Classical CD Reviews
JONATHAN GOLDSTEIN: “Cyclorama” – works for ens. (TrackList follows) – The Balanescu Quartet and Ens./James Pearson, p./Grace Davidson, sop./ Jonathan Goldstein – Brilliant Classics
Published on February 20, 2013
JONATHAN GOLDSTEIN: “Cyclorama” – works for ensemble (TrackList follows) – The Balanescu Quartet and Ens./James Pearson, p./Grace Davidson, sop./ Jonathan Goldstein – Brilliant Classics 9278 (Distr. by Naxos), 44:42 ****:
Jonathan Goldstein is a very talented young composer whose credits include collaborating on film scores such as Christopher Palmer’s Cape Fear and the re-recording of Bernard Herrmann’s Taxi Driver. I was quite anxious to hear this release because I am well acquainted with the work of Alexander Balanescu and know that his ensemble only aligns itself with quality. (I also find the cover photo by Paul Marc Mitchell of the power plant a clever reference to “cyclotrons” … and the like!)
This brilliant collection will not disappoint. This is, essentially, a series of miniatures for various solo instruments and ensembles; the longest of which is the Prelude for Piano and Strings at 3:47. In a way, these charming, quirky and frequently quite pretty little pieces reminds me of some the equally short picturesque vignettes by the members of “Les Six” – in their feel, not their sound.
Just the opening Reverie is enough to hook you and play on with its lovely interplay between harp, cello and clarinet. The two minutes goes by awfully quickly. The mood changes somewhat throughout the disc. For example, Momento Mori is a predictably moody work that features some angular, “noir”-like sax work and feels a bit like a film score. Frozen Ground and the subsequent Frozen Night are calm, pretty and “icy” if may say.
The vocal contributions of Grace Davidson also add to the very attractive nature of this collection. Particularly, the tone and somewhat medieval feel of Cras Amet and the sultry Where the Bee Sucks (after Shakespeare) exist in a wonderfully hard to distinguish blend of modern classical, early music, night club musing and light jazz.
Someone may want to pick at this collection – or even what can be gleaned of Goldstein’s overall approach – from the standpoints of style (somewhat derivative it could be said) or even the length of these pieces, lacking “development”. I put that out there to pre-repute the hypothetical. Jonathan Goldstein has a style that is a strange mélange of several things that I found quite attractive. It is also true that each of these short gems could be extended, developed and elongated but part of the strangely attractive quality is that these works sort of stop, peacefully and oddly, just when you wonder where they will go. A couple more brilliant examples are the eerie Etudes No. I and II for solo cello that, together, take up less than three minutes.
This collection is one of those that truly defies description. I cannot imagine anyone not enjoying these works. In some ways, they require very little “deep listening” and in another way, they require just that. These are amazing and cerebral little works that are over before you are ready if you aren’t paying attention.
The Balanescu ensemble and their guest artists do their usual excellent job. I would love to hear more from Jonathan Goldstein. What an interesting new voice!
- Cras Amet
- Etude for Cello I
- Etude for Cello II
- Frozen Ground
- Frozen Night
- Memento Mori
- Lavinia’s Lament
- Prelude for Piano and Strings
- Prisoner’s Tale
- Threnody (Part 1)
- Threnody (Part 2)
- Valse Macabre
- Where the Bee Sucks