Notes and Editorial Reviews
Across the Horizons
J. Karla Lemon, cond; Fresh Ink Players;
ALBANY 1004 (62:53)
6 Pictures from The Devil in the Flesh
Marc-André Hamelin (pn);
Charles Ullery (bn);
Jody Karin Applebaum (sop)
ALBANY 665 (62:11)
Gregory Fulkerson (vn);
Carmeron Grant (pn);
Erica Kiesewetter (vn);
Jonathan Spitz (vc)
CENTAUR 2598 (62:52)
35:1, I reviewed a disc of Orchestra 2001 that contained
The River Within
by Jay Reise, stating that the “composer has created a most moving work of considerable substance, leaving me desirous of hearing much more of his work.” They say that one should be careful of what one wishes for: Now I have in hand no fewer than
discs devoted to his music, two on the Albany label and one on Centaur. Dare I say that after hearing these three, I desire to hear even
of his music? Reise has full command of the expressive freely tonal musical language of the late 20th and early 21st centuries that has been adopted to a greater or lesser degree by many of the major talents of our era, encompassing composers from Adams to Zaimont. Reise retains a distinctive voice in this style. Much of his music is mathematically derived, sometimes from a series of diminutions according to mathematical sequences. His music also exhibits in his fast movements an abundance of rhythmic vitality, with the melodic line thrown all over the place in joyous fashion. Many of his titles refer to some aspect of rhythm (
Yellowstone Rhythms, Rhythmic Garlands, Sonata Rhythmikosmos
), and rhythm seems indeed to be the basic foundation upon which Reise constructs his musical edifices in his works after about 1990. Indeed, the exploration of rhythm inspired by his study of Indian music has helped him develop his own system of rhythmic modulation, about which more below. His music is imbued with a vital life force, and one can easily understand why it has attracted stellar performers like pianists Marc-André Hamelin, Jerome Lowenthal, and Charles Abramovic, violinist Gregory Fulkerson, the Leonardo Trio, the Philadelphia Orchestra, and many others.
written for Lowenthal, who performs it here, was not at all the kind of piece I was expecting from the title. Most of its mood is gentle and reflective, although dramatic climaxes are achieved at several points. Rhythms come to the forefront most obviously only during these more dramatic sections. The title is derived from the Indian
a garland of ragas, and is intended to suggest treatment of rhythmic figures as themes and motives, much as melodic material is treated in other works. Similarly, the generally more active
draw their inspiration from a sort of counterpoint of rhythm, where various rhythms are superimposed in “harmonic” ways to reach “cadential” arrival points. The use of
in both titles is meant to suggest the fact that the “music of the spheres” (cosmos) is essentially rhythmic in nature and reflects, as Reise puts it, “the mystery of the musical mind as we create and experience musical expression—a kind of emotional tone-painting through the senses.” It might sound complicated, but it all makes for very convincing listening.
is cut from the same material as the duo and trio on the Centaur disc. It spins out its material from shifting metrical patterns and textures in its attempt to synthesize several three-movement Scarlatti-inspired sonatas into one 15-minute structure.
Six Pictures from The Devil in the Flesh
pays homage both to Hamelin (its dedicatee) and to an opera of the same name that Reise never wrote when funding fell through. The spirits of Bartók and Crumb (with whom Reise studied) hover not too distantly from these works. Hamelin brings off both of his solo works as beautifully as can be imagined, negotiating some diabolically tricky rhythms along the way, and proves a most sensitive accompanist (a role I do not recall hearing him in previously) in the bassoon and vocal works.
is a short character piece for bassoon and piano. In some ways, it is the most straightforward piece in this collection. Charles Ullery plays with skill, but his tone is a bit dry, and his vibrato slightly too wide for my tastes. I should note that he does a remarkable job in negotiating a bassoon part that ascends to F in altissimo.
for soprano and piano is the only vocal work included among these three CDs. It strikes a meditative mood, with the piano interjecting notes in pointillistic fashion that contribute to the mood being depicted. The vocal line seems curiously detached from what the piano is doing throughout the work. In Zen Buddhist writings,
describes the point of enlightenment when one can look simultaneously in two directions, beholding for instance finitude and infinitude. Jody Karin Applebaum does a masterly job in varying her vocal production from a vibratoless white color to a richer, hue-ridden timbre.
A second CD from Albany is titled simply
, and contains three such works by Reise. The first of these,
Across the Horizons,
is cast in three movements, each of which makes reference to images of intellectual travel (“Reise” in German means “travel” or “journey”). The first movement, “En route,” takes the listener from the busyness of everyday life to a state of meditative tranquility. The calm second movement, “Lo Haze,” is meant to portray a sensual land- or seascape setting. The work concludes with “Approaching the Edge,” which picks up where the opening movement left off in vigor and vitality, and ends firmly in A Minor.
is a miniature chamber concerto constructed for flute, clarinet, violin, cello, piano, and percussion, the instrumentation (with added percussion) of Schoenberg’s
which served as a model of sorts for Reise’s work. The effect of the piece is meant to suggest solitude, meditation, the vastness of space, and the general milieu of sounds associated with the night. The style of the work is very free, with figures appearing seemingly at random in the various instruments. Yet the work coheres and makes a powerful impression.
The CD concludes with
a 24-minute, one-movement string quartet, written in memory of the founding cellist, Anna Cholakian, of the Cassett Quartet. In it, the composer hearkens back to Schoenberg once again, this time to his
although without the latter’s programmatic associations. There are three linked moods—Capriccio (fanciful and whimsical), Barcarolle (lilting), and Elegy (slow and lyrical)—which recur several times during the course of the work. The Cassett Quartet plays with sublime expressiveness and impeccable ensemble—any composer hearing them will want to write them a work.
These works are uniformly impressive achievements of a significant composer on the American scene, and I hope that anyone interested in the music of our time will check them out. Performances throughout are excellent, and the erudite and informative notes on Albany 665 and the Centaur disc are written by
own Peter J. Rabinowitz. All three discs are strongly recommended.
FANFARE: David DeBoor Canfield
Works on This Recording
Duo Rhythmikosmos by Jay Reise
Gregory Fulkerson (Violin),
Charles Abramovic (Piano)
Period: 20th Century
Written: 1994; USA
Rhythmic Garlands by Jay Reise
Jerome Lowenthal (Piano)
Period: 20th Century
Written: 1992; USA
Trio Rhythmikosmos by Jay Reise
Erica Kiesewetter (Violin),
Jonathan Spitz (Cello),
Cameron Grant (Piano)
Period: 20th Century
Written: 1994; USA
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