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Bresnick: Every Thing Must Go / Prism Saxophone Quartet

Bresnick / Yale Camerata / Brooks
Release Date: 05/11/2010 
Label:  Albany Records   Catalog #: 1184   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Martin Bresnick
Performer:  Lisa MooreAbigail NimsWei-yi YangAshley Bathgate
Conductor:  Marguerite L. Brooks
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Yale CamerataPrism Saxophone Quartet
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
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Notes and Editorial Reviews

BRESNICK Willie’s Way 1. Falling 2. Ballade 3. Three Choral Songs 4. Every Thing Must Go 5 1,3 Lisa Moore (pn); 2 Abigail Nims (sop); 2 Wei-yi Yang (pn); Read more class="SUPER12">3 Ashley Bathgate (vc); 4 Marguerite Brooks, cond; 4 Yale Camerata; 5 Prism Saxophone Quartet ALBANY TROY1184 (59:39)

If Martin Bresnick’s reputation as a leading American composer hasn’t quite reached the lofty heights of an Adams or Corigliano, among performers he is widely regarded as one of the best. He has produced music at a high level for many years, and is sought out by many a performer eager to add engaging, durable works to their repertoire.

His new disc on Albany is exhibit A: five superb pieces that span nearly two decades and give a fine picture of the consistency of his output. He isn’t exactly a “pan-stylist,” but his palette is broad and inclusive, and listeners are likely to pick up references to minimalism, smatters of dense chromaticism, consonant harmonies, and hints of rock, among others. The title work, Every Thing Must Go for saxophone quartet (the most recent on the disc, from 2007), is a good example, beginning with open harmonies that quickly fill it with sober minor-key sonorities and move soon to roving, good-natured ramblings. The second of three movements is a scherzo of sorts, bubbling, effervescent, and motoric, but with lyrical gestures that soar above the bustle. Consonant harmonies occasionally surrender to brief dissonance, and the movement ends with a slow, hair-raising ascension. There is a program of sorts that involves gestures of farewell to musicians the composer has known, and the elegiac strains of the last movement are genuinely touching.

For all of the observations critics make regarding new trends in compositional style, skilled and imaginative development of minimal materials always seems to remain relevant. The 10-minute piano piece Willy’s Way from 2006 is a fine example of Bresnick’s keen developmental prowess. Much of the piece revolves around variations on two traditional alternating chords, often in rather bravura, even romantic style, derived from a Willie Dixon blues tune. I’m not entirely convinced about the value of percussive and vocal interruptions that intervene late in the piece, but as a whole it is a terrific vehicle for the splendid pianist Lisa Moore.

Ballade is aptly described by the composer as a “song without words” for cello and piano that is “intended to evoke the austere, autumnal world of Brahms.” There is both a peculiar blend of lyricism and cragginess to the cello line as well as a thickness in the left hand of the piano that make the homage quite clear and compelling. Three Choral Songs and song cycle Falling show him to be equally at home with the voice as he is with instrumental forces. The texts are rendered with exceptional emotional resonance and poetic clarity.

The performances are of the highest rank. The Prism Quartet continues to build an impressive repertoire for saxophone foursome. Cellist Ashley Bathgate, pianist Wei-yi Yang, and mezzo Abigail Nims render Bresnick’s music with skill and conviction. The Yale Camerata under Marguerite Brooks sings with clarity, lyrical grace, and finely tuned dynamic differentiation.

FANFARE: Michael Cameron
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Works on This Recording

Willie's Way by Martin Bresnick
Performer:  Lisa Moore (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: USA 
Falling by Martin Bresnick
Performer:  Abigail Nims (Mezzo Soprano), Wei-yi Yang (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: USA 
Ballade by Martin Bresnick
Performer:  Ashley Bathgate (Cello), Lisa Moore (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: USA 
Choral Songs (3) by Martin Bresnick
Conductor:  Marguerite L. Brooks
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Yale Camerata
Period: 20th Century 
Written: USA 
Every Thing Must Go by Martin Bresnick
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Prism Saxophone Quartet
Period: 21st Century 
Written: USA 

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