Notes and Editorial Reviews
Invention for St. Vincent in the Mezquita. Passages for Piano. Forbidden Parallels. In Winter:
Reverberations on a Theme.
Inside the Hubble Toolbox
Nicholas Phillips (pn)
ALBANY TROY1246 (57:06)
Last year, I was deeply impressed (as was my
colleague Phillip Scott) by a recording of a magnificent string quartet (
) by Ethan Wickman (b.1973) on a previous multi-composer Albany release, and I was thus excited to hear this new CD devoted entirely to Wickman’s music. Wickman holds degrees from Brigham Young University, Boston University, and the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music; he is currently on the faculty of the University of Wisconsin Eau-Claire. His music is very beautiful—filled with luminous harmonic colors and memorable ideas. His style draws equally on American neoromanticism and what I have often termed “American colorism” (typified by composers such as Joseph Schwantner and Stephen Albert).
This recording contains all of Wickman’s solo piano works to date, performed excellently by Nicholas Phillips, Wickman’s faculty colleague at Wisconsin. The pieces range in scope from the six-minute
(2005) to the extended 16-minute
In Winter: Reverberations on a Theme
(2010), a discursive set of variations on a Stephen Fosteresque theme composed by Wickman’s great-grandfather. The “period” sound of the theme is a contrast with the rest of Wickman’s more contemporary tonal language. He terms the work “reverberations” rather than variations likely because of its loose structure (almost like viewing the theme at a distance through a haze). It is perhaps a bit too long for its material, but it is mostly sweet and tender throughout.
All of the other works make a positive and immediate impression. They are concise, focused, and filled with strongly etched musical ideas.
Invention for St. Vincent in the Mezquita
(2003) is a festive interaction between original material and the C-Major prelude from Book 2 of Bach’s
Well-Tempered Clavier. Passages for Piano
(2008, rev. 2010) is delicately lyrical and expressive, with the spirit of an intermezzo. The energetic
draws its title from its use of traditionally “forbidden” musical material: parallel octaves, fifths, and tritones.
Inside the Hubble Toolbox
(2009) is a set of character pieces inspired by the final repair mission to the Hubble Space Telescope. The movements bear whimsical titles such as “all work and NO play will fix the Multi-Object Spectrometer.” It is the most dramatic music on the disc and reminds me of the work of Paul Moravec.
This is a thoroughly appealing collection of piano music from an extremely talented composer whom I will continue to follow with tremendous interest. Very enthusiastically recommended.
FANFARE: Carson Cooman
Works on This Recording
Passages by Ethan Wickman
Nicholas Phillips (Piano)
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