Gernot Wolfgang’s Vienna and the West

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Listening to Road Signs, an intriguing etude for bassoon and piano by Gernot Wolfgang in the Albany CD Vienna and the West (TROY 1760) I am reminded of how much I enjoyed Wolfgang’s work in the past, and of how unpredictable the young Austrian composer’s music can be. Here’s a lovely compilation of minimalist compositions written between 2002 and 2017.

Playing music conceived for the unjustly ignored lowest member of the woodwinds family and using all the technical bells and whistles at the disposal of a virtuoso, bassoonist Judith Farmer elicits a plangent and haunting sound from her instrument in a composition by Wolfgang that musically evokes the sparse vividness of a Georgia O’Keefe canvas.

Wolfgang next turns on a dime to juxtapose in a bold move his Passage to Vienna to the American West landscape of the prior track. Oh but wait, while the violin of Tereza Stanislav and the cello of Ben Hong court playfully, pianist Joanne Pearce Martin  provides a rhythmic underpinning redolent of Latin America.

As I said, Gernot Wolfgang is unpredictable to a fault. In both these compositions Gernot Wolfgang creates an homage to the Dodecaphonists without slavish adherence to a fixed tone row, and even while avoiding a clearly established tonal center, the Austrian-American composer writes sweeping melodic turns here assigned to the violin here, the bassoon there.

This, in a few words, is music that defies pigeonholing, as it embraces the rigorous conservatory training of its creator while at the same time giving more than a passing nod to the improvisatory feel of jazz.

Route 33 affords a solo turn to Gloria Cheng, a superb pianist utterly comfortable in the unclassifiable music of Wofgang.

The 2014 Windows gives clarinetist Edgar David Lopez a chance to shine in tandem with bassoonist Judith Farmer.

Impressions dates back sixteen years, giving us a glimpse at the right out of the gate accomplishments of its composer in three dreamscapes titled Carnival in Venice, Dream, and Country Road. Lopez’ clarinet, Farmer’s bassoon, and Stanislav’s violin, come together with horn player Amy Jo Rhine, violist Robert Brophy, cellist Charles Tyler, and bassist Steve Dress in a richly executed performance.

The CD’s final track features violinist Maia Jasper White who adds her playing to that of violist Robert Brophy, cellist Charles Tyler, and pianist Robert Thies in From Vienna with Love, a lovely Valentine from Gernot Wolfgang to the capital of his birth-country,.

Unpredictable, surely, but I will choose surprise any day over a musical déjà vu.

Rafael de Acha            http://www.Rafael’sMusicNotes.com

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