Reviews Sounds of America words far greater impact. I’m less taken with “Tis the gift to be simple”: Frederiksen wrests it from Copland’s Appalachian Spring with an unflattering breakneck tempo. Elsewhere, no matter how much Frederiksen probes the songs, they’re still music that existed more for the pleasure of participants than listeners. Though African-American spirituals hold up as concert music, Frederiksen’s less extrovert repertoire works here mainly as speculative musical time-travel. David Patrick Stearns
‘To the Point’ Cascarino Blades of Grass a Higdon To the Point Reise Violin Concerto, ‘The River Within’ b
Rudin Violin Concerto, ‘Canto di ritorno’ c
Schuller Concerto da camera a Dorothy Freeman cora b Maria Bachmann, c Diane Monroe vns Orchestra 2001 / James Freeman Innova B INNOVA744 (74’ • DDD) New music for chamber orchestra – a ine selection in ine performances
Back in the late 1990s, many orchestra professionals were postulating on the future of their institution and what the next century of symphonic repertoire would bring. Would it alter the recipe severely or merely sprinkle a few modernisms atop the classic symphonic stew? Now that we’re in the millennium’s second decade, the answer is clearly both, predictably skewed towards evolution rather than revolution.
The Philadelphia-based Orchestra 2001 presents a generous offering, all but one a selection from the past 10 years. Some, such as Jennifer Higdon’s kinetic overture To the Point and Andrew Rudin’s Canto di Ritorno (both from 2004), are reworked from other pieces (namely Higdon’s string quartet Impressions and Rudin’s one-movement Sonata for violin and piano); others, like Gunther Schuller’s Concerto da camera (2002) and Jay Reise’s The River Within (2008), seem initially conceived for the orchestra. All successfully maximise the chamber orchestra’s timbral potential without sacrificing its rhythmic flexibility.
Perhaps the most gratifying reaction is how well Romeo Cascarino’s Blades of Grass (1945), a short cor anglais concerto far too lyrical and emotionally direct to find much support in the modernist musical climate of its day, fits with these newer pieces. Much of the praise goes to the performances but some credit should go to the selection. From Higdon’s overture to Jay Reise’s propulsive concerto, nothing here sounds too long or too short, as if a composer had to squeeze or expand a heartfelt musical idea to fit a commission requirement. Ken Smith www.gramophone.co.uk ow we arez z TEN
A decade-long chamber music project comes to fruition
‘The American String Project’ Beethoven String Quartet No 8, ‘Rasumovsky’, Op 59 No 2 Brahms String Quintet No 2, Op 111 Haydn String Quartet, Op 64 No 4 Mendelssohn String Quartet No 4, Op 44 No 2 Verdi String Quartet (all arr B Lieberman) The American String Project MSR Classics B c (two CDs + ◊) MS1386 (140’ + 25’ • DDD) Recorded live at the Illsley Ball Nordstrom Recital Hall of Benaroya Hall, Seattle, May 20, 22 & 23, 2010 Bonus DVD includes documentary ‘The American String Project in Rehearsal and Concert, May 2009’ Chamber music writ large and a special tenth-anniversary celebration
This live recording captures and celebrates in all its thrills and beauty the 10th anniversary of Barry Lieberman’s dream of creating a conductorless string orchestra and expanding the chamber music repertoire for his “own much-neglected instrument”, the double bass. To date, the project has arranged and performed more than 100 pieces, annually gathering together a hardy band of distinguished orchestra leaders, soloists and chamber musicians.
Of the music arranged here, the Mendelssohn works best, the occasional lack of delicacy and nuance compensated for by allotting brief passages to solo instruments. Otherwise, the the upward surge of the opening, the Octet-ish skittishness of the Scherzo and the adorable charms of the Andante all serve the music’s best interests; only the last movement fails to find wings.
In fact, there are moments of vivid illumination and pure musical joy throughout the two CDs, with the greatest surprises (and stylistic inconsistencies) in the enigmatic Haydn quartet, the greatest gallumphing power in the Beethoven and Brahms. The Verdi is sheer poetry.
The concerts were held in Seattle’s Benaroya Hall, where the Seattle Symphony plays. The sound is precise and detailed, with a 360 degree range of dimensionality with bite to the bow and texture to the strings. The DVD, produced in 2009, documents fascinating rehearsal sequences of Prokofiev, Schumann and Falla, in which the slightest imprecision of attack creates exciting dramatic frissons. It’s the kind of thing you’d expect from musicians who are going beyond the feel-good festival experience to a commitment to one double bassist’s work and cause. Laurence Vittes
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GRAMOPHONE SEPTEMBER 2011 XIII