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Paul Lansky: Etudes And Parodies, Etc

Release Date: 03/13/2007 
Label:  Bridge   Catalog #: 9222   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Paul Lansky
Performer:  Curtis MacomberWilliam PurvisMihae LeeDavid Starobin,   ... 
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 1 Hours 5 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews

LANSKY Etudes and Parodies. 1 Semi-Suite. 2 Ricercare Plus 3 William Purvis (hn); 1 Curtis Macomber (vn); 1 Mihae Lee (pn); 1 David Starobin (gtr); 2 Brentano Str Qrt 3 Read more class="BULLET12b">• BRIDGE 9222 (64:51)

In his booklet note, composer Paul Lansky refers to the three pieces on this disc as “the fruits of my second compositional childhood.” After working more or less exclusively in the realm of computer music for decades, Lansky was approached by his record producer (who also happened to be David Starobin, virtuoso guitarist and avid commissioner of new work) for a short guitar piece to include in a dance-themed album. Lansky had been spending his time “learning how to scale an oscillator and normalize the amplitude of a two-pole feedback filter in Fortran IV” (don’t worry, he writes like this only to frighten us), but he turned back to the guitar, an instrument he had played in his youth, and soon expanded the dance piece into Semi-Suite . The string quartet Ricercare Plus was subsequently composed on commission from the Brentano String Quartet, and the trio suite Etudes and Parodies was written to coincide with the composer’s 60th birthday in 2004 (French horn was Lansky’s main instrument in his younger days). He found a new delight in simply writing the dots and letting live musicians provide color and nuance; perfectly understandable, considering the reputation of the musicians concerned. The result combines a lifetime of sonic experience with the freshness and excitement of a youngster flexing his compositional muscles. Lansky’s “analog” music is not particularly dense or dissonant, nor is it computer-like in matters of superhuman complexity or dynamic extremes; rather, it is concise and gentle, designed to explore the personalities of the instruments and show off the skills of the players. Like his note-writing style, Lansky’s music is smart, personal, often witty, always ingratiating, and thoroughly enjoyable.

Etudes and Parodies , for horn, violin and piano, is in seven movements with clever, rather self-deprecating titles: “Tongue Tied,” “Been Here Before,” and so on. Each one neatly showcases a facet of the horn’s technical repertoire, such as moto perpetuo scales (“Make It Short”), long held pure tones (“Call Me”) or a rich, lyrical line (“Pavane Noire”). These so-called parodies are not mere pastiche, the titles notwithstanding. In “Call Me,” for example, the horn has to feel its way through to a lyrical melody, besieged by a series of ideas in the piano part, succeeding and imitating each other in a way that suggests a computer’s “random” function. There is a journey involved. A bluesy strut infuses “Been Here Before,” and similar stylistic references occur throughout the work without ever dominating Lansky’s epigrammatic individuality.

The references in Semi-Suite are to Baroque dance forms such as the courante, sarabande, etc. Here Lansky’s idiomatic writing for the instrument truly impresses: this is a work many guitarists should take up. The slower movements like “Aimless Air” and “Shameless Sarabande” (again with the witty titles!) court popularity by employing harmonies commonly heard in the jazz world, primarily flattened sixth and major seventh chords. Finally, a sombre and archaic tone permeates the outer movements of the string quartet Ricercare Plus , while the longer central movement (the “Ricercare” itself) contains Lansky’s most contrapuntally and harmonically complex music on the disc.

This CD is beautifully recorded, and all these first-class performers make the most of music that was written specifically for them. If Lansky’s computer-generated output is as tightly realized and as attractive as this, bring it on! Several albums of the latter are also available from Bridge.

FANFARE: Phillip Scott
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Works on This Recording

Etudes and Parodies by Paul Lansky
Performer:  Curtis Macomber (Violin), William Purvis (French Horn), Mihae Lee (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 2004; USA 
Semi-Suite for Guitar by Paul Lansky
Performer:  David Starobin (Guitar)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1998; USA 
Ricercare Plus by Paul Lansky
Performer:  Michael Kannen (Cello), Misha Amory (Viola), Serena Canin (Violin),
Mark Steinberg (Violin), Brentano String Quartet ()
Period: 20th Century 
Written: USA 
Notes: Composition written: USA (2000 - 2004). 

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