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Rubin: A Waltz Through The Vapor

Rubin / Justin / Mccright / Matthew
Release Date: 02/26/2013 
Label:  Innova   Catalog #: 847  
Composer:  Justin Rubin
Performer:  Matthew McCrightJefferson CampbellGene KoshinskiTracy Lipke-perry,   ... 
Number of Discs: 1 
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Notes and Editorial Reviews

RUBIN Night Song for Noa. 1 Bagatelles for Bassoon and Marimba 2. Nostalgia 3. Variations on “Nun komm’, der Heiden Heiland 4”. Récitative Styrienne 5. Il momento lussureggiante per tre musicisti 6. Boutadettas 7. Nouveaux Estampies Read more class="SUPER12">8. Un piccolo duetto di basso 9. Hocket in Your Pocket 10. Un temps calme 11 1-3,5,7-11 Jefferson Campbell (bn); 1,4,6,8 Patrick O’Keefe (cl); 1,3,4,6,7 Shannon L. Wettstein (pn); 2,6,10 Gene Koshinski (perc); 9 Josh Aerie (vc); 11 Samuel Black (org) INNOVA 738 (69:47)

RUBIN The Still Waters of Sagamore Hill 1. Piano Album 2008 1. Lullaby for Max 1. Musical Specimen 2. Variations on “There Were Three Ravens 3”. Sonata for Violoncello and Piano 4. A Waltz Through the Vapor 1. Waltz 4 1 Matthew McCright, 3,4 Alexander Chernyshev, 2 Tracy Lipke-Perry (pn); 2 Jefferson Campbell (bn); 4 Betsy Husby (vc); 2 Gene Koshinski (mmb); 3 Lorie Scott (fl) INNOVA 847 (71:42)

An accomplished keyboard artist, Justin Rubin started his professional work as an organist and choir director in his native New York, where he began composing for the choir and instrumental ensembles. During this same period, he also served as pianist for ST-X, an ensemble specializing in the music of Xenakis, and appears on two of their recordings. In contrast to the demanding music he has undertaken as a performer, his own work is mostly tonal, often modal. It is accessible without being predictable, warmly expressive, and generally lyrical. Influences are eclectic, including the French impressionists, the 20th-century French avant-garde, American pioneer Charles Ives, and German neobaroque, all with an underlayment of the technical rigor of the modernists. The latter was mastered, one would assume, while under the tutelage of Richard Cameron-Wolfe, while he polished his more tonal technique while studying for his doctorate in music with composer Daniel Asia.

Since 2005, a faculty position at the University of Minnesota Duluth has provided him the opportunity to write for talented colleagues whose strengths and tastes he knows well. Nostalgia (2009), the earlier of the two Innova CDs, focuses on the collaboration with University of Minnesota, Duluth, bassoon professor Jefferson Campbell. Night Song for Noa for bassoon, clarinet, and piano exudes an Eric Satie-like quirkiness, while the Bagatelles for Bassoon and Marimba explore this unusual sonority in four contrasting movements. The bassoon and clarinet duo is revisited in Nouveau Estampies , a faux baroque dance suite of gentle charm with a concluding fugue. In Nostalgia for bassoon and piano, the composer weaves a rich impressionistic tapestry of piano sound around the melancholy melodic line sung by the bassoon, while in Récitative Styrienne the bassoon fends for itself—quite expressively—in the extremes of its range. The four Boutadettas —don’t pull out the dictionary, as Rubin made up the term from “boutade” meaning “capricious”—are four character pieces that give Jefferson further opportunity to show off his lyric gifts. The last three works for bassoon are the most imaginative combinations: Un piccolo deutto di basso has the bassoon in a Shostakovich-tinted conversation with the cello, Hocket in Your Pocket takes the Bagatelles a step further as the bassoon is counterpointed most humorously by a whole battery of percussion, and—in the most substantial work on the disc— Un temps calme has the bassoon meditating against a Messiaen-like background of organ sonorities. Commingled with the works for bassoon are a pair of works for clarinetist Patrick O’Keefe: a Hugo Distler-inspired set of variations on the Lutheran Advent hymn tune Nun komm’, der Heiden Heiland , and a delicately atmospheric chaconne for clarinet, vibraphone, and piano called Il momento lussureggiante per tre musicisti.

The more recent CD, A Waltz Through the Vapor , highlights Rubin’s piano works performed by Minneapolis-based artist, Matthew McCright. The major work on the disc, Piano Album 2008 , brings together five pieces which Rubin describes as “the heart of the album.” Assumedly to demonstrate the flexibility of the grouping, the pieces are spread throughout the program and played out of sequence. These are undoubtedly the most demanding of the items on this disc: more dissonant and in the first piece, Con serietà , rather relentless in its insistence on the pitch of F. I actually appreciated the work more when I programed the tracks in sequence and followed the lightening and darkening of the mood and tonality as it progressed. The Still Waters of Sagamore Hill revisits fondly the youthful talks between Rubin and his father while walking on the grounds of Theodore Roosevelt’s home. Ives seems the model, appropriately as The Alcotts was a favorite of his father. Lullaby for Max , Rubin’s son, is more about the frustrations of getting a child to settle down than a traditional lullaby, while A Waltz through the Vapor recalls another walk, this one around the hallways of University of Minnesota, Duluth, as the composer contemplated all who had preceded him there. All of these works are played by McCright with élan and affection. There are, as well, Rubin’s deliciously droll Musical Specimen for bassoon and marimba—but joined this time by piano—as a sampler of his “favorite timbres,” a clever and moving set of variations on the Elizabethan song The Three Ravens for flute and piano, and for cello and piano, a vigorous and rather forbidding sonata and a decidedly romantic waltz in Russian style.

In all, these two discs offer a varied and consistently engaging pair of programs. Sound varies. Both CDs were recorded at Sacred Heart Studios, a desanctified cathedral in Duluth with a daunting four-second decay. Night Song for Noa and Un temps calme get a bit lost in the reverberation and end up with too little definition of space around the instruments. The other pieces are more closely miked with much better instrumental placement and presence, but at the cost of mechanical noises. Another small quibble: The piano bass notes seem a bit overmiked on the earlier release. The presentation is nicely done, with notes by the composer and artist biographies. Rubin, a talented visual artist as well, has also provided the paintings on the covers, discs, tray inserts, and booklets of these two releases. Not surprisingly, his graphic-arts influences parallel the musical influences: art deco, impressionism, and geometric abstraction.

FANFARE: Ronald E. Grames
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Works on This Recording

The Still Waters of Sagamore Hill by Justin Rubin
Performer:  Matthew McCright (Piano)
Piano Album 2008 by Justin Rubin
Performer:  Matthew McCright (Piano)
Lullaby for Max by Justin Rubin
Performer:  Matthew McCright (Piano)
Musical Specimen by Justin Rubin
Performer:  Jefferson Campbell (Bassoon), Gene Koshinski (Marimba), Tracy Lipke-perry (Piano)
Variations on There Were Three Ravens by Justin Rubin
Performer:  Laurie Scott (Flute), Aleander Chernyshev (Piano)
Period: Contemporary 
Written: United States 
Sonata for Cello and Piano by Justin Rubin
Performer:  Aleander Chernyshev (Piano), Betsy Husby (Cello)
A Waltz Through the Vapor by Justin Rubin
Performer:  Matthew McCright (Piano)
Waltz for Cello and Piano by Justin Rubin
Performer:  Aleander Chernyshev (Piano), Betsy Husby (Cello)

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