BERLIOZ: HANDEL: “An indispensable document from one of the greatest singers of the 20th Century.”
–San Francisco Chronicle Reviews Sounds of America
First we take Manhattan: Schnyder, Schwerzmann and Alexander z
Rhythmic potency places Swiss-born Schnyder’s lute music in the heart of Manhattan NEW YORK wiss man in z
Schnyder ‘Manhattanite’ Baroquelochness. The Four Elements. Melousine. Portrait of Charlie Parker. Sailing. Suite provençale. Flute Sonata. Teiresias. Who Nose – A Portrait of Charles Mingus Magda Schwerzmann fl/bfl Robert Langevin fl/bfl James Alexander pf Neuklang F NCD4051 (76’ • DDD) F
To paraphrase a New York poet from a different borough, Manhattan is large and contains multitudes, which goes some distance towards explaining any seeming contradictions in the Swiss-born American composer and wind player Daniel Schnyder. While a Swiss cosmopolitan nature helps explain the music’s blend of Germanic structural precision with French attention to tone colour, the music’s potent sense of rhythm is nothing but American.
Although Schnyder himself has arguably become the most visible champion of his own works, playing with an intensity that if anything magnifies his music’s improvisatory feel, the performers featured here offer a more reflective approach. Flautist Magda Schwerzmann and pianist James Alexander sustain a series of contrasting moods in The Four Elements (2003) while tethering the seeming spontaneity of Schnyder’s Flute Sonata (1998-99) – at more than 20 minutes, the most substantial piece in the collection – to a palpably preconceived structure. The dusky tone and rhapsodic freedom that characterise bass flautist Robert Langevin’s playing in Teiresias (1990) forms a fine duo turn with Schwerzmann’s more bubbly disposition in the seven-movement Suite provençale (2000).
One could hardly say that Schnyder’s works plumb any emotional depths but his music is no more superficial than most works written by performers for their instrument, and it’s certainly more fun than most. In exchange for some firm (but hardly unrealistic) technical demands from his players, Schnyder offers music guaranteed to put the solo instrument in its best light, which makes it more or ess the kind of music all performers would write if they could. Ken Smith www.gramophone.co.uk
GRAMOPHONE JULY 2011 XIII