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American Classics - Wuorinen: Tashi, Percussion Quartet, Etc

Release Date: 06/26/2007 
Label:  Naxos   Catalog #: 8559321   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Charles Wuorinen
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Group for Contemporary MusicNew Jersey Percussion Ensemble
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 1 Hours 8 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews

WUORINEN Tashi. 1 Percussion Quartet. 2 Fortune 1 The Group for Contemporary Music; 1 New Jersey Percussion Ens 2 NAXOS 8.559321 (67:44)

This is a tremendous disc of music of real importance. Originally issued on Koch International Classics in 1994, the price reduction that Read more comes along with anything on the Naxos label makes this an urgent purchase for all followers and, indeed, lovers of contemporary music. The standard of both performance and of recording is stunningly high throughout. There are two earlier issues of Wuorinen on Naxos in the Fanfare archives, including a brass-dominated disc reviewed by Peter Burwasser in Fanfare 29:6 and a more string-centric offering covered by Eric Bruskin in Fanfare 30:4.

Tashi of 1975 is heard here in its chamber version (there is also a version for ensemble with orchestra). There are five movements, of which the second and fourth are Interludes. These Interludes are easily identified aurally by their less rigorous, less intense nature. Wuorinen’s penchant for intellectual, hard-hitting, uncompromising expression is fully present and correct in the three odd-numbered movements, however. As the opening statement of Hayes Biggs’s booklet notes rightly aver, “Charles Wuorinen writes virtuoso music for virtuoso performers.” The Group for Contemporary Music is fully equipped for all challenges—a glance through the individual players’ biographies confirms the pedigree in evidence here (the listing includes cellist Fred Sherry, whose name has been linked with many a stimulating new-music recording). The writing of Tashi is very active and very complex, so much so that one gets the impression that to own this disc one should be a virtuoso listener also. The playing is beyond criticism, as is the spirit. The three hyper-intense movements do not let go for an instant, culminating in the angular finale. The two Interludes provide a certain amount of respite without letting the tension drop: the first is energetic but less in-your-face than movement 1; the second affords more suspense than relaxation.

The Percussion Quartet (1994) finds Wuorinen playing with his ensemble so that various identifiable groups can emerge and play off each other. There is no doubting the composer’s imagination here, both metrically and timbrally. Beauty finds a place in Wuorinen’s vocabulary as well, in no uncertain terms. Again, performance and recording are of the very highest standard.

Finally, Fortune , a work commissioned for Bonn’s Beethovenfest of 1980. The two movements (“Before” and “After”) are here performed without break. The first part seems to inhabit the hypnotically monumental world of late Beethoven string quartet slow movements, accelerating in its own good time. Working with the material of the first part, the second makes a return eventually to the extroversions of Tashi . It is a gripping score (as are all three on this disc).

I mentioned Hayes Biggs’s booklet notes before, and would like to further commend him for suggesting listening strategies for the newcomer to this music, which, on first appearance must be decidedly intimidating. The whole product is to be applauded, and those who missed these performances first time round should not hesitate.

FANFARE: Colin Clarke
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Works on This Recording

Tashi by Charles Wuorinen
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Group for Contemporary Music
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1975; USA 
Length: 30 Minutes 57 Secs. 
Percussion Quartet by Charles Wuorinen
Orchestra/Ensemble:  New Jersey Percussion Ensemble
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1993-1994; USA 
Length: 18 Minutes 25 Secs. 
Fortune by Charles Wuorinen
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Group for Contemporary Music
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1979; USA 
Length: 18 Minutes 23 Secs. 

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