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Lezcano / Banks / Constantinides / Farnum
Release Date: 08/30/2011 
Label:  North/South Recordings   Catalog #: 1055   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Jose LezcanoBrian BanksDinos ConstantinidesMax Lifchitz,   ... 
Performer:  Gilbert DejeanElizabeth FarnumRita PorfirisMegan Levin
Conductor:  Max Lifchitz
Orchestra/Ensemble:  North/South Chamber OrchestraNorth/South Consonance
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 1 Hours 12 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews

CROSSCURENTS: Music For Chamber Orchestra By American Composers Max Lifchitz, cond; North/South CO; Elizabeth Farnum (sop 1 ); Gilbert Dejean (bn 2 ); Megan Levin (hp 3 ); Rita Porfiris (va 4 ) NORTH/SOUTH 1055 (71:51)

LEZCANO Tango-Overture. Read more class="COMPOSER12">BANKS Serenata No. 1. 1,2 CONSTANTINIDES China 1—Shanghai, Songs of Departure. 3 YIP Spirit Labyrinth II. 4 LIFCHITZ Confrontación

Crosscurrents is a collection of music for chamber orchestra by American composers. The composers are contemporary, and their geographical origins diverse, though all reached compositional maturity in the U.S. José Manuel Lezcano was born in Havana in 1960, Dinos Constantinides in Greece in 1929, Stephen Yip in Hong Kong in 1971, and Max Lifchitz in Mexico City, thus leaving Brian Banks (Seattle) as the only native-born composer, though just to exert a bit of symmetry he now lives in Puebla, Mexico.

All five compositions are making their disc premieres. Lezcano’s Tango-Overture dates from 2006 and is a rather Piazzollan opus, moving with verve from festive to melancholy with consummate ease. There’s an occasional dapper turn of phrase, too, and pathos for the solo violin that emerges from the string orchestral texture before the surging, successful conclusion. It’s certainly not a conventional tango, nor is it designed to be. Brian Banks’s Serenata No. 1 is subtitled “Imaginary Legacies” or, given his current residence, “Legados imaginairos”—North/South prints both titles in the course of its documentation. It’s cast in three movements and pays homage to musicians who broadened his musical horizons: George Harrison, Lou Harrison, Henry Sapoznik, and Arturo Márquez. It embraces a wide range of musics and manages to coalesce them well. There’s a raga in the first movement, and though it’s tinged with blues, it’s not in any way reminiscent of, say, John Mayer’s Indo-jazz fusions. Klezmer emerges in the central movement, cleverly distributed among violin, bassoon, and clarinet, while we experience danzones in the finale. The work was premiered by these forces in New York City in June 2009.

Dinos Constantinides is the senior composer of the five. China I is the first of a quartet of works inspired by the composer’s visit to that country in 1990. He sets four poems by the eighth-century Li T’ai-Po in the English translation by Ezra Pound. The composer writes for a soprano voice, here the fine Elizabeth Farnum, but also allocates a long and important role for the bassoon, played by Gilbert Dejean, whose anticipatory, almost chorus-like lines are highly effective. The orchestration is thoughtfully conceived, the vocal line vivid, and the writing highly evocative, clear, and convincing. Stephen Yip is also responsible for a vivid setting in Spirit Labyrinth II, completed in 2009. The solo harp and string players—occasionally playing col legno —slap and slide vigorously, evoking both turbulence and stasis according to the tenor of the music, its genesis all the while rooted in folk cum ritual inspirations. Finally there is Max Lifchitz’s Confrontación, composed for and premiered by violist Rita Porfiris in 2006. The powerful single-movement but clearly sectional work packs quite a punch. There’s a long opening viola statement, and successive incidents recall music from the Baroque, though this is in no sense a pastiche. Certainly there may be concerto grosso elements but they’re handled in a sophisticated way. It’s alternately terse, brusque, reflective, and clement. There’s also plenty of percussive vehemence.

Lifchitz is the conductor of the North/South Chamber Orchestra, and directs throughout with admirably persuasive assurance, helped by a fine, unspectacular recorded balance, but one that allows the dynamics of his own piece, for example, to register with clarity. There are good notes, too, and expert performances all around.

FANFARE: Jonathan Woolf
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Works on This Recording

Tango-Overture, for orchestra by Jose Lezcano
Conductor:  Max Lifchitz
Orchestra/Ensemble:  North/South Chamber Orchestra
Written: 2006 
Date of Recording: 01/07/2010 
Venue:  Recital Hall of the Purchase Performing 
Length: 8 Minutes 47 Secs. 
Serenata No.1 (Legados imaginarios), for orchestra by Brian Banks
Conductor:  Max Lifchitz
Written: 2008 
Date of Recording: 01/11/2010 
Venue:  Recital Hall of the Purchase Performing 
Length: 12 Minutes 9 Secs. 
China 1 - Shanghai, Songs of Departure, for voice & orchestra by Dinos Constantinides
Performer:  Gilbert Dejean (Bassoon), Elizabeth Farnum ()
Conductor:  Max Lifchitz
Written: 1991 
Date of Recording: 01/08/2010 
Venue:  Recital Hall of the Purchase Performing 
Length: 15 Minutes 38 Secs. 
Confrontación, for viola & orchestra by Max Lifchitz
Performer:  Rita Porfiris (Viola)
Conductor:  Max Lifchitz
Written: 2006 
Date of Recording: 01/12/2010 
Venue:  Recital Hall of the Purchase Performing 
Length: 22 Minutes 50 Secs. 
Spirit Labyrinth II, for harp & orchestra by Stephen Yip
Performer:  Megan Levin (Harp)
Conductor:  Max Lifchitz
Orchestra/Ensemble:  North/South Consonance
Written: 2009 
Date of Recording: 01/13/2010 
Venue:  Recital Hall of the Purchase Performing 
Length: 11 Minutes 41 Secs. 

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