CITIZEN, music of civility

2009.153

SONO LUMINUS will soon be releasing CITIZEN, an intriguing CD of piano works featuring world premiere recordings of music by American composers Nolan Gasser, David T. Little, Augusta Gross, C. Price Walden, and William Grant Still.

The mix of compositions both contemporary and Romantic, American and European, old and new featured in this recording is brilliantly played, amply justified, and insightfully annotated in straightforward prose by the ever questing Bruce Levingston, the artist/curator in this recording, whose idiomatically perfect reading of three Chopin mazurkas is given the same care by him as the lovely playing of William Grant Still’s elegantly bucolic SUMMERLAND.

Nolan Gasser’s AMERICAN CITIZEN opens the CD. It is a substantially developed piano composition, sui generis in structure, tonal in its melodies, and subtly evocative of things American in its fleetingly adopted snippets of blues and folk gestures.

Inspired by a painting by Marie Atkinson Hull of sharecropper John Wesley Washington, an American born into slavery, AMERICAN CITIZEN is a work both emotionally compelling in its recalling of tragedies and celebratory in its commemoration of libertarian victories.

Minimalist in its restraint and economy of means, David T. Little’s ACCUMULATION OF PURPOSE, is a remarkable six-part work with each of its movements assigned a subsidiary title.

The six miniatures bring to mind the piano works of Anton Webern, not through their freely atonal ambience but through their hauntingly beautiful use of compositional devices like a left hand perpetuum mobile figuration in counterpoint with an ostinato sounding of a single note in the highest reaches of the keyboard in the concluding Nocturne.

Augusta Gross contributes LOCATIONS IN TIME, a three-part cycle of pieces titled Other, Elegy, and Toward Night. Her composition inhabits a world of vague tonal centers, emotionally-charged changes of dynamics, blurred contours, and seeming stasis with a strong undercurrent flowing through. Gross’ quietly powerful music is achingly resigned in its sadness but questioning thereof.

C.Price Walden’s SACRED SPACES occupies two of the last three tracks of CITIZEN, both its Prelude and Chaconne (track 15) and its Hymn (The world is my home) on track 16, providing moments both climactic and sobering in their traditionally tonal and anthem-like music of celebration and joy.

This CD’s gathering of voices that celebrate the civility and brotherly love quintessential to what is American or more simply put, what it means to be a member of the human race, is a noble undertaking underpinned by the artistic excellence and commitment of its curator and pianist, Bruce Levingston, a notable artist who brings the album to an end with a profoundly touching AMAZING GRACE.

Dan Merceurio and Daniel Shores lend world class engineering to this well-packaged album, soon available from SONO LUMINUS (www.sonoluminus.com)

Rafael de Acha
http://www.RafaelMusicNotes.com

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