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Spelunk - Premieres For Clarinet / Hurd, McMillen, Gonzalez-Palmer, Macomber

Bolcom / Hause / Gould / Hurd
Release Date: 03/09/2010 
Label:  Msr   Catalog #: 1314  
Composer:  William BolcomMorton GouldEvan HauseAlan Shulman,   ... 
Performer:  Maureen HurdBlair McMillenMaureen Hurd
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
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Notes and Editorial Reviews

SPELUNK: Premieres for Clarinet Maureen Hurd (cl); Blair MacMillan 1 , Barbara Gonzalez Palmer (pn 2 ); Curtis Macomber (vn 3 ) MSR MS1314 (60:27)

BOLCOM 1 Little Suite of Four Dances. 1 Concert Piece. Read more class="COMPOSER12">HAUSE Spelunk. 1, 3 Labyrinth of Flames. 1 Sunken City. SHULMAN 2 Rendezvous. STARER 2 Elegy. M. GOULD Recovery Music

Well, you learn something new every day. To this Englishman, the word “spelunk” was completely unknown. According to Merriam-Webster online it means “cave” (from the Latin, apparently). Spelunk , the work, is one of three by Evan Hause on this disc, which includes eight works by five American composers in a varied and well-recorded recital by Maureen Hurd.

Hause, born in 1967, studied percussion as well as composition. His Web site catalogs an array of works that seem to indicate a preference for the dramatic, as those on this disc illustrate.

Spelunk , for unaccompanied clarinet, is intended as a “virtuoso showpiece” specially written for Maureen Hurd, his wife, and, as a consequence, we can be confident the performance is both informed and committed. It is certainly assured and convincing. This latter adjective is, I think, necessary because Hause describes his work as a “cave exploration,” and that sense of exploration and improvisation (not that I believe any of it was actually improvised) can inevitably create a challenge for the new listener. Although it is formally a rondo, Hause successfully disguises the structure in favor of telling a story about a character visiting a number of caves before deciding it is prudent to find the way out.

This dramatic sense—of having a narrative to relate—coupled with an exploratory feeling to the music certainly characterizes Hause’s other two works on this disc. Hause describes Sunken City , for clarinet and piano, as “exploring the unknown.” This time it is a reworked setting of a poem, Diving into the Wreck , whose title presumably makes clear what is unknown. I thought we left the submarine passages rather early and, without the text (and presumably Hause doesn’t want us to relate the work to the poem too closely), it wasn’t always possible to relate to “some mystical truth long forgotten.”

Labyrinth of Flames , for violin, clarinet, and piano, is much clearer. Like a rollercoaster, it shifts us in three sections over seven minutes through some highly con fuoco , vigorous music, via a passage that Hurd describes in the booklet as an “inexorable downward-moving march” but which, in all honesty, I hear as a charming dance that seamlessly transitions to a powerful climax, emphasizing the violin, before dissolving into a final brief section of twitterings.

William Bolcom’s Concert Piece is the longest work on the disc. An early work (he was 21 when he wrote it in 1959), it makes an interesting contrast with Hause’s music. By setting his sights lower—his response to the then-perceived pressure to write in a serial style is light and engaging—I feel he more fully realizes his objectives than does Hause. The energy one hopes a 21-year-old has is continually manifest and this is a very attractive piece.

In the brief Little Suite of Four Dances (1984), which acts as a bonne-bouche to the recital, Bolcom exhibits a mastery of popular idioms. Brevity is, as they say, the soul of wit, and all four pieces are consistently droll. Listen to the end of the first piece and the first measures of the second, for example. By placing these dances first, the record producer successfully draws in the listener to the more challenging companion works.

Just room for a quick mention of Morton Gould’s Recovery Music . Three movements in four minutes, which wisely leave the audience wanting more. As does this CD.

FANFARE: Jeremy Marchant
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Works on This Recording

Little Suite of Four Dances by William Bolcom
Performer:  Maureen Hurd (E-flat Clarinet), Blair McMillen (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1984; USA 
Concert Piece for Clarinet and Piano by William Bolcom
Performer:  Maureen Hurd (Clarinet), Blair McMillen (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1959; USA 
Recovery Music by Morton Gould
Performer:  Maureen Hurd (Clarinet), Blair McMillen (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1984; USA 
Spelunk by Evan Hause
Performer:  Maureen Hurd (Clarinet)
Sunken City by Evan Hause
Performer:  Maureen Hurd (Clarinet)
Labyrinth of Flames by Evan Hause
Performer:  Maureen Hurd (Clarinet)
Rendezvous by Alan Shulman
Performer:  Maureen Hurd (Clarinet)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: USA 
Elegy by Robert Starer
Performer:  Maureen Hurd (Clarinet)

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