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Sonic Flight - Michael Cunningham


Release Date: 06/17/2008 
Label:  Mmc Recordings   Catalog #: 2169   Spars Code: n/a 
Composer:  Michael G. Cunningham
Performer:  Ondrej Lébr
Conductor:  Kirk TrevorVit Micka
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Slovak Radio Symphony OrchestraMoravian Philharmonic Orchestra
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 1 Hours 9 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews



CUNNINGHAM Violin Concerto. 1 Dialogue. 2 Diaphony. 3 Wakefield Autumn. 2 Kaleidoscope. 4 Venus and Adonis 4 Kirk Trevor, cond; 1,3,4 Vit Micka, cond; 2 Ond?ej Read more Lébr (vn); 1 Slovak RSO; 1,3,4 Moravian PO 2 MMC 2169 (69:06)


Michigan-born composer Michael G. Cunningham is no stranger to the MMC catalog. I am assuming the performance of Wakefield Autumn is the same as that my colleague William Zagorski reviewed in Fanfare 30:1. The present release, actually entitled, “Sonic Flight,” is essentially a showcase. The cover design is clever, with the fingerboard of the violin photographed as if it were an aeroplane winging its way off into a blue sky.


The long, flowing lines of the Violin Concerto speak of a strong lyrical undercurrent. Cunningham is blessed with an excellent soloist, Ond?ej Lébr, who clearly is blessed with an ability to bring out the more dynamic passages (as in those towards the end of the concerto) as well as the purity of tone and integrity of phrasing so necessary to the preservation of the overall legato feel.


The Violin Concerto dates from 1994–95. It is back to 1959 for the sinfonia concertante-like Dialogue for Orchestra and Wind Trio . The warmth of the harmonies remains the same, though. The trio of flute, clarinet, and bassoon is a most sociable, polite one, with the three instruments spending their solo time engaged in conversation with one another. The ending is, as the composer says, “more of irony than of resolution,” and it took him a full 43 years to compose a balancing piece, Diaphony (2003). Excellent that they can now be heard back-to-back, of course. Diaphony , more immediately active, calls on the Baroque ritornello process and is absolutely delightful as well as successfully fulfilling its function as Dialogue ’s alter ego. A pity the wind soloists are unnamed, as they are all equally marvelous.


Wakefield Autumn (1992) progresses from a point of dripping stasis—by which I mean quiet percussion (woodblocks?) drip sound against an unmoving sonic background. Inspired by a small town in Michigan that the composer has never seen, but has been told (repeatedly) about by a friend, this is a true American pastorale. Cunningham’s writing is always beautiful here, invoking his imagined landscape. Kaleidoscope (2003) plays with expectations. A piece of this title might be expected to be bright and glittery, but actually it begins rather suavely and is definitely of serious intent. There is some insecurity in the Slovak orchestra’s upper strings, a shame as the wind and brass are absolutely rock solid in delivery.


In terms of duration, the most substantial item here is the ballet score Venus and Adonis (1989, lasting 22:23). Intended for either classical ballet or modern dance, it is actually the most convincing work on the disc, exhibiting a sure sense of flow. The lyricism of the Violin Concerto is here again, but it is clothed in more delicate garb. The spirit of Ravel is frequently invoked. The Slovak RSO plays with much intensity, as if it realizes the import of what it plays. The effect of the single-line theme that emerges after an insistent climax around the 18-minute mark is most telling.


Recommended, primarily for Venus.


FANFARE: Colin Clarke
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Works on This Recording

1.
Concerto for Violin by Michael G. Cunningham
Performer:  Ondrej Lébr (Violin)
Conductor:  Kirk Trevor
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Slovak Radio Symphony Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1995; USA 
Length: 15 Minutes 10 Secs. 
2.
Wakefied Autumn, Op. 151 by Michael G. Cunningham
Conductor:  Vit Micka
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Moravian Philharmonic Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1992; USA 
Length: 9 Minutes 48 Secs. 
3.
Dialogue by Michael G. Cunningham
Conductor:  Vit Micka
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Moravian Philharmonic Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Length: 8 Minutes 20 Secs. 
4.
Diaphony by Michael G. Cunningham
Conductor:  Kirk Trevor
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Slovak Radio Symphony Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Length: 5 Minutes 54 Secs. 
5.
Kaleidoscope by Michael G. Cunningham
Conductor:  Kirk Trevor
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Slovak Radio Symphony Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Length: 6 Minutes 44 Secs. 
6.
Venus and Adonis by Michael G. Cunningham
Conductor:  Kirk Trevor
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Slovak Radio Symphony Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Length: 22 Minutes 24 Secs. 

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