RUCHMAN Piece for cello and piano. Sea Glass. Awakening. Day at Play, Day’s End. Promise. Acceptance. 3 Pieces for String Quartet. Translucence • Mary Costanza (vc); Alyce Cognetta Bertz, Katie Hyun, Momoko Matsumura (vn); Ah Young Sung (va); Mihai Marica (vc); Kim Collins (fl); Janet Rosen (ob); Thomas Labadorf (cl); Kirsten Peterson (bn); Sharon Ruchman (pn) • sharonruchman.com (no number) Available at sharonruchman.com (69:15)
Read more Sharon Ruchman has a long musical history, but not all of it has been devoted to composition. A graduate of the New England Conservatory of Music, she went on to Yale for graduate school but spent much of that time as a singer and pianist. She has sung in several major choruses including those associated with the Cleveland and Philadelphia orchestras. She has also taught music in the Connecticut public schools. In 2006, she returned to Yale to study composition and she has been devoting her time to composing ever since. On her website she writes, “There are so many styles of music by great composers that have inspired me and have allowed me to consider the myriad ways to make a composition interesting.” That serves to warn the prospective listener that Ruchman does not feel a need to compose music that falls into step with a particular style because it is in vogue. In many ways, the music she composed for this disc has much in common with the styles of a century ago. Although she seems an unabashed melodist, the above quote may indicate that she has a tendency to employ more than one style of composition.
The Piece for Cello and Piano, played by Mary Costanza and Ruchman, starts out with a Brahms-like sound. The cello gets the singable melody first, then the piano. Ruchman develops the theme in a 19th-century manner. All goes well until the cellist hits a squally high note at the end of the first movement. The second movement is well played and has some interesting double-stopping. The piece ends as smoothly as a perfect summer day. Sea Glass starts off with a soft cello high note that is not totally secure but goes on to describe the calm sea with a catchy melody. Ruchman uses the extremes of the cello’s range, and that is definitely 20th- and 21st-century-style music. Costanza’s instrument sounds best in its midrange, unfortunately. Awakening is a string quartet in three movements. Violinists Alyce Cognetta Bertz and Katie Hyun weave their lines in and out of the lower tones played by violist Ah Young Sung and cellist Mihai Marica. Ruchman gives us rich, close harmonies here. The Three Pieces for String Quartet features the same players with the exception of second violinist Hyun, who is replaced by Momoko Matsumura. The harmonies are similar but somewhat more dramatic as time goes on. A foot-stomping folk dance ends the quartet section with a flourish.
Day at Play, Day’s End is a calming piece with close flute, clarinet, oboe, and bassoon harmonies that attempt to beckon the sleep deity. Promise, a piece for solo piano, and Acceptance for piano and cello would seem to indicate daydreams and loss of expectation. Here they are molded into music that expresses the fullness of ongoing life with its forward motion. The disc concludes with Translucence for cello and orchestra, again with Costanza, who is not asked to hit the highest possible notes this time and plays her part with exquisitely bronzed tones. This piece also ends with a memorably rhythmic tune. Ruchman’s piano is always the perfect conversationalist in this musical discourse. The compact disc was recorded at three different venues in Connecticut and is not always as crystalline as I might like, but it is clear and the recording is a most interesting example of new music for the 21st century.