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Beginnings - Crumb, Kellogg / Eighth Blackbird, Chanticleer

Release Date: 05/25/2004 
Label:  Cedille Records   Catalog #: 76   Spars Code: n/a 
Composer:  Daniel KelloggGeorge Crumb
Performer:  Molly Alicia BarthNicholas PhotinosLisa Kaplan
Orchestra/Ensemble:  ChanticleerEighth Blackbird
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 0 Hours 56 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews

Daniel Kellogg's Divinum Mysterium belongs to the seemingly endless series of trendy contemporary works on spiritual themes, a school most visibly represented by composers as diverse as Olivier Messiaen, Arvo Pärt, James MacMillan, and the execrable John Tavener. Kellogg's piece purports to describe the divine act of creation through movements with titles such as "Beginnings", "The Spirit of God Moved Upon the Face of the Waters", "Light", and "Rejoicing". The work begins with a prelude consisting of the hymn Of the Father's Love Begotten (sung by Chanticleer), and its tune appears in all of the movements, effectively integrated into the discourse of each
Read more section and unifying the highly varied range of moods and materials that Kellogg deploys.

I have to confess that I find the music's spiritual pretensions completely uninteresting. From my perspective there is only good music and bad music, and the success or failure of any work is a function of purely musical considerations and not the extent to which its content conforms to a predetermined program. Considered from this viewpoint, Kellogg's music succeeds on its own terms, coming across as a fascinating combination of Olivier Messiaen and Virgil Thomson, a sort of cross between the Quartet for the End of Time and Four Saints in Three Acts. The style is fundamentally tonal and tuneful thanks to the work's foundation in its recurring hymn-prelude, while the crashing gongs, birdsong imitations in the piano, and ritualized, repetitive gestures establish its credentials as belonging to the contemporary spiritual school. It's an effective combination of elements and Kellogg exploits his sextet of players brilliantly to create an amazingly varied and wide-ranging sonic canvas.

It's interesting to note that George Crumb's Vox Balaenae (Voice of the Whale) for three masked players on electric flute, electric cello, and electric piano sounds at once more primal than Kellogg's work and more modern, with a typically astonishing variety of sounds produced by its trio of performers. Crumb places greater emphasis on the theatrical element in live performance, but the central variations sound no more like the prehistoric periods after which they are named (Paleozoic, Mesozoic, etc.) than Kellogg's music sounds like the spirit of God moving on the face of the waters. It's simply good music, as hauntingly evocative and timeless as it sounded when it was composed in 1971--and like its companion, the members of Eighth Blackbird play it with a confidence and virtuosity that silences criticism. Indeed, as with this group's first disc for Cedille, it would be difficult to imagine a more perfect combination of idiomatic interpretation and technical precision placed in the service of interesting and worthy new music.

I do have one quibble: the sonics are excellent in terms of impact and clarity, but in the wilder sections of Divinum Mysterium the percussion (which is thrillingly captured and sounds like a blast to play) dominates the texture to the detriment of the other instruments. It may well be that the composer wanted this "over-the-top" abandon at the joyful conclusion of the work, but playing this disc at a comfortable level that captures the quiet moments means that the climaxes may challenge your equipment and annoy your neighbors. On the other hand, if you're looking for a high-end demo disc that will dazzle your audiophile friends, look no farther. Put on Kellogg's finale and let it rip--but do put it on! [7/7/2004]
--David Hurwitz, ClassicsToday.com Read less

Works on This Recording

Divinum Mysterium by Daniel Kellogg
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Chanticleer,  Eighth Blackbird
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 2000; USA 
Date of Recording: 07/2002 
Venue:  Recital Hall, SUNY, Purchase 
Length: 33 Minutes 37 Secs. 
Vox balaenae by George Crumb
Performer:  Molly Alicia Barth (Electric Flute), Nicholas Photinos (Electric Cello), Lisa Kaplan (Electric Piano)
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Eighth Blackbird
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1971; USA 
Date of Recording: 07/2002 
Venue:  Recital Hall, SUNY, Purchase 
Length: 22 Minutes 28 Secs. 

Sound Samples

Divinum Mysterium: Prelude
Divinum Mysterium: I. Beginnings
Divinum Mysterium: II. The Spirit of God Moved Upon the Face of the Waters
Divinum Mysterium: III. Light
Divinum Mysterium: IV. Rest
Divinum Mysterium: V. Rejoicing
Vox Balaenae (Voice of the Whale): Vocalise (...for the beginnig of time)
Vox Balaenae (Voice of the Whale): Variations on Sea-Time: Sea Theme
Vox Balaenae (Voice of the Whale): Variations on Sea-Time: Archeozic
Vox Balaenae (Voice of the Whale): Variations on Sea-Time: Proterozoic
Vox Balaenae (Voice of the Whale): Variations on Sea-Time: Paleozoic
Vox Balaenae (Voice of the Whale): Variations on Sea-Time: Mesozoic
Vox Balaenae (Voice of the Whale): Variations on Sea-Time: Cenozoic
Vox Balaenae (Voice of the Whale): Sea-Nocturne (...for the end of time)

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