RUCHMAN Cello Sonata2. Remembrance1. Flute and Piano Duet3. Lament.1 Hope.2 Kaleidoscope.1 Calm. Longing1. Variations on a Theme in F2 • Sharon RuchmanRead more (pn); 1Janet Boughton (vn); 2Mary Costanza (vc); 3Kim Collins (fl) • SHARONRUCHMAN.COM (58:15)
Sharon Ruchman is a graduate of the New England Conservatory, where she studied voice and piano. She received her master’s degree in music from Yale and started a career as a singer and a teacher. Some years later she returned to Yale to study composition. We can certainly be glad she did that, because her compositions are getting major attention and excellent reviews. Ruchman writes that one of the challenges a composer faces is making sure that the music is never totally predictable. We like to know that it’s Ruchman’s music because she has a distinctive style, but we also want to hear that each of her works is different. She says that she wants the audience to be surprised by the key she uses and how she ends her piece. She sees the need for a balance between familiarity and surprise and she succeeds admirably in this new recording. It begins with an E-Minor Cello Sonata that she plays with her familiar cello partner, Mary Costanza, who teaches at Connecticut’s Hotchkiss School. The piece opens with a charming rhythm and a singable melody that makes good use of the cello’s resonant low tones. Ruchman notes that she keeps the abilities and the instruments of her players in mind while composing, and I think she wanted to bring out the deep wine-red tone colors of this cello.
The disc is titled Remembrance because it memorializes her great uncle, violinist Rudolf Fuchs, who might have had a major career had he not died at the age of 24. The violinist who plays with Ruchman here is Janet Boughton, an English-born musician who graduated from the Royal Academy of Music in London and now teaches at Sacred Heart University in Connecticut. The pieces dedicated to Fuchs, Remembrance, Lament, and Longing, all invoke the romance and magic of the gypsy violin. Often, she puts the plaintive tones of the violin out front because she wants to shape the music and have it tell its story of love found, enjoyed, and then lost forever. At some point in our lives, we have all lost someone or something that we still long for. I love her op. 3 flute-and-piano duet with its quasi-habanera rhythm. She has fun with the rhythm and creates enchantment between the tune and the beat. Another fascinating piece is Kaleidoscope. Although it is short, it takes musical material and presents it in all sorts of new ways. She says she likes to see how many ways she can use the same melody. This is exactly what she has done in this piece. The Variations on a Theme for Cello and Piano has no stated program but seems to evoke all the emotions of a busy Saturday that is followed by a pleasant meal, entertainment, and finally sleep filled with dreams that portend many happy weekends to come.
There is a bit of breathing to be heard on two of the tracks, but I don’t think it does anything more than tell you the musicians are working hard to give you their best.