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Paul Paccione: Our Beauties Are Not Ours

Paccione / Pacicone / Perron
Release Date: 02/09/2010 
Label:  New World Records   Catalog #: 80706  
Composer:  Paul Paccione
Performer:  Molly PaccioneJenny PerronNurit TillesMichael Campbell,   ... 
Conductor:  James Stegall
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Western Illinois University Singers
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
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Notes and Editorial Reviews

PACCIONE Rhapsody. 1 Stations—To Morton Feldman. 2 Inscape. 3 A Page for Will. 4 3 Motets: Arabesques. 5 5 Songs from Christina Rossetti. 6 Planxty Cage: Postlude 7 Read more class="SUPER12">1,5,6 Molly Paccione (cl); 1 Jenny Perron, 2 Michael Campbell (pn); 3 James Stegall, cond; 3 Western Illinois University Singers; 4,7 Nurit Tilles (pn); 6 Terry Chasteen (ten); 6 Moisés Molina (vc); 6 Andrea Molina (pn) NEW WORLD 80706-2 (57:02)

In his program notes, composer Paul Paccione states flatly that “there are no angry pieces” in his output. He won’t get any arguments from me on that point, nor on his observation that lyricism and sonority are central themes of his work. These signature traits might suggest a sameness to the works, but in fact the variety on this disc is noteworthy, and an unknowing listener might not guess that they are all by the same composer. The only puzzler in the notes is the observation that Anton Webern has had “a strong impact on his compositional thought.” Granted, Webern often argued that his music was essentially “lyrical,” but most believe this to be a provocative statement meant to prod musicians into stripping away traditional notions of “vocalisms” in music.

Notes and self-descriptions aside, I would describe most of these pieces as hewing to one of two modes of conception. The first (and the one I find most engaging) takes some cues from Morton Feldman and perhaps a touch of the underrated Brit Howard Skempton. In the case of the exquisite Three Motets: Arabesques for four prerecorded clarinets, he draws on techniques adapted from Medieval or Renaissance counterpoint. One expects the flow of the placid music to eventually take on some direction, but it stubbornly maintains a low dynamic level, glacial rhythmic activity, and linear structure. Here the composer’s interest in maintaining and celebrating a “certain sonority” is fully realized.

The brief A Page for Will for piano is likewise persistently calm, but with an undercurrent of gentle ostinati that bear a remote kinship with minimalism. The other piano work is the Postlude, an airy, improvisational miniature. Again, the calm of Feldman is present, as is perhaps a distant hint of Satie. These are both performed with sensitivity by the estimable Nurit Tilles.

Rhapsody for clarinet and piano maintains a modal, pastoral serenity throughout, with a steady, comforting accompaniment with a hint of Copland viewed through a spectrum of minimalism. The choral work Inscape: Three Chorale Settings from Gerard Manley Hopkins has a similar tone, though the texture alternates clearly between homophony and counterpoint. Harmonies are a bit more lush and romantic (colored with occasional gentle dissonances), and, in a particularly American choral manner, phrase endings are often distilled to a simple diad.

The ardent Five Songs from Christina Rossetti is in a similar vein, with Terry Chasteen as the expressive and clear-toned tenor, and idiomatic support provided by clarinetist Molly Paccione, cellist Moisés Molina, and pianist Andrea Molina. The prominence of the clarinet in this disc is no accident. Molly Paccione’s arching lyricism is the perfect vehicle for the composer’s creations. In short, this is music that is consistently compelling, and often extraordinarily moving.

The performances are uniformly fine, and some of the instrumental soloists rise to level of first rank. Recording standards are top-notch, and remarkably uniform given the multiple sites and audio engineers. Given the music’s character, there might have been a temptation to add excessive bloom. This was wisely avoided.

FANFARE: Michael Cameron
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Works on This Recording

Rhapsody by Paul Paccione
Performer:  Molly Paccione (Clarinet), Jenny Perron (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 2005 
Inscape by Paul Paccione
Conductor:  James Stegall
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Western Illinois University Singers
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 2007 
A Page for Will by Paul Paccione
Performer:  Nurit Tilles (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 2003 
Stations "To Morton Feldman" by Paul Paccione
Performer:  Michael Campbell (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1987 
Songs (5) from Christina Rossetti by Paul Paccione
Performer:  Terry Chasteen (Tenor), Molly Paccione (Clarinet), Moisés Molina (Cello),
Andrea Molina (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 2003 
Postlude from Planxty Cage by Paul Paccione
Performer:  Nurit Tilles (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1993/1994 
Motets - Arabesques (3) by Paul Paccione
Performer:  Molly Paccione (Clarinet)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1999 

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