WGBH Radio WGBH Radio theclassicalstation.org

Scenes From A New Music Seance

Smith / Hauer / Cowell / Amirkhanian / Stenberg
Release Date: 10/30/2012 
Label:  Other Minds Records   Catalog #: 1019   Spars Code: n/a 
Composer:  Ronald Bruce SmithJosef Matthias HauerCharles AmirkhanianRuth Crawford Seeger,   ... 
Performer:  Kate StenbergEva-Maria ZimmermannCharles Amirkhanian
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 1 Hours 15 Mins. 

In Stock: Usually ships in 24 hours.  

Notes and Editorial Reviews

SCENES FROM A NEW MUSIC SÉANCE Kate Stenberg (vn); Eva-Maria Zimmermann (pn); Charles Amirkhanian (dr 1 ) OTHER MINDS 1019 (75:09)

BRUCE Tombeau. HAUER Five Pieces for Violin and Piano: Jazz. COWELL Violin Sonata: Ballade. Read more class="COMPOSER12">AMIRKHANIAN Rippling the Lamp. CRAWFORD Sonata for Violin and Piano. ANTHIEL 1 Sonata No. 2 for Violin, Piano, and Drums. HOVHANESS Khirgiz Suite. GUDMUNDSEN-HOLMGREEN Double. NEUBERG Nonette. CHRISTIANSEN Der Arkadiske

This disc is something of an homage by Other Minds, the San Francisco-based modern-music series. It juxtaposes works by living composers who have been showcased at their concerts with the music of earlier composers who worked on the fringe. But of course, an album’s concept and whether or not it contains interesting and/or arresting performances are two different issues, and I’m glad to say that the duo who play on this CD are not only first-rate technically but get under the skin of the music. For me, personally, the most interesting piece was Jazz by Austrian composer Josef Matthias Hauer (1883-1959), who apparently disputed the invention of the 12-tone row with Arnold Schoenberg. As was usual for German “jazz” composers of the 1920s, the rhythm is more ragtime, the melodic structure convoluted and lacking swing, but it is an interesting piece. By comparison, George Anthiel’s Sonata for Violin, Piano, and Drums, though again rooted in 1920s jazz (in fact, it was written in 1923, so predates Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue ) has a much better feel for American rhythms, at one point sounding like a cakewalk and at other times like real jazz of the period (which, if he were going by records, consisted mostly of the Original Dixieland Jazz Band, perhaps the New Orleans Rhythm Kings, King Oliver’s Creole Jazz Band, and a few James P. Johnson records—most of the other “jazz” of the period was produced by commercial white bands led by Sam Lanin or Paul Whiteman—thus Anthiel’s accomplishment here is fascinating). I didn’t hear any drums for the first part of the sonata, though just before they enter the pianist is called on to pound the bass keys in an ostinato rhythm that is tremendously effective.

Charles Amirkhanian’s Rippling the Lamp, which receives its first recording here, is an immensely interesting piece that seems to morph and weave its way through a mere 7:40 and grabs the listener’s attention from start to finish. The composer says that one of his influences was a one-movement violin concerto by Swiss composer Willy Burkhard “that somehow reminded me of the modal music of Lou Harrison.” Here, the live violin merges with pre-recorded overlaid violin drones, “then moves away from them in major and minor turns” with occasional short quotes from the Burkhard concerto. It should also be noted that the “live” violin part is only partially composed; some of it is improvised by the performer.

Ruth Crawford, nowadays better known by her married name of Seeger, gave up a well-established career as the only female American composer to write modern or atonal music to dig into reviving forgotten American folk music with her stepson Pete. This fascinating and diverse Violin Sonata is an excellent example of her work, conveying moods as well as a sharp musical mind. Compared to some of the music in this set, Hovhaness could almost sound conventional, but the duo selected his Khirgiz Suite which was composed in 1951 using Armenian folk rhythms and harmonies as its base rather than his usual largely tonal models.

Pelle Gudmundsen-Holmgreen (b. 1932) went through many stages and styles of composition. Initially, he was a neo-Stravinskian; then he converted to serialism around 1960; moved away from serialism in 1968 towards a style he called “new simplicity,” which consisted of repetitions to illustrate absurdities. The notes claim that his many influences include Baroque music, Pygmy music, jazz, plainchant, the sounds of everyday life, and the writings of Samuel Beckett. As Gudmundsen-Holmgreen describes it, Double uses mirror-image rhythms and melodic fragments between the two instruments, sometimes in imitation of each other and at other times in juxtaposition.

Amy X. Neuberg’s Nonette is the only piece that was actually commissioned for this CD. It consists of eight pre-recorded channels of violin music to which a live ninth voice is added. Neuberg, who is also a singer, states that she has always been fascinated by the vocal quality of strings, and fascinated by the sound of layered voices. Nonette is harmonically modern and multitonal but rhythmically based on jazz and rock music. These driving rhythms ebb and flow from different locations using different mixtures of the pre-recorded violin: sometimes in counterpoint, sometimes in unison, and sometimes chordally. The instrument is also made to perform a wide range of technical effects, including ponticello, sul tasto, and pizzicato, as well as scratches and slides.

The final piece, Der Arkadiske, was written by Henning Christiansen (1932-2008) in 1966. Although not described as such in the notes, this piece is definitely minimalist—so much so, in fact, that I had to look twice at the notes and jewel box insert to convince myself that I was indeed listening to a piece from the mid 1960s. Never mind the claim that the violin emulates folk fiddling; pay attention, rather, to the description of the piano playing “an insistent minimalist pulse.” I wonder if Christiansen’s music influenced Terry Riley, who is usually credited as “the father of minimalism?” Riley’s profile on Wikipedia gives no mention of Christiansen, only the influence of Indian classical music and the jazz groups of John Coltrane, Miles Davis, and Charles Mingus. Ironically, the piece ends once the ostinato piano part ceases!

This is a great find, and an album of modern music with much to offer. The sheer eclecticism and diversity of styles presented here certainly indicate that there is so much modern music, and so many different flavors of it, that one can dine from this musical smorgasbord for years and never experience the same taste twice. Highly recommended.

FANFARE: Lynn René Bayley
Read less

Works on This Recording

Tombeau for violin & piano by Ronald Bruce Smith
Performer:  Kate Stenberg (Violin), Eva-Maria Zimmermann (Piano)
Written: 2006 
Venue:  Skywalker Soudn, Nicasio, CA 
Length: 5 Minutes 58 Secs. 
Rippling the Lamp, for violin & pre-recorded media by Charles Amirkhanian
Performer:  Kate Stenberg (Violin)
Written: 2006-2007 
Date of Recording: 10/2010-12/2010 
Venue:  Studio of Amy X Neuburg, Oakland, Califo 
Length: 7 Minutes 45 Secs. 
Sonata for Violin and Piano by Ruth Crawford Seeger
Performer:  Eva-Maria Zimmermann (Piano), Kate Stenberg (Violin)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1926; USA 
Venue:  Skywalker Soudn, Nicasio, CA 
Length: 14 Minutes 10 Secs. 
Khirgiz Suite, Op. 73 by Alan Hovhaness
Performer:  Eva-Maria Zimmermann (Piano), Kate Stenberg (Violin)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1951; USA 
Venue:  Skywalker Soudn, Nicasio, CA 
Length: 5 Minutes 48 Secs. 
Double, for violin & piano by Pelle Gudmundsen-Holmgree
Performer:  Kate Stenberg (Violin), Eva-Maria Zimmermann (Piano)
Venue:  Skywalker Soudn, Nicasio, CA 
Length: 5 Minutes 17 Secs. 
Nonette for violin & pre-recorded media by Amy X Neuburg
Performer:  Kate Stenberg (Violin)
Written: 2010 
Length: 4 Minutes 7 Secs. 
Den arkadiske (The Arcadian), for violin & piano, Op. 32 by Henning Christiansen
Performer:  Kate Stenberg (Violin), Eva-Maria Zimmermann (Piano)
Written: 1966 
Venue:  Skywalker Soudn, Nicasio, CA 
Length: 10 Minutes 24 Secs. 
Violin Sonata: Ballade by Henry Cowell
Performer:  Kate Stenberg (Violin), Eva-Maria Zimmermann (Piano)
Period: Modern 
Written: 05/29/1945 
Venue:  Skywalker Soudn, Nicasio, CA 
Length: 3 Minutes 4 Secs. 
Sonata, for violin, piano & drums No. 2, W. 131 by George Antheil
Performer:  Charles Amirkhanian (), Eva-Maria Zimmermann (Piano), Kate Stenberg (Violin),
Charles Amirkhanian (Drums)
Period: Modern 
Written: 1923; United States of Ame 
Venue:  Skywalker Soudn, Nicasio, CA 
Length: 8 Minutes 17 Secs. 
Pieces (5) for Violin and Piano, Op. 41: Jazz by Joseph Matthias Hauer
Performer:  Kate Stenberg (Violin), Eva-Maria Zimmermann (Piano)

Customer Reviews

Be the first to review this title
Review This Title