WOMEN COMPOSERS

atos_3_0

I get the BBC MUSIC MAGAZINE every month. It always comes with a CD that’s part of the subscription that I have had for a few years. The CD’s have augmented the collection on my shelves to the point that I have had to make presents of boxes of CD’s to many musician friends. I hope they are as happy with my gifts as I have been listening to them.

This month I got volume 27, number 9 of the BBC MUSIC MAGAZINE COLLECTION. It features the Atos Trio in two trios: Clara Schumann’s Piano Trio in G minor, opus 17 and Fanny Mendelssohn’s Piano Trio in D minor, op.11 interspersed by Robert Schumann’s Fantasie in C, Op. 17.

The playing is lovely, elegant, sensitive to a fault, and technically flawless. But what made me sit up and listen were the contents of this disc: two works by women composers! Is this a complete rarity? Not really, but nevertheless in this case a welcome and respectful nod to two women composers that I would not hesitate to call sadly neglected.

I cannot recall in recent years of concert-going when the last time was that a work by either Clara Schumann or Fanny Mendelssohn was heard here in our musically-rich Cincinnati.

How about Pauline Viardot…Nadia Boulanger…Germaine Taillefere…Teresa Carreño…Agathe Backer Grøndahl…Ruth Crawford Seeger…Florence Price…Amy Beach…? Those are names to begin with. Contemporary women composers is yet another dry oasis left abandoned and unexplored these days by many a concert series, quite a few symphony orchestras, and even college recital programs – both those of faculty and students.

This is not a blanket indictment from my soapbox but a call to action to our fellow musicians. Go outside the all-male box and dig out the music of some of these wonderful composers!

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

 

 

SONO LUMINUS RELEASES A KERNIS & DEBUSSY ALBUM

DSL-92233 SONO LUMINUS THE KERNIS PROJECT: DEBUSSY
Producer: Dan Merceruio                  Engineer: Daniel Shores
The Jasper String Quartet: J. Freivogel, violin    Sae Chonabayashi, violin                                     Sam Quintal, viola    Rachel Henderson Freivogel, cello

Aaron Jay Kernis – String Quartet #3 (“River”) (2015)
1. Source
2. Flow/Surge
3. Mirrored Surface – Flux – Reflections
4. Cavatina
5. Mouth/Estuary

“This new quartet looks at change, flow and flux of musical materials and information rather than the constancy of harmony, rhythmic and formal structures that my earlier quartets embrace.” Aaron Jay Kernis

Claude Debussy – String Quartet in G minor, Op. 10 (1893)
1. Animé et très décidé
2. Assez vif et bien rythmé
3. Andantino, doucement expressif
4. Très modéré – En animant peu à peu – Très mouvementé et avec passion

Any sounds in any combination and in any succession are henceforth free to be used in a musical continuity.” – Claude Debussy

Written one hundred and twenty-two years apart, Aaron Jay Kernis’ “The River” (String Quartet #3 ) and Claude Debussy’s G Minor quartet – his only one – bear similarities of intent.

Debussy at age 31 was determined to break free from the fetters imposed on him by critics and Academia, and then win the interest a new audience for a new kind of music: sensual, free-flowing, unstructured, passionate, shunning preconceptions, and subject only to the creative impulses of the composer. He succeeded albeit not without a share of critical slights and the indifference of an older audience weaned on Gounod, Massenet and Saint-Saëns.

Like Debussy, Aaron Jay Kernis is also an iconoclast who, oblivious to expectations and shunning labels, writes music sui generis, with no seeming preconceived structure but with a visceral response to literary influences that have made an emotional and intellectual impact on him. This is music that much like the river of its title flows  unceasingly, but with varying currents, now restless, now peaceful to a tranquil musical estuary at the end of the duration of the work.

Kernis has written a challenging work that gives J. Freivogel, violin, Sae Chonabayashi, violin, Sam Quintal, viola, and Rachel Henderson Freivogel, cello, collectively known as the Jasper Quartet, a musical and technical workout.

The heavy lifting does not easy up with Debussy’s 18-minute composition but continues right up to its final movement with all four players extracting every bit of emotion in music marked by its composer to be played  “increasingly faster and with passion.”

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

ANTHONY GOLDSTONE’S FRENCH CONNECTION

cover25148

“Leave it to DIVINE ART to bring much deserved attention to artists the likes of Anthony Goldstone (1944-2017), the late English pianist who during his life made it both his business and a labor of love to explore the rarely visited and undiscovered outer limits of the pianistic repertory.”

I wrote that some time ago when I heard the divine art release of Goldstone’s Unheard Mozart. I am now listening to The Piano at the Ballet, volume II of The French Collection, which divine art is releasing and dedicating to the memory of their friend “Tony” Goldstone. It provides 80-minutes of sheer fun, while the scholarly though eminently accessible notes by Jeremy Nicolas, and Stephen Sutton’s mastering and design of the CD enhance the listening experience.

The choice of music, as was always the hallmark with Goldstone is vast and informed throughout by a stylish and always tasteful approach to music that is inherently light-hearted, joyful, tongue-in-cheek, but never trivial.

Starting with excerpts from Francis Poulenc’s 1923 ballet Les Biches this listener was transported to the Paris of the 1920’s, where the names of Jean Cocteau, Pablo Picasso, Coco Channel, and Sergei Diaghilev, among so many, were familiar to a savvy audience already accustomed to the new sights and sounds of Debussy and Stravinsky, the Impressionists, and the literary forays of Gertrude Stein and her coterie of American expatriate writers.

The music of Henri Sauguet, Henri Françaix, Maurice Thiriet, and Boris Asafiev was not familiar to this listener prior to hearing it on this CD for the first time. Unpretentious, often satirical, unabashedly romantic in its post-Romantic melodic and harmonic languages, the writing of all four of these composers is perfectly suited to the madcap subject matters of their ballets.

Claude Debussy’s early work Printemps is included in this CD. Composed in 1887, the music was submitted to the consideration of the august Académie des Beaux Arts, which pegged on to it the sobriquet of Impressionism, so detested by the composer, who later in need of cash had it played in a vaudeville show in London in the company of jugglers and acrobats, as if to expose the critics’ overreaching pretentiousness.

Debussy’s substantial composition affords Goldstone the opportunity to show his mettle as a solid technician, as do tracks 26 through 28 of the CD, featuring excerpts from Stravinsky’s Pulcinella, which bring the splendid collection of ballet music in the divine art volume two of The French Connection’s  The Piano at the Ballet to a lovely ending.

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