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sounds of america

Saidoki its title is depicted through extremes of activity, bold juxtapositions and textures constantly in flux. As the soloist (portraying the demon) revels in fierce and delicate passagework on a panoply of instruments, the orchestra holds its own in Ishii’s broad palette of colours.

In the Concertante, the solo marimba collaborates or collides with instruments played by six percussionists. The rhythms are complex, the atmospheres ethereal or shattering and the range of hues wide. Ishii provides intriguing contrasts through glistening, hollow and hard sonorities. The composer’s universe is at its most expansive in the percussion concerto subtitled South – Fire – Summer, which melds Japanese and Western elements. The marimba again is prominent, along with numerous other percussion instruments, which the soloist plays in tandem with and against the orchestral forces.

At the centre of these live performances, Ryan Scott is a chameleon-like virtuoso who triumphs over the varied colouristic demands and technical challenges. Scott is joined by superb colleagues in the Concertante and elsewhere by the Esprit Orchestra, led by Alex Pauk, who make exceptionally lucid and powerful contributions. Donald Rosenberg

Mackey Lonely Motel: Music from Slide Eighth Blackbird with Rinde Eckert voc Cedille F CDR90000 128 (57’ • DDD)

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Eighth Blackbird’s Lonely Motel project now on CD There’s something very Jimmy Buffett about the slide guitar opening of this extraordinary CD. It soon becomes apparent that the prevailing environment will be slanted towards something in the geeky poet intellectual vein, with a tip of the hat to a wide range of musical suspects that have become usual these days, including Dowland, Weill, Britten, Stravinsky, Piazzolla and The Beatles. From beginning to end, Steven Mackey’s seamless musical fabric engages the ear as if it were charting sonic events in a shy and stuttering parallel universe.

It’s all part of a vast yet cool and laid-back conspiracy cum semi-song-cycle based on Rinde Eckert’s abstracted urban poems, sung by ‘a lovelorn psychologist’ (is there any other kind?) about reflection, loss, impermanence and decay; as the poems themselves are marginal gestures, the life the music brings to the words has a shadowy film noir palette. Put together by Eighth Blackbird with a surgeon’s scalpel and a brilliant contribution from the charismatic Rinde, the effect is surprisingly moving for its being so basically unemotional.

The occasional beauty of the instrumental writing is one of Slide’s most striking features. Felicitous solos are given to all of the performers, woven into the ensemble: cellist Nicholas Photinos, flautist Tim Munro and percussionist Matthew Duvall make particularly striking contributions.

A great conglomeration of public and private interests (including the Ojai Music Festival in California, where Slide was premiered in June 2009) came together to fund this exhilarating project and the investment has yielded rich rewards. It shows Eighth Blackbird as a force for good, and as a serious artistic collaborator on a very high scale, where the music entertains and pleases, and then goes on to something that provokes and stimulates. Laurence Vittes

Weisman Darkling Maeve Höglund sop Hai-Ting Chinn mez Jon Garrison ten Mark Uhlemann bass-bar Tom Chiu, Philip Payton vns Kenji Bunch va Raman Ramakrishnan vc / Brian Demaris Albany F b TROY1315/16 (86’ • DDD)

Stefan Weisman’s take on Rabinowitz’s Holocaust poem One could argue that the key difference between theatre and opera is the latter’s potential to be more poetic. Obviously this is not always reflected in the final results, but when it comes to drawing a narrative line through disparate, often irreconcilable plot points, music does offer a solution that relies on neither verbal nor logical coherence. Darkling is that potential pushed to its logical extreme.

Originally a book-length poem, then a multimedia theatre piece, Anna Rabinowitz’s tale of a Holocaust survivor rummaging through the scattered memorabilia of her murdered family spins a powerful, unsettled web, the often allusive nature of the story reflecting significant gaps in her own family history in the wake of Poland’s Nazi occupation. Where Rabinowitz originally found a structural solution in an acrostic poem inspired by Thomas Hardy’s The Darkling Thrush, composer Stefan Weisman mirrors that approach in his tight, emotionally mercurial score.

Through an interplay of spoken and sung text with a string quartet backdrop, Weisman unfolds his emotional tapestry with confident strokes, with this recording’s superb audio production (headed by studio veteran Judith Sherman) resulting in something resembling a high-art radio drama. Periods of emotional darkness alternate with lush melodic passages, generally offering only partial light at best.

Be forewarned: the cumulative emotional weight of the piece, compounded by its lack of a linear story, make this a tough work to follow, particularly on first listening. But after a couple times through, the most crucial elements of the story become perfectly clear. Ken Smith

Gülsin Onay Haydn Andante with Variations, HobXVII/6 Liszt Grande Marche d’Abdul Médjid-Khan, S403. Après une lecture du Dante, S161 No 7. La leggierezza, S144 No 2 Schubert Piano Sonata No 19, D958 Gülsin Onay pf Sono Luminus F DSL92140 (77’ • DDD)

Turkish pianist plays Liszt rarity and Schubert’s C minor sonata Anyone who begins a recital disc with an underrated Liszt rarity is bound to capture at least one Gramophone reviewer’s attention. Turkish pianist Gülsin Onay does precisely that with her dazzling paraphrase of the Grande Marche d’Abdul Médjid-Khan, composed by Giuseppe Donizetti (younger brother of Gaetano) for the Sultan Abdul Médjid-Khan’s coronation. Onay does her best work in the climactic chordal runs and trills before the final section, although her pacing for the Tempo di marcia is more measured than Liszt’s alla breve animato directive suggests, and she doesn’t quite match Leslie Howard’s rhythmic crispness in the work’s introductory pages (Hyperion, 11/96). The next selection, Haydn’s F minor Andante with Variations stands out for Onay’s beautiful legato touch and supple handling of the composer’s increasingly elaborate right-hand arabesques. While Liszt’s Dante Sonata’s brooding lyrical episodes benefit from Onay’s evocative textural variety, her accurate but low-voltage octave work and limited dynamic range downsize the music’s almost orchestral sweep, especially when measured against the drama and intensity one hears in recent versions by Louis Lortie (Chandos, 6/11), Bertrand Chamayou (Naïve) and Mykola Suk (Music & Arts). A similarly soft-grained profile rounds off the biting edges of Schubert’s C minor Sonata’s outer movements – think of the febrile Richter (Alto) or Brendel’s first and finest traversal (Brilliant Classics). Following a neutral, matterof-fact start, Onay’s tone gains expression and nuance as the movement proceeds, spilling over into a sensitively shaped Minuet. She concludes the programme with a dreamy, beautifully inflected yet somewhat underplayed reading of Liszt’s ‘La leggierezza’. The engineering captures an attractive concert-hall ambience and the extensively detailed annotations couldn’t be better. Jed Distler gramophone.co.uk

GRAMOPHONE APRIL 2012 XIII