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Amy Williams: Crossings / Jacob, Jack Quartet, Bugallo-Williams Duo

Williams / Bugallo-williams
Release Date: 05/14/2013 
Label:  Albany Records   Catalog #: 1415   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Amy Williams
Performer:  Amy WilliamsJeffrey Jacob
Orchestra/Ensemble:  JACK QuartetBugallo-Williams Piano Duo
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
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Notes and Editorial Reviews

A. WILLIAMS Richer Textures 1. Brigid’s Flame. Falling 2. Astoria 3. Crossings. Abstracted Art 4. Cineshape 2 1,2 1 JACK Qrt; 2 Amy Williams (pn); 3 Jeffrey Jacobs Read more (pn); 4 Bugallo-Williams Duo (pn) ALBANY 1415 (58:17)

It seems that Pittsburgh has a very fertile new music scene, at least on the basis of my listening during this review cycle. Along with Eric Moe (see earlier in this issue) Amy Williams lives there and seems to be thriving artistically. Williams is also a very serious pianist, and half of the Bugallo-Williams duo, leading practitioners of that medium. She’s featured in several works on this program.

Rather than give a blow-by-blow account of these works, I’d prefer to make a few more general comments on William’s music, with supporting examples. While I might not yet recognize a new work of hers “cold,” there are distinguishing strengths that I suspect will only grow more so with time as she continues to write.

Richer Textures (2011) for string quartet is exactly that. Williams has a great ear for fresh, varied, and incisive fields of sonic events. Each one of the work’s seven movements has an “iconic” profile that performs the same role as a good motive or hook. (They’re based on Gerhard Richter paintings, both abstract and landscapes, a fertile stimulus). I find her imaginative ear engaging throughout, especially in the skittery fifth movement, which has a sort of string sound I’ve never heard before.

Williams also has a great rhythmic sense. The work she performs with the JACK, Cineshape 2 (2007) has a jagged, choppy feel, but it’s never ragged. Just the opposite; the precision of the piano and quartet ensemble (largely rhythmic unison with very tricky rhythms) is exciting and kept me on the proverbial seat’s edge. The work is based on the structure of Mike Figgis’s film Time Code , and that source (with its four split screens) gives the music its unusual flow and form.

These qualities blend over into the composer’s piano music, though there’s more diversity here. The string works tend to emphasize a sort of intense, cutting Modernist edge (invigorating, by the way, not abrasive), but the piano works show more expressive and stylistic range. Brigid’s Flame (2009) and Falling (2011) are more lyrical in nature. Astoria is based on a Piazzolla tango, and has a similar rhythmic intensity to Cineshape 2. Of the two works for piano duo, Crossings (2009) feels more formalistic in its gradual accumulation of rising and falling lines, and Abstracted Art (2001–02), in two movements, is quite jazzy, though in the spirit of very contemporary progressive jazz; there’s no easy-listening here. Williams cites Art Tatum recordings as inspiration, and that’s a tall order, but I think her music honors that source.

Overall I hear a composer who has a sharp, clear, and always logical ear, but also great intuitive musicality that keeps things from ever getting too dry. I really look forward to hearing more of her work. For the record, the JACK Quartet is Christopher Otto and Ari Streisfeld, violins; John Pickford Richards, viola; and Kevin McFarland, cello. Helena Bugallo is the other half of the piano duo. The performances are just stunning.

FANFARE: Robert Carl
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Works on This Recording

Richer Textures by Amy Williams
Orchestra/Ensemble:  JACK Quartet
Period: 21st Century 
Written: USA 
Brigid's Flame by Amy Williams
Performer:  Amy Williams (Piano)
Period: 21st Century 
Written: USA 
Falling by Amy Williams
Performer:  Amy Williams (Piano)
Period: 21st Century 
Written: USA 
Astoria, for piano by Amy Williams
Performer:  Jeffrey Jacob (Piano)
Period: 21st Century 
Written: USA 
Crossings by Amy Williams
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Bugallo-Williams Piano Duo
Period: 21st Century 
Written: USA 
Abstracted Art by Amy Williams
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Bugallo-Williams Piano Duo
Period: 21st Century 
Written: USA 
Cineshape 2 by Amy Williams
Orchestra/Ensemble:  JACK Quartet
Period: 21st Century 
Written: USA 

Sound Samples

Richer Textures: I. -
Richer Textures: II. -
Richer Textures: III. -
Richer Textures: IV. -
Richer Textures: V. -
Richer Textures: VI. -
Richer Textures: VII. -
Brigid's Flame
Abstracted Art: No. 1
Abstracted Art: No. 2
Cineshape 2

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