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Paul Chihara: Love Music

Chihara / Haso / Kavafian / Neubauer / Rso
Release Date: 09/13/2011 
Label:  Albany Records   Catalog #: 1290   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Paul Chihara
Performer:  John MosesDouglas MasekGary GrayAlyssa Park,   ... 
Conductor:  Kirk Trevor
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Slovak Radio Symphony OrchestraHarlem Quartet
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
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Notes and Editorial Reviews

CHIHARA Love Music. 1 Duo Concertante 2. 2 Images 3. 2 Ellington String Quartet Fantasies 4. GERSHWIN-CHIHARA Embraceable Duo 5 1 Alyssa Kim (vn); 2,5 Ani Kavafian (vn); 1 Read more class="ARIAL12">Gary Gray, John Moses (cl); 1 Doug Masek (a sax); 1 Kirk Trevor, cond; 1 Slovak RSO; 2,5 Paul Neubauer (va); 3 Anthony Costa (cl); 3 Tim Deighton (va); 3 Enrico Elisi (pn); 4 Harlem Str Qrt ALBANY 1290 (49:54)

I was a bit taken aback when I heard the first notes from this new CD of music of Paul Chihara coming out of my speakers. I grew up knowing and admiring his early works (including Redwood, Grass, and his series of works titled Ceremony ), but for some reason until now haven’t heard much at all of his more recent music. So my first thought was, “What happened to the old Paul Chihara whose mastery of serialism and free chromaticism I loved?” After a few moments, though, I was completely won over by the new Paul Chihara, the composer of beautiful flowing lyrical lines and occasional hints of jazz. This is not to say that he has by any means completely abandoned all of the hallmarks of his earlier style.

Love Music, a double concerto for violin, clarinet, and orchestra, was written in 1997, the result of a commission from the Verdehr Duo, violinist Walter Verdehr and his wife, clarinetist Elsa Ludwig. Approaching Chihara with a request for a double concerto, the duo premiered the resulting work with the Mendelssohn Chamber Orchestra in Leipzig in 2000. Chihara was never satisfied with the result, and consequently extensively rewrote the work in 2010, substituting an entirely new second movement based on his song No Word for Love , as well as a new, more virtuosic finale. The composer considers this work his tribute to the Hollywood music that he has worked with for more than 40 years. The concerto is consequently warm and lush, saturated with good turns of phrase throughout. Both solo instruments are given plenty of opportunity to shine in their respective roles in this immediately ingratiating work.

The Duo Concertante for violin and viola dates back to 1986, and stylistically lies somewhere between the “old” and “new” Chihara. It is quite a busy work, with a lot of florid passages requiring the two instruments to engage in some very interesting and entertaining counterpoint. The duo was composed for violist Milton Thomas (the teacher of both Chihara and his wife) and his bride, Yukiko Kamei, for a duo recital they were giving in 1986. The Fantasy on “Embraceable You” was written for the same couple as a wedding present. The Gershwin tune is freely treated in various ways, but is never lost sight of through the course of this delightful bonbon.

Two Images is scored for clarinet, viola, and piano, a combination that has attracted a number of composers, including Max Bruch. The title has obvious reference to the Images of Debussy, and indeed, the work closes with a near-quote from his Prélude à l’après-midi d’un faune. This is the only work on the CD that is performed by its dedicatees, Anthony Costa, Tim Deighton, and Enrico Elisi. The two-movement work is conceived as a duo for clarinet and viola working together as a singular musical voice with pianistic interaction. The principal image in the second movement is drawn from a love song that Chihara wrote for his violist wife, another tie-in to the CD’s title, Love Music. The style of the work would be best termed neoromantic, but it contains occasional excursions into a more chromatically based musical language.

Chihara’s program ends with delightful quartet settings of two classics by Duke Ellington, I’m Beginning To See the Light and Take the A Train . Both are spiritedly rendered by the Harlem String Quartet. I don’t believe I’ve heard this group before, but if you are a fan of the Turtle Island String Quartet, you will certainly also enjoy this ensemble and music.

The performances on this CD are uniformly exemplary. I was particularly gratified to hear some more of Ani Kavafian’s work, as she is under-recorded. I slightly knew both her and her younger sister, Ida, when we were all at the National Music Camp at Interlochen together in the 1960s. Of course, they were concertmasters of the top orchestra there (in different years), and I was sitting way back in the violin section somewhere, but I have ever since followed their careers with interest. Ida, as a member of Tashi and other groups, seems to have gained more recordings, but Ani is equally wonderful as an exponent of my favorite instrument.

The sonics on this Albany CD are impeccable and up to the high standards of this company. I hope this CD will sell a lot of copies to encourage this company (and others) to continue to issue worthwhile music by American composers. So, do your part to support our American musical heritage, and reward yourself in the process with nearly an hour’s worth of fine music and performance.

FANFARE: David DeBoor Canfield
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Works on This Recording

Concerto for Violin, Clarinet and Orchestra "Love Music" by Paul Chihara
Performer:  John Moses (Klezmer Clarinet), Douglas Masek (Alto Saxophone), Gary Gray (Clarinet),
Alyssa Park (Violin)
Conductor:  Kirk Trevor
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Slovak Radio Symphony Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: USA 
Duo Concertante by Paul Chihara
Performer:  Ani Kavafian (Violin), Paul Neubauer (Viola)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: USA 
Two Images by Paul Chihara
Performer:  Anthony Costa (Clarinet), Tim Deighton (Viola), Enrico Elisi (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: USA 
Embraceable Duo by Paul Chihara
Performer:  Ani Kavafian (Violin), Paul Neubauer (Viola)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: USA 
Two Ellington String Quartet Fantasies by Paul Chihara
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Harlem Quartet
Period: 20th Century 
Written: USA 

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