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American Vistas - Corigliano, Amlin, Gaburo, Blake, Cowell, Copland, Etc / Mimmi Fulmer, Leone Buyse

Release Date: 03/10/2009 
Label:  Albany Records   Catalog #: 1097   Spars Code: n/a 
Composer:  John CoriglianoMartin AmlinKenneth GaburoBraxton Blake,   ... 
Performer:  Mimmi FulmerLeone Buyse
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 0 Hours 56 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews

AMERICAN VISTAS Mimmi Fulmer (sop); Leone Buyse (fl, a fl); Martin Amlin (pn); 1 Scott Gendel (pn); 2 Michael Webster (cl) 3 ALBANY TROY 1097 (56:18 Text and Translation)

CORIGLIANO 3 Irish Folksong Settings. AMLIN 2 Songs on Poems of Anne Read more Fessenden. 1 GABURO Cantilena 1. BLAKE 3 Songs on Poems by Marianne Moore. COWELL I Heard in the Night. SHAPEY Lullaby. GENDEL Patterns. 2 STALLMANN Lumina II. BOSCH In the Meantime. COPLAND As It Fell upon a Day 3

This is a welcome addition to a rarefied repertoire, though it makes such a good argument for the medium of voice and flute, that one wonders why there’s not so much more music written for it. The pieces fall into two paired categories: (1) music by masters (all but one deceased), and that by younger composers, and (2) works with a more modernist bent, and those rooted in tonality and folksong. The two overlap throughout, and provide some surprises along the way.

Most of the older composers tend to write in a more lyrical style, even those with fearsome avant-garde reputations. Aaron Copland’s 1924 trio is actually a piece from his studies with Nadia Boulanger, and has a neo-Classical sound that may suggests both more archaic models and Stravinsky as reference points. Henry Cowell’s setting comes from later in his life, when he was enamored of the widest range of world musics, and has a Celtic tinge. In a similar vein, John Corigliano’s settings of Irish folksongs is extremely clever, in that at least some of the vocal lines must be his own invention (for example, one of the texts is by Yeats), yet they sound absolutely of the tradition. He is also ingenious in the way he assigns the voice clean and pure tonal lines, and then adds ornament and harmonic variety via counterpoint with the flute. Kenneth Gaburo (1926–1993) was famous as one of the most adventurous experimental multimedia composers, yet his work for solo voice from 1951 is achingly simple and direct. And Ralph Shapey (1921–2002), though his piece is on the surface atonal, is also very lyrical. The intervals are constantly changing from the most consonant to dissonant, yet they suggest a mysterious function, and there’s a smoothness to the interaction of the lines that makes for an effect that’s genuinely soothing, while also a little spooky.

Of the younger composers, all write naturally for the voice, but two strike me more strongly, one of them particularly so. Martin Amlin (b. 1953) wrote his trio in 1997; the composer is at the piano, and alto flute is Buyse’s instrument here. It never quite takes off for me, though the ending is lovely. There’s too much of a recitando approach to the settings to allow the thematic profile that I desire to emerge. The Marianne Moore settings by Braxton Blake (b. 1954) are pleasingly concise, but I find their writing for flute far more inventive and memorable than for the vocal line, which seems almost like an accompaniment, or afterthought, to the instrument. Scott Gendel (b. 1977) creates a little mini-monodrama in his 2003 setting of Amy Lowell’s poem about a woman’s discovery of the wartime death of her fiancé. At times it feels a little arch to me in its deliberate, very British restraint of emotion (that is all too evidently seething beneath the surface), but it also shows great dramatic instincts, and one is compelled to follow its story to the end. (On a side note, its piano-writing—the composer is again at the keyboard—strikes me as harp-like, and it might be interesting to have an alternate version of the piece for that instrumentation).

The big discovery for me is Maura Bosch (b. 1956). Her three settings from 2005 of poems by Jim Moore have an almost perfect balance between the voice and flute, both in terms of sound and function. Each line has a distinct character and memorable ideas. There’s an expressive and lyrical impulse that gives each song a clear shape and distinctive tone. I’d love to know more of this composer’s work, and it’s always a pleasure to discover someone of such quality that wasn’t on one’s radar before.

I find the two principal performers excellent advocates for this music. Fulmer strikes me as slightly more a mezzo, in that her voice is most pleasing to me in its lower and darker register. But she handles everything with aplomb, and her diction is excellent. Buyse is quite immaculate in her playing, attentive to every nuance. I’m not blown away by Kurt Stallmann’s (b. 1964) solo flute piece from 2003 (it feels a little like an odd man out in this program, and might shine better in a different context), but that reaction has nothing to do with this musician’s excellent performance.

Only Copland, Corigliano, and Cowell have been recorded earlier, so this is largely a disc of premieres. Again, it suggests this is a medium that composers should explore more frequently, as it deserves a rich and plentiful repertoire.

FANFARE: Robert Carl
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Works on This Recording

Three Irish Folk Songs by John Corigliano
Performer:  Mimmi Fulmer (Soprano), Leone Buyse (Flute)
Period: 20th Century 
Songs (2) on Poems of Anne Fessenden by Martin Amlin
Performer:  Mimmi Fulmer (Soprano), Leone Buyse (Flute)
Period: 20th Century 
Cantilena One by Kenneth Gaburo
Performer:  Leone Buyse (Flute), Mimmi Fulmer (Soprano)
Period: 20th Century 
Songs (3) on Poems by Marianne Moore by Braxton Blake
Performer:  Mimmi Fulmer (Soprano), Leone Buyse (Flute)
Period: 20th Century 
I heard in the night by Henry Cowell
Performer:  Leone Buyse (Flute), Mimmi Fulmer (Soprano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1956; USA 
Lullaby by Ralph Shapey
Performer:  Mimmi Fulmer (Soprano), Leone Buyse (Flute)
Period: 20th Century 
Patterns by Scott Gendel
Performer:  Mimmi Fulmer (Soprano), Leone Buyse (Flute)
Period: 20th Century 
Lumina 2 by Kurt Stallman
Performer:  Mimmi Fulmer (Soprano), Leone Buyse (Flute)
Period: 20th Century 
In the Meantime by Maura Bosch
Performer:  Mimmi Fulmer (Soprano), Leone Buyse (Flute)
Period: 20th Century 
As it fell upon a day by Aaron Copland
Performer:  Leone Buyse (Flute), Mimmi Fulmer (Soprano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1923 

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