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Jeffrey Mumford: Through A Stillness Brightening

Mumford / Cuckson / Galante
Release Date: 01/14/2014 
Label:  Albany Records   Catalog #: 1473   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Jeffrey Mumford
Performer:  Miranda CucksonJulia BruskinLura JohnsonChristina Jennings,   ... 
Conductor:  Michel GalantePeter Wilson
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Argento Chamber EnsembleNational Gallery Chamber Players
Number of Discs: 2 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 1 Hours 35 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews

MUMFORD _through a stillness brightening. an expanding distance of multiple voices. to find in the glimmering air …. a buoyant continuity of layering blue. an evolving romance for flute and piano . through the filtering dawn of spreading daybright. two Elliott Carter tributes. two rhapsodies for cello and strings. echoing fields. … spreading light. in forests of evaporating dawns. wending. Michel Galante, Peter Wilson, cond; Scott Dixon (db); Miranda Cuckson (vn); Julia Briskin (vc); Christina Jennings (fl); Lura Johnson (pn); Eliesha Nelson Read more (va); Winston Choi (pn); Avalon Qrt; Wendy Richman (va); National Gallery Ch Players; Argento Ch Ens ALBANY 1473–4 (2 CDs: 94:41)

Gathering up a range of chamber works written in the last 18 years, this two-disc album is an eclectic portrait of Jeffrey Mumford’s chamber writing. Born in Washington in 1955, Mumford’s impressive list of commissions showcases his ability to write for very different chamber set-ups, all the while excising his love of jagged lines and counterpoint. With an equally extensive history of residencies and professorships, there is a feel of real academic curiosity to these disparate richly named works.

Reminding me of a game my girlfriend and I play where we devise the most emptily poetic novel titles ( The Absense of Pears was a favorite, as was Family Guy’s Faster than the speed of love ), Mumford’s rather purple-prosed titles do come perilously close to parody, although his five-movement solo violin set does arguably suggest an expanding distance of multiple voices , with its extremes of dynamics and myriad of melodic diversions. Comparisons with Bach tend to crop up with any solo violin writing and there is the odd pleasing nod to Baroque form woven in to Mumford’s dissonant, anguished lines, but the overall feel is of an unresolved, tense journey of ideas.

The title work, through a stillness brightening, is a clever, strangely scored work for violin and ensemble, in which the flickering violin lines are answered by various individual instruments such as the trumpet and marimba. Textures evolve and merge into each other, plucked rhythms drift in and out, yet it maintains a coherent journey and the violin solo is played with real zest by the dedicatee, Miranda Cuckson. The jagged slides, pizzicato and broken phrases give the solo cello work to find in the glimmering air ... a buoyant continuity of layering blue a restless workout for the instrument that remains engaging if fraught in feeling. A predictably more comfortable note is struck with an evolving romance for flute and piano, more conventionally programmatic and evocative of its title than the other works here, it nevertheless displays Mumford’s ever-shifting moods and colors, with the tonal piano writing framing the twists and turns of the flute’s broken lines. By contrast, the shudder and spikes of through the filtering dawn of spreading daybright depict an uneasy sound conversation between viola and double bass; taught and unresolved it is an effective miniature to conclude the first disc.

The two Elliott Carter tributes are charming, elusive little works, at odds with the bleak, tense two rhapsodies for cello and strings that follow (the first subtitled revisiting variazioni elegiaci within the fabric of caressing air !) which nevertheless reveal glimmers of release and light amidst the dry sounding opening. The quartet piece in forests of evaporating dawns doesn’t quite live up to its lush, misty title but certainly is an accomplished, well-thought-out work of descending phrases, stillness and sudden glimpses of thawing in the austere sound world. Ending the collection is the viola miniature, wending, which treads a similarly elusive path, its raw and earthy line tempered by the Baroque touches peppered throughout.

Performances are excellent (although I’m going without a score) with special praise going to Miranda Cuckson on violin and Christina Jennings for her unsickly flute playing. The notes are informative if a little gushing, and Albany’s sound is typically well balanced, although the live items suffer from various acoustic discrepancies and stage noise. Musically there is nothing groundbreaking and there is a whiff of student poetry about the titles, but Mumford shows enough imagination to hold interest with his dissonant yet appealing style.

FANFARE: Barnaby Rayfield
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Works on This Recording

An Expanding Distance of Multiple Voices, for violin by Jeffrey Mumford
Performer:  Miranda Cuckson (Violin)
Period: Contemporary 
Written: 2005 
Venue:  Live  West Garden Court of the National Galler 
Length: 11 Minutes 14 Secs. 
Through a Stillness Brightening, for violin & ensemble by Jeffrey Mumford
Performer:  Miranda Cuckson (Violin)
Conductor:  Michel Galante
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Argento Chamber Ensemble
Period: Contemporary 
Written: 2011 
Date of Recording: 04/11/2011 
Venue:  Live  Leonard Nimoy Theatre at Symphony Space, 
Length: 11 Minutes 4 Secs. 
To Find in the Glimmering Air... a Buoyant Continuity of Layering Blue, for cello by Jeffrey Mumford
Performer:  Julia Bruskin (Cello)
Period: Contemporary 
Written: 2010 
Date of Recording: 09/17/2013 
Venue:  New York, NY 
Length: 12 Minutes 22 Secs. 
An evolving romance, for flute and piano by Jeffrey Mumford
Performer:  Lura Johnson (Piano), Christina Jennings (Flute)
Period: Contemporary 
Date of Recording: 02/20/2004 
Venue:  Britton Recital Hall at University of Mi 
Length: 5 Minutes 12 Secs. 
Through the Filtering Dawn of Spreading Daybright, for viola & double bass by Jeffrey Mumford
Performer:  Eliesha Nelson (Viola)
Period: Contemporary 
Written: 2001 
Date of Recording: 11/20/2011 
Venue:  Live  Studio Theatre at Lorain County Communit 
Length: 8 Minutes 50 Secs. 
Elliott Carter Tributes (2), for piano by Jeffrey Mumford
Performer:  Winston Choi (Piano)
Period: Contemporary 
Written: 1983-2006 
Date of Recording: 09/20/2013 
Venue:  Windy Apple Studios, Chicago, IL 
Length: 4 Minutes 0 Secs. 
Rhapsodies (2) for cello & strings by Jeffrey Mumford
Performer:  Julia Bruskin (Cello)
Conductor:  Peter Wilson
Orchestra/Ensemble:  National Gallery Chamber Players
Period: Contemporary 
Written: 2009-2010 
Venue:  Live  West Garden Court of the National Galler 
Length: 12 Minutes 38 Secs. 
In Forests of Evaporating Dawns, for string quartet by Jeffrey Mumford
Period: Contemporary 
Written: 1996 
Venue:  Live  West Garden Court of the National Galler 
Length: 17 Minutes 38 Secs. 
wending, for solo viola by Jeffrey Mumford
Performer:  Wendy Richman (Viola)
Period: Contemporary 
Written: 2001 
Date of Recording: 04/06/2001 
Venue:  Sonic Temple 
Length: 10 Minutes 55 Secs. 

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