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Slices - A Cross-section Of Classical Works For Small Ensemble

Burns / Moravian Philharmonic Winds / Muzik
Release Date: 07/31/2012 
Label:  Navona   Catalog #: 5874   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Reynard BurnsLionel SainsburyHakan SundinHans Bakker,   ... 
Performer:  Vit MuzikMarta TalabovoJaneček, AlešYhasmin Valenzuela,   ... 
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Moravian Philharmonic Winds
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
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Notes and Editorial Reviews

SLICES: A Cross-Section of Classical Works for Small Ensemble Moravian PO Winds; Vit Mužik (vn); Christina Rusnak (pn) NAVONA 5874 (54:32)

BURNS Carnival. SAINSBURY Soliloquy. SUNDIN Daugava. BAKKER Duo for Viola & Clarinet. BEELER Read more class="ARIAL12bi">Cadenzas. Flute, Clarinet, Viola & Piano Quartet No. 2. RUSNAK Kyripo. FLETCHER Avalokiteshvara’s Taxi

What a delightful disc this is! Eight light, buoyant, but well-written pieces, Slices is one of those discs guaranteed to lighten your mood without presenting you with “classics lite.” The wind music, in fact, puts me in mind of such groups as the New York Woodwind Quintet or the Marlboro Festival wind ensembles when they were in a light-hearted mood. Moreover, such moments as Lionel Sainsbury’s Soliloquy for solo violin, the central movement of Hans Bakker’s Duo for Violin and Clarinet, Alan Beeler’s Cadenzas, and the second movement of the same composer’s quartet for flute, clarinet, viola, and piano have more musical and/or emotional depth, which provides an interesting and effective contrast with the neighboring works. In fact Cadenzas, though inspired by and written somewhat in the style of John Cage, is a more thorough composition than the sly satirist of classical music. (Yes, I’ve long considered Cage to be a satirist, subtler but equally effective in his own way as Peter Schickele’s P.D.Q. Bach pieces.)

The one performance on this disc that poses a logistics problem for me is Christina Rusnak’s solo piano piece, Kyripo, not because it is uninteresting or difficult to decipher, but because there is no indication on either the CD container or the booklet (more on that in a moment) as to who is playing it. I have tentatively ascribed the performance to Rusnak herself, not only because she wrote the liner note on this piece but because Karolina Rojahn, identified as pianist on virtually every other piece in which she participates, is not credited here. Regardless, this is the emotional pivot of this CD. Though only a little under five minutes, this piece’s strong rhythmic base and even stronger emotion belies its formalism. Rusnak describes Kyripo beginning as an improvisation, eventually evolving into “a balance of contrasting lyricism and gesture. While the tonic strongly suggests Phrygian mode, the triadic implications of the various modes is intended to engage the listener and keep the piece from conforming to its expected idioms,” which is a convoluted, university-influenced way of saying that the music veers around its expected course and keeps interest up. Much more to my taste are the liner notes of William A. Fletcher on his wind quartet, Avalokiteshvara’s Taxi: “I am dubious of art that needs to be explained. … I write music for my own intellectual stimulation, entertainment, and emotional expression. I hope these qualities are obvious, and of value to the listener as well.” Right on! As it turns out, Avalokiteshvara’s Taxi is another light piece, tonal but with constantly shifting harmonies as well as refracted melodic and rhythmic motifs passed around among the four instruments (flute, oboe, clarinet, and bassoon).

Now for the liner notes, et al. This is one of those very clever CDs that includes not only the booklet, but also the scores of each and every piece, as data tracks on the disc. I’m not crazy about having the liner notes set up that way—I prefer to read them in a hand-held booklet—but you can always insert each image into a Word document, rearrange them two to a page, and print them out as a booklet if you wish. As for the scores, they are handy to have. Also included on the disc are two video tracks that are completely superfluous, two guys (probably the engineers) sitting around in a control booth reading a score and listening to playbacks. Is there, really, anything in the world less interesting than this to watch? If so, I’d appreciate suggestions. Just put them in an envelope marked “Slices,” no address, and hope they get there! All kidding aside, however, this is a splendid CD, and the performances by all concerned are first-rate.

FANFARE: Lynn René Bayley
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Works on This Recording

Carnival by Reynard Burns
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Moravian Philharmonic Winds
Soliloquy by Lionel Sainsbury
Performer:  Vit Muzik (Violin)
Daugava by Hakan Sundin
Performer:  Marta Talabovo (Flute), Janeček, Aleš (Clarinet)
Duo for Violin and Clarinet by Hans Bakker
Performer:  Vit Muzik (Violin), Janeček, Aleš (Clarinet)
Cadenzas by Alan Beeler
Performer:  Yhasmin Valenzuela (Clarinet), Karolina Rojahn (Piano), Mark Berger (Viola),
Lisa Hennessy (Flute)
Quartet for Flute, Clarinet, Viola and Piano no 2 by Alan Beeler
Performer:  Yhasmin Valenzuela (Clarinet), Karolina Rojahn (Piano), Mark Berger (Viola),
Lisa Hennessy (Flute)
Kyripo by Christina Rusnak
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Moravian Philharmonic Winds
Avalokiteshvara's Taxi by William A. Fletcher
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Moravian Philharmonic Winds

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