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Triumvirate: 3 Composers, 3 Concertos, 3 World Premiers / Russell, ProMusica Chamber Orchestra

Promusica Chamber Orch / Han / Russell
Release Date: 08/09/2011 
Label:  Summit Records   Catalog #: 573   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Gabriela Lena FrankLera AuerbachJoan Tower
Performer:  Wu HanDavid FinckelPaul Neubauer
Conductor:  Timothy Russell
Orchestra/Ensemble:  ProMusica Chamber OrchestraBorremeo String Quartet
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
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Notes and Editorial Reviews



FRANK Compadrazgo. AUERBACH Fragile Soliloquies (Shadowbox). TOWER Purple Rhapsody Timothy Russell, cond; Pro Musica CO; David Finckel (vc); Wu Han (pn); Borromeo Str Qrt; Paul Neubauer (va) SUMMIT DCD 573 (69:15)


This is the sort of project that is sometimes sunk by overambition and good intentions, but happily, all the participants here pull it off smartly. The concept is Read more three female composers, two highly successful early in their careers, one an established authority. These are paired with great performers, though interestingly two pieces take the concerto concept and make it more of a concerto grosso (Frank with cello-piano duo, Auerbach with string quartet).


Gabriela Lena Frank (b.1972) evokes her Latin American heritage (though her parents also bring Chinese and Lithuanian blood into the mix) in Compadrazgo (2006), a four-movement work. This is the most ambitious work of the three, personal and imaginative. The Peruvian folk-music reference is clear throughout, but the piece never sounds merely ethnographic. I am particularly struck by the intensity of the third movement, which is a “solo” for the duo. My only criticism concerns the outer movements, in particular the first, where the cello writing, while never unheard because of balance problems, nevertheless seems a little more like that of a violin transposed downward: Its bouncing rhythmic figures don’t feel as though they have enough time to resonate, the way a higher-register instrument would be able to. But that’s a minor quibble; the piece has infectious energy and drive throughout.


Lera Auerbach (b.1973) is a Russian-American composer who’s been getting wide exposure recently, and it comes in part because she’s an obviously multi-gifted artist, not only a composer but a pianist and a published poet. Her Fragile Soliloquies (Shadowbox) (2008) is exceptional for its sound. Auerbach approaches orchestration from the standpoint both of shifting chamber ensembles and lush tutti , and the result is always bejeweled. The work begins in a world I’d call Szymanowskian, but when the tempo picks up the sound becomes distinctly Stravinskian. In particular, it’s the “romantic” neoclassical Stravinsky of The Fairy’s Kiss that I hear referred to most strongly. The ending, with its gradual subtraction of instruments and sounds until we reach the threshold of nothingness, is well paced and haunting.


Finally Joan Tower (b.1938) gives us a viola concerto, Purple Rhapsody (2005). This is the only work on the program not commissioned by Pro Musica (though I think all the pieces are recorded premieres). Like much of her music, it’s direct, muscular, tuneful. Bartók is an honored ancestor, but the composer can’t hide her American rhythmic roots (nor should she!). Soloist Paul Neubauer is the dedicatee, and obviously owns the piece.


This is a great release. The orchestra under Timothy Russell sounds both exact and sumptuous. Recorded sound is luxuriant. The Pro Musica Chamber Orchestra is based in Columbus, Ohio (disclosure: in the distant past it played a work of mine), and it reminds us of how much superb music-making and adventurous spirit there is in the region too many coastal folk regard as flyover territory. Bravo to all concerned.


FANFARE: Robert Carl
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Works on This Recording

1.
Compadrazgos by Gabriela Lena Frank
Performer:  Wu Han (Piano), David Finckel (Cello)
Conductor:  Timothy Russell
Orchestra/Ensemble:  ProMusica Chamber Orchestra
Period: 21st Century 
Written: USA 
2.
Fragile Solitudes - Shadowboxes for String Quartet and Orchestra by Lera Auerbach
Conductor:  Timothy Russell
Orchestra/Ensemble:  ProMusica Chamber Orchestra,  Borremeo String Quartet
Period: 21st Century 
Written: USA 
3.
Purple Rhapsody by Joan Tower
Performer:  Paul Neubauer (Viola)
Conductor:  Timothy Russell
Orchestra/Ensemble:  ProMusica Chamber Orchestra
Period: 21st Century 
Written: USA 

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