This CD is reissued by ArkivMusic.
Notes and Editorial Reviews
This collection reveals the working of a highly original musical mind in a series of diverse pieces of different moods and instrumental makeup.
VAN DE VATE Trio for Horn, Violin, and Piano.1 Prelude for Organ.2 Brass Quintet No. 2, “Variations on The Streets of Laredo.”3 12 Pieces for Piano on 1 to 12 Notes, Vol. III.2 Diversion for Brass.4 Balinese Diptych5 • Ferenc Leitner (hn);1 Ute Lehmann (vn);1 Maki Saeki (pn);1 Carlyn Morenus (org, pn);2 Mississippi Br;3 Niagara Br Ens;4 Ananda Sukarian (pn)5 • VIENNA MODERN MASTERS 2043 (54:21)
This latest entry in a series of CDs of the chamber music of Nancy Van de Vate (Volume 8) presents one very early piece (Diversion for Brass, 1964) and five written between
2002 (Prelude for Organ) and 2005 (Brass Quintet No. 2, 12 Pieces for Piano Volume 3). Though she does not really consider herself much of a chamber-music composer, they reveal, as always, the working of a highly original musical mind in a series of diverse pieces of different moods and instrumental makeup.
The five movements and interlude of the Horn Trio, not clearly delineated on the jewel box back cover or in the booklet, convey a wide range of moods within an essentially tonal approach. The first movement begins lyrically, but a staccato outburst—initially suppressed—becomes the principal rhythmic motive, the three instruments playing both together and contrapuntally, though it returns to the andante theme near the end. The second movement, only a minute long, is insistently rhythmic and energetic, as is the fourth, while the third movement is slow yet more haunting than conventionally melodic. What one initially hears as the fifth movement is, in fact, merely a 35-second interlude leading into the actual fifth movement, which is rhythmically buoyant in style and bucolic in tone. Violinist Ute Lehmann has a soaring, lyrical tone, hornist Ferenc Leitner plays with elegance and energy despite a couple of uncertain moments (this is a live performance), and pianist Maki Saeki brings a light, airy touch to the proceedings.
The organ prelude was commissioned by the Wellesley College class of 1952 in memory of deceased classmates for its 50th anniversary reunion. The mood of the piece, however, is more contemplative than elegiac, focusing on airy light chords in the upper register and a legato, flowing bass.
The Streets of Laredo was a favorite song of the composer’s late husband, Clyde Smith. Since it stems from the American Southwest, she thought it a nice idea to make it the theme of this brass quintet commissioned by the University of Mississippi in 2005. The opening statement of the theme is heard as if from a distance, followed by seven variations of differing tempos, textures, rhythms, dynamics and modes. Despite the use of a quintessentially American folk tune, not to mention a brass ensemble, there is nothing particularly Copland-like in her treatment; indeed, she seldom uses the quintet as a unit, preferring instead to balance the various instruments against each other in antiphony and counterpoint. When the ensemble is used as a unit, for instance at about the two-minute mark, the resulting colors are much more reminiscent of a jazz ensemble—as is the staccato walking bass in variation two—though rhythmically it is strictly classical. The next variation, starting at 4:35, is more jazzy in feeling, reminiscent of some of Shorty Rogers’s work of the 1950s. The Mississippi Brass plays all of it exceedingly well, if lacking a little in ebullience.
Van de Vate’s 12 Pieces for Piano on One to Twelve Notes is, perhaps, a bit self-restrictive in form. I admit that it is not among my favorite works by her. Yet this one struck me as, perhaps, more whimsical and less self-conscious than the previous two, though this may be because of the light, airy performance by Carlyn Morenus, switching here from organ (in the prelude) to piano. She really digs into this music in a way that I found invigorating and, thankfully, oblivious to the purposeful form of the work, approaching it as a real piece rather than as a gimmick. The fifth piece, in particular, I found to be plaintive and elegiac in tone, while the sixth sparkled like a syncopated Chopin etude, and the seventh, with its unusual use of the damper pedal, was haunting.
Diversion for Brass, the earliest work here, is pan-diatonic and highly contrapuntal. I found it interesting but not really a piece that I enjoyed for its own sake. I thought, however, that if the Niagara Brass Ensemble had approached it a little more lightly it would have been easier to digest.
Balinese Diptych was commissioned by Indonesian pianist Ananda Sukarlan following the tragic bombing of Bali in 2002. The original piece consisted of only the first movement, “Lament for Bali,” but after its premiere in September 2003 Sukarlan suggested the second movement expressing renewed hope for the island. Since Sukarlan asked that the Balinese pentatonic scale be heard somewhere during the piece, Van de Vate found it hard to move in and out of that mode, so she chose to stay with it throughout both sections, using various registers and transpositions. Both sections are in the form of a piano fantasy, emphasizing contrast, mood, color, and freedom of form. The first movement, which begins slowly, has a violent middle section representing the bombing. While the second seemed to me more busy than hopeful, I was impressed by the continual inventiveness and dovetailing of the musical material. Sukarlan’s performance is understandably poignant and deeply felt.
This is one of the strongest entries in this series of chamber music CDs, and the presence of so many recent works clearly indicates some of the directions in which the composer is expanding her style and vocabulary. Considering the varying recording venues used, the sound is remarkably consistent and realistic.
-- Lynn René Bayley, Fanfare [7/2008]
Works on This Recording
Trio for Horn, Violin and Piano by Nancy Van De Vate
Ferenc Leitner (French Horn),
Ute Lehmann (Violin),
Maki Saeki (Piano)
Period: 20th Century
Prelude for Organ by Nancy Van De Vate
Carlyn Morenus (Organ)
Period: 20th Century
Diversions for Brass by Nancy Van De Vate
Niagara Brass Ensemble
Period: 20th Century
Balinese Diptych by Nancy Van De Vate
Ananda Sukarian (Piano)
Period: 20th Century
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