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Music Of Ursula Mamlok Vol 1 - Woodwind Quintet, Oboe Concerto, Etc / Yoo, Ohlsson, Et Al

Release Date: 06/09/2009 
Label:  Bridge   Catalog #: 9291   Spars Code: n/a 
Composer:  Ursula Mamlok
Performer:  Garrick OhlssonTony ArnoldClaire ChaseHeinz Holliger,   ... 
Conductor:  Scott YooJames Avery
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Odense Symphony OrchestraDedalus String QuartetSurPlus Ensemble,   ... 
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 1 Hours 12 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews

MAMLOK Concertino. 1 2000 Notes. 2 String Quartet No. 1. 3 Haiku Settings. 4 Oboe Concerto. 5 Designs. 6 Woodwind Qnt 7 Scott Yoo, cond; 1 James Avery, Read more cond; 5 Garrick Ohlsson (pn); 2 Tony Arnold (sop); 4 Claire Chase (fl); 4 Heinz Holliger (ob); 5 David Bowlin (vn); 6 Jacob Greenberg (pn); 6 Odense SO; 1 Daedalus Qrt; 3 Ens SurPlus; 5 Windscape 7 BRIDGE 9291 (72:20)

Composer Ursula Mamlok’s career profile could be said to align perfectly with the stereotypical American academic formula. She immigrated from Berlin in 1939; her career in the 1950s began with works in a neo-Classical style, but quickly assumed the serial mantle after studies with Stefan Wolpe and Ralph Shapey, among others. The seven works on this disc (Volume 1 of a series in progress) provide examples from nearly five decades of a fruitful career during which women faced an uphill battle for acceptance in a male-dominated field.

The Woodwind Quintet from 1956 is an impressive early accomplishment, with a hint of Stravinsky and the French neo-Classicists, yet already rigorously atonal. The first work composed during her studies with Shapey in 1962 was Designs , for violin and piano. Shapey’s influence is palpable, although in places this two-movement work bears many of the hallmarks of the early serial works of Webern and Schoenberg, including motives that turn back on themselves. Her First String Quartet dates from later the same year, but is quite different in mood. The first two movements are dense and aggressive, the four voices studiously independent except for a few united passages at key structural points.

A prime example of the clarity of her style and the comprehensibility of her rhetoric is 2000 Notes for piano, even as her language is studiously atonal, favoring intervals with little or no tonal implications. Most individual movements on the disc are brief, particularly so in the compelling Haiku Settings from 1967. The Oboe Concerto is perhaps the most engaging work from this collection. Mamlok doesn’t generally call for extended techniques from the instruments she employs, but the commission from oboist Nora Post clearly pushed her out of her comfort zone.

Though Mamlok is a composer whose music is not commonly encountered in recital, this disc boasts performers from the highest rank. Oboist Heinz Holliger and pianist Garrick Ohlsson are as commanding as ever, while soprano Tony Arnold and flutist Claire Chase comprise a vibrant and compelling duo. The Daedalus Quartet and Windscape are new to me, but their performances are sure-footed and convincing, as are those of violinist David Bowlin and pianist Jacob Greenberg.

When a critic labels a composer “academic,” it is nearly always intended as a pejorative, calling to mind certain stereotypes and absolving the accuser from digging deeper into the substance of the music. While some may have this kneejerk reaction to Mamlok’s music, the variety, craft, and lucidity of her work demand closer inspection. If you care about American music of the past few decades, you owe it to yourself to give her work a shot.

FANFARE: Michael Cameron
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Works on This Recording

Concertino by Ursula Mamlok
Conductor:  Scott Yoo
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Odense Symphony Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1984 
2000 Notes by Ursula Mamlok
Performer:  Garrick Ohlsson (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Quartet for Strings no 1 by Ursula Mamlok
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Dedalus String Quartet
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1962/63 
Haiku Settings by Ursula Mamlok
Performer:  Tony Arnold (Soprano), Claire Chase (Flute)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1967 
Concerto for Oboe by Ursula Mamlok
Performer:  Heinz Holliger (Oboe)
Conductor:  James Avery
Orchestra/Ensemble:  SurPlus Ensemble
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1976 
Designs by Ursula Mamlok
Performer:  David Bowlin (Violin), Jacob Greenberg (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1962 
Quintet for Winds by Ursula Mamlok
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Windscape
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1956 

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