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Judith Shatin: Tower Of The Eight Winds

Shatin / Borup-ernst
Release Date: 06/29/2010 
Label:  Innova   Catalog #: 770   Spars Code: n/a 
Composer:  Judith Shatin
Performer:  Hasse BorupMary Kathleen Ernst
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Borup-Ernst Duo
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 1 Hours 9 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews

SHATIN Icarus. Penelope’s Song. Tower of the 8 Winds. Widdershins. Fledermaus Hasse Borup (vn); Mary Kathleen Ernst (pn) INNOVA 770 (69:03)

Judith Shatin is a professor at the University of Virginia where she founded and directs the Virginia Center for Computer Music. A glance at her Web site shows a substantial body of electroacoustic music and one such work, Penelope’s Song , appears on this CD. This is a tribute to the wife of Odysseus, who, according Read more to Homer’s epic, spent 20 years waiting for her husband to return from the Trojan wars. Every day she would work on a shroud for her father-in-law and every night she would unravel what she had woven. Shatin places the violin against an electronic part derived from recordings of a real weaver working at her looms. These sounds have then been shaped by computer to produce something that to non-weavers still appears loom-like. At the start, the electronic part is highly rhythmic and jaunty—something of a contrast to Icarus, which it follows on the disc—accompanying a lively and purposeful violin part. In the middle section, the repetitive clatter of the looms is replaced by long-held, echoey timbres that set off rhapsodic writing for the violin. The idea of night following day is unmistakeable, and the transition back to day for the close of the work is very imaginatively done. Not being expert on the sound of looms, I am assuming that the composer has used them imaginatively; certainly, throughout, the electronic part is interesting. It does, however, feel as if it were a composed accompaniment to the violin part, rather than being an equal player. I do not have a sense of interaction between the two such as occurs in, say, Stockhausen’s Kontakte.

Icarus (1984) takes for its inspiration the story of Icarus, who, with his father, famously fashioned wings of feather and wax but, ignoring his father’s advice, flew too close to the sun; the wax melted, and Icarus fell to earth. In four movements, each reflecting on an aspect of the story, this is a strong work. The movements are “Majestic,” “expressing the will to break barriers”; “Delirious,” suggesting “the complex relationships between father and son”; “Serene,” “conveying the floating quality of flight”; and “Wild,” which “shivers with the violence of effort and the catharsis of the plunge.” The writing is appropriately pictorial. But, just as the composer’s descriptions of the movements (just quoted) do not quite fit the titles chosen for them, so the music is not a banal representation, but something altogether more complex and interesting.

Nonetheless Icarus could be somewhat difficult to get into, and the title work, Tower of the Eight Winds (2008) is an excellent place for the fainthearted to start this CD. Shatin clearly looks for inspiration in more or less abstract images and concepts that she then illuminates and illustrates, somewhat elliptically. Here, Tower describes winds—only four, disappointingly—highly characterized both in textual description and in the music this evokes. This work encapsulates Shatin’s ability to create well-defined, imaginative structures and to develop her ideas with clarity and vigor.

Widdershins (1983) is a short sonata in three movements for piano solo. Taking its title from an obscure (in the U.S.) word meaning a course contrary to the apparent motion of the sun, anticlockwise, or generally contrary, the work offers a commodity often absent in recent music: energy. Both the first movement, titled “Energetic,” and the last, “Savage,” have a welcome dynamism and terseness. Even the middle movement, “Tranquil,” is no slouch.

The fantasy on themes from Die Fledermaus, which closes the disc, is something of a surprise after the vigor of much that has gone before. The well-known tunes from Johann Strauss’s operetta are lightly commented on in a piquant way that is perhaps underemphasized in the duo’s somewhat straight-faced reading. The players attack all five works with gusto and would appear to have completely mastered them. The performances are excellent and recording is exemplary. Recommended.

FANFARE: Jeremy Marchant
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Works on This Recording

Icarus, for violin & piano by Judith Shatin
Performer:  Hasse Borup (Violin), Mary Kathleen Ernst (Piano)
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Borup-Ernst Duo
Length: 15 Minutes 7 Secs. 
Penelope’s Song by Judith Shatin
Performer:  Hasse Borup (Violin), Mary Kathleen Ernst (Piano)
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Borup-Ernst Duo
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 2004/07 
Length: 9 Minutes 7 Secs. 
Tower of the Eight Winds, for violin & piano by Judith Shatin
Performer:  Hasse Borup (Violin), Mary Kathleen Ernst (Piano)
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Borup-Ernst Duo
Length: 15 Minutes 33 Secs. 
Widdershins, for violin & piano by Judith Shatin
Performer:  Hasse Borup (Violin), Mary Kathleen Ernst (Piano)
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Borup-Ernst Duo
Length: 8 Minutes 37 Secs. 
Fledermaus, for violin & piano (after Strauss) by Judith Shatin
Performer:  Mary Kathleen Ernst (Piano), Hasse Borup (Violin)
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Borup-Ernst Duo
Length: 18 Minutes 29 Secs. 

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