In the 20-plus years that I have been contributing to this publication, I’ve noticed a huge sea change. When I started,
emphasis seemed to be on comparative performances of the then established repertoire. Over the years the publication’s evolution has been in the direction of newer and more diverse music. Since
endeavors to cover everything out there that fits under the huge tent of classical music, it was merely reflecting the trends of the recording industry that supplies its lifeblood. Even the most conservative of its members ultimately realized that there was a limit to how many integral recordings of the Beethoven symphonies the market could absorb. Spurred by the successes of various independent labels, they realized that in order to survive, they had to diversify, at least somewhat. At first that evolution was slow, then it slowly accelerated, and now that acceleration seems exponential.
Given that the world population has more than doubled in the last 50 years, and that our ever-advancing communication technologies now make it possible to have best friends on the other side of the globe, the parochial isolation of my youth is now but a memory so faint as to seem dreamlike. Having been an obsessive collector of recorded music for more than a half century, I’m now primarily interested in what’s new, what’s culturally different from the Eurocentric composers I grew up with.
Having said this, the first disc on my randomly listed list is not necessarily new music. Ligia’s compilation titled
In Memoriam: Nadia Boulanger
is an eloquent act of homage to an amazing teacher, organist, conductor, and tireless champion of new music. The list of her students reads like a virtual who’s who of significant composers on both sides of the Atlantic. This offering’s point of departure is a brief work by her celebrated sister, Lily, three pieces by herself, and one by her teacher Fauré. From there pieces by a clutch of her illustrious students are given in chronological order of their birth years. All are performed superbly by American organist Carolyn Shuster Fournier on an excellent Cavaillé-Coll instrument. The sound represents the best of the current state of the art.
Living, Breathing Earth
presents two significant works by an egregiously unsung American composer, Meira Warshauer, who can count Gordon Goodwin, Mario Davidovsky, Jacob Druckman, and Samuel Adler among her teachers and mentors. Both works show that she has done her teachers proud. Symphony No. 1, “Living, Breathing Earth,” reflects her profoundly ecological sensibilities.
(a call) is a concerto for shofar/trombone and orchestra that takes one deep into her Jewish roots. The performances go far beyond mere advocacy, and Navona’s sound is spine-tingling.
East Meets West
offers music by three contemporary Asian composers and three Westerners. It demonstrates the underlying synergy that exists between two far-flung and seemingly exclusive cultures. Flute and piccolo virtuoso Leonard Garrison provides both a demonstration of the generally unexplored sonic possibilities of the modern flute and piccolo, and a voyage of discovery. Centaur’s sound is both revealing and gorgeous.
Quartz is a recently founded musician-run Russian label. This is my first encounter with it and composer Leonid Desyatnikov. Desyatnikov’s multilayered music looks both backward and forward. His language can be loosely called post-Romantic, though with highly original modern twists and turns. I found it spellbinding and haunting. A master of variation form, in three of the pieces he digs deeply into the affective sensibilities of Saint-Saëns, Haydn, and Schubert, revealing them in both surprising and enlightening ways. The performances by these young Russian instrumentalists go far beyond mere technical excellence, as does the state-of-the-art sound.
Toccata Classics’ disc of the complete string quartets of Mario Lavista as performed by the preeminent Cuarteto Latinoamericano demonstrates that music is indeed alive and well in post-Chavez, -Revueltas, and -Rodolfo Halffter Mexico. Lavista’s sound world is both highly original and eloquent, and explores the hitherto unimagined possibilities of that most minimalistic and revered of ensembles. The sound is excellent.
IN MEMORIAM: NADIA BOULANGER
Fournier / Magali Léger
LIGIA LIDI 0109206-09
Symphony No. 1, “
Living, Breathing Earth.”
Vronsky / Avitsur / Moravian P
EAST MEETS WEST
CENTAUR CRC 3099
Return, Du côté chez Swan. Variations on the Obtaining of a Dwelling. Wie der Alte Leiermann. The Leaden Echo. Moscow Nights:
QUARTZ QTZ 2087
Complete String Quartets
TOCCATA TOCC 0106