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John Allemeier: Dark Dances / Dior, Allemeier, Frechette, Giles, Unc Charlotte Percussion Ensemble

Allemeier / Frechette / Rosenfeld / Zhao / Frisch
Release Date: 01/11/2011 
Label:  Albany Records   Catalog #: 1243   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  John M. Allemeier
Performer:  Mira FrischKari GilesErinn FrechetteAllan Rosenfeld,   ... 
Conductor:  Rick Dior
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Unc Charlotte Percussion Ensemble
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
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Notes and Editorial Reviews

ALLEMEIER Those Voices. Dark Dances. Solstice. 4 Various artists ALBANY TROY1243 (59:23)

John Allemeier has been noted in Fanfare in reviews of two discs, each of which contains just one of his works. This fine sampling gives us a much more complete and ultimately impressive picture.

Forcing a composer’s work into a pigeonhole is an uncomfortable and sometimes misleading enterprise, but much of Allemeier’s work seems Read more to bear a glancing kinship with Minimalism, including that particular brand of youngish New York-area composers associated with Bang on a Can, with a bit of John Adams thrown into the mix. That being said, neither of those references appears in his bio, his background has firm roots in the Midwest, and he is currently on the faculty of the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. These comparisons should be taken with a substantial grain of salt, as there is a lot of music here that doesn’t jibe with this formula. Overall it is a disc of lively, imaginative, and propulsive work, all of which bodes well for a substantial career.

Those Voices for mixed woodwind and string quintet provides an excellent introduction to his music. At the outset the three strings provide churning arpeggios that serve as background to the stern melodic outcries of the winds, in a language that is tonal and suffused with pentatonic allusions. There is some role reversal in later passages, and at the midway point the dense textures give way to calmer string harmonics with open harmonies, only to eventually return full circle.

While the composer has a sure way with all of the instruments in the ensemble, he is especially effective with percussion, a natural inclination given his dependence on clear pulse. As the title Dark Dances implies, a steady groove is at the foundation of this work for percussion ensemble. Latin instruments provide the primary impetus in the opening dance, while others contribute either meandering melodic lines or insistent pedal points. Chimes usher in the second dance, almost as a call for the others to join, and their distinctive reverberation holds the movement together. The third focuses on marimba and timpani at the outset, and continues with veiled references to non-Western musical inspiration.

Allemeier’s insistence on clear rhythmic ideas is especially striking in Solstice , scored for five winds and strings. Part 2 contains some especially vivid passages with winds and strings alternating between bubbling accompanying rivulets and strong, distinctive strands of melody. The final work, 4 , sounds quite different from the others, leading me to suspect on first hearing that it dates from a different period. In fact all five works are quite recent, and the notes don’t give any explanation for the style shift. No matter; it is as compelling as the others, if a bit less approachable on first exposure. All four movements are relatively brief, tonality is much freer, and some traditional devices are employed, including a five-part fugue in the third movement.

The performances are top-notch throughout (clearly the performers are enjoying the task at hand), and the recorded sound is clear and consistent.

FANFARE: Michael Cameron
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Works on This Recording

Those Voices by John M. Allemeier
Performer:  Mira Frisch (Cello), Kari Giles (Violin), Erinn Frechette (Flute),
Allan Rosenfeld (Bass Clarinet), Ning Zhao (Viola)
Period: 21st Century 
Written: USA 
Dark Dances by John M. Allemeier
Conductor:  Rick Dior
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Unc Charlotte Percussion Ensemble
Period: 21st Century 
Written: USA 
Solstice by John M. Allemeier
Performer:  Michael Mosely (Double Bass), Kari Giles (Violin), Jennifer Dior (Flute),
Will Campbell (Alto Saxophone), Mira Frisch (Cello)
Period: 21st Century 
Written: USA 
4 by John M. Allemeier
Performer:  Susan Teicher (Piano), Katherine Lewis (Viola), Anna Cromwell (Violin),
Mira Frisch (Cello)
Period: 21st Century 
Written: USA 

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