styles is definitely the case. The “theme” to the collection is variety for its own sake and largely succeeds.

Reynard Burns’ Carnival opens the set in a very catchy, inviting way. This is a charming little wind quintet that evokes the sounds and feelings of a carnival. The language is completely tonal and the mood from movement to movement varies enough to hold one’s interest. The overall feel is pleasant and nostalgic and upbeat throughout. Burns is the director of the Dowling College Orchestra and has written many works including some concert hall jazz works for the Turtle Island Quartet. This is a very nice piece and I imagine everyone would find it attractive.

Lionel Sainsbury’s Soliloquy is a shift in tone and format. This very plaintive, somewhat sorrowful work for solo violin offers much for the soloist to do.  It is certainly challenging but the net effect is still a bit serious and angst filled throughout. Sainsbury is a much performed English composer who has studied with Edmund Rubbra and John McCabe among others. He has also written a Violin Concerto which, on the heels of this Soliloquy, I would like to hear. This is an interesting and attractive work.

Daugava, named for a river in Latvia, is a very brief duo for flute and clarinet by Swedish flutist and composer Håkan Sundin.  This is a very nice, canon-like work with the flute and clarinet playing a rhythm game of “catch up” throughout. It is pleasant and charming but maybe just the right length?  I would be interested in some of his larger, longer works to get a true feel for his style.

The Duo for Violin and Clarinet by Hans Bakker is a very good piece that provided much interest. Bakker studied in Utrecht, the Netherlands and worked a great deal in church music and choral directing. He has written many works, but spread out gradually over time. This particular, three movement work, is a strong and very interesting piece requiring concentration from both players and offered some nice harmonic interest and engaging little melodies.  This is a very nice piece and I would like to hear more.

There are two works in this collection by Alan Beeler and which, for me, provided the most interesting listening. Beeler is a graduate of Washington University and had taught for several years at Eastern Kentucky University. His Cadenzas for piano, viola, clarinet and flute owes something of its sound to the serialists but there is a fascinating interplay and weaving the voices in and out to create what are actually long line phrases and melodies; mostly dodecaphonic in origin. Very interesting!  His Quartet No. 2 for flute, clarinet, viola and piano is an equally compelling work. The tone from the outset is very moody – almost a noir blend of timbres and harmonies. This unusual combination gets one’s attention from the first few measures. Each movement holds some lovely moments as well as some very atmospheric touches.

Kyripo by Christina Rusnak is a short rather propulsive solo piano work that provides some interest. This piece resides in a stylistic space reminiscent of minimalism with some jazz touches. It is pleasant enough to be sure but I would want to hear more from this Texas-based composer, especially some larger works.

William Fletcher’s Avalokitshevara’s Taxi was written for the Infinities Ensemble in 2003 and is a buoyant and fun piece to listen to. In the booklet notes, the composer does not explain the title but one envisions a bouncy, weaving ride through a big city in a cab driven by someone named Avalokitshevara (but maybe I envision too much). Fletcher is a graduate of the University of New Hampshire and writes a lot for various venues and is also an accomplished guitarist, I enjoyed this little piece a great deal.

For me, the “slices” that I enjoyed the most were those by Beeler, Fletcher and Bakker. Each work has some appeal, though, and this is a nice collection. Navona sticks to its mission statement in providing interesting and diverse music from a wide variety of sources. Many thanks too for the interactive (enhanced) CD, on which the composer’s notes, scores and some photos are included. Great job in the production and sound department as always!

—Daniel Coombs




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