PATERSON The Book of Goddesses1. Freya’s Tears2. Embracing the Wind3 • 1Maya; 2Clockwise; 3American Modern Ens • AMERICAN MODERN RECORDINGS AMR1034 (61:23)
Astute readers might recall that a disc of the AmericanRead more Modern Ensemble performing Robert Paterson’s music made my 2011 Want List, and the present disc would have been a strong contender for my 2012 list were it not for the inclusion of Embracing the Wind, about which more below. In this CD, all the composer’s brilliance and imagination on display in the previous one is again in evidence. Performances and sonics are equally vivid and forward here, too. If you bought Star Crossing, his previous CD, and enjoyed it, you need to read no further to know that you will enjoy this disc as well. The one constant, other than the excellence of the music and performances, is that in all three of the present pieces the harp is featured. Paterson’s harp writing is very idiomatic, which is none too easy to write for convincingly. The diatonic construction of the instrument also poses challenges for those who wish to write chromatic music, one of them being that it is quite easy to write such music that is simply unplayable.
The Book of Goddesses adds percussion and flutes (one player) to the harp, although some of the movements omit one or more of the instruments. The percussion instruments include some (a ghatam, a hollow clay pot drum) that I’ve never heard of. Paterson, noting the frequency in which gods of various sorts show up in classical works, but likewise the dearth of works devoted to goddesses, decided to help rectify that in the present work. The nine fairly brief movements are consequently devoted to Sarasvati (the Hindu goddess of all knowledge), Xi Wang Mu (the Chinese goddess of eternal life), Aphrodite (goddess of love for the ancient Greeks), Brigit (Celtic goddess of inspiration), Estsanatlehi (Navajo goddess of fertility), Xochiquetzal (Aztec goddess of flowers), Oya (Yoruba goddess ruling the Niger River), Yemayá (Santerian goddess of water), and the Muses (the goddesses in Greece who presided over the arts and sciences). Each piece in the set has its own distinctive flavor, but each also evokes an air of exotic modality. Particularly evocative is the piece for Estsanatlehi, played by a solo bass flute.
Freya’s Tears, scored for violin and harp, is a companion piece to Goddesses, its three movements being modeled after the goddesses Iris, Freya, and Sekhmet. The first of these also comes from Greek mythology, being the deity who brought messages from one of the gods to another, traveling on rainbows to carry out her mission. Her movement opens with the violin playing senza vibrato, setting up a mysterious and otherworldly mood. From there, the rhythmic activity picks up considerably. Freya was one of the goddesses of Norse mythology, and was associated with love, beauty, and fertility, as well as with war, prophecy, magic, and death. Paterson has depicted her tears—which were thought by the ancients to have been drops of gold that turned to amber when they hit trees—through harmonics, glissandi, and delicate arpeggios. Sekhmet was the warrior goddess of ancient Egypt, and is depicted as having a human body crowned with the head of a lioness. She was viewed as the protector of the pharaohs, who followed her into battle. The duo Clockwise, composed of violinist Marc Uys and harpist Jacqueline Kerrod, brilliantly brings the work to life.
Now the downside of this CD: I simply do not understand the inclusion of the final work, Embracing the Wind. No, there’s nothing wrong with the work and/or performance, or its fitting in with its discmates. The problem is that this is, to all appearances, the exact same performance of the identical work that was included on Paterson’s Star Crossing CD that I reviewed in Fanfare 34:5 (the interested reader may refer to my comments about the piece there). Why the duplication? There must be other as-yet-unrecorded works by this immensely gifted composer that could have filled out the disc, which could have easily held a considerably longer work or works.
Despite that failing, this disc receives my enthusiastic recommendation, albeit con sordino due to the duplication of this 10-minute piece from Star Crossing.
From MainlyPianoDecember 21, 2017By Kathy Parsons See All My Reviews"Robert Patersons "The Book of Goddesses" is not a new release (2011), but it only recently came to my attention. In a nutshell, I LOVE IT! Paterson received the Composer of The Year Award from the Classical Recording Foundation for the album, which is gorgeous both inside and out. MAYA, a flute, harp, and percussion ensemble, had commissioned Paterson to compose a piece for them, and he thought their instrumentation would work well in a multi-movement composition about goddesses. While researching the subject, Paterson discovered a book about goddesses written and illustrated by Kris Waldherr, who agreed to design the the CD booklet. The booklet contains beautiful illustrations for each of the pieces, stories about the goddesses, and Patersons comments about each work. It also contains bios of the composer, illustrator, and musicians. All of this is encased in a gold-foil cover! Its a very impressive package, and we havent even talked about the music yet! The album is actually in three parts. The nine-movement The Book of Goddesses is performed by MAYA (Sato Moughalian on a variety of flutes, Jacqueline Kerrod on harp and John Hadfield on percussion); Freyas Tears is a three-movement work for violin and harp and is performed by Clockwise (Marc Uys on violin and Kerrod on harp); and Embracing the Wind is performed by American Modern Ensemble (Moughalian on flute and alto flute, Danielle Farina on viola, and Kerrod on harp). The music is exotic, accessible and very beautiful as it reflects on the universal scope of the goddesses as well as the various cultures they represent and the characteristics of each goddess. While the album is categorized as classical, it really is difficult to limit it to one genre. There are world, new age, and jazz elements as well, making it a unique and very enjoyable listening experience. The piece titled The Book of Goddesses includes one movement each for Sarasvati, Xi Wang Mu, Aphrodite, Brigit, Estsanatlehi, Xochiquetzal, Oya, Yemaya, and the Muses. Rather than focusing on the goddesses of one culture, Paterson created this music by fusing his own sound world with the styles of music from India, China, Greece, Ireland, North America, Nigeria and Cuba. By using non-western scales, the instruments used take on the characteristics of music from the regions they are emulating. Patersons selection of goddesses was inspired by those who evoke something musical, dance-related, or sensual. The pieces are hypnotic and have a quiet energy that can become very habit-forming! Freyas Tears is something of a companion piece since it was inspired by three more goddesses: Iris, Freya, and Sekhmet. The viola and harp are especially poignant in the title movement, as Freya weeps tears of gold while searching for her lost husband. Embracing the Wind was originally inspired by the image of an Olympic athlete running against the wind, and gradually evolved to a more abstract idea of creating music that sounds flexible and has wind-like ebb-and-flow qualities. At more than 9 1/2 minutes, the piece has time to tell its own story which is often quite visual, sometimes minimal and abstract, and sometimes dramatic. Its a fascinating close to a truly exceptional work of art. Very highly recommended!"Report Abuse