Notes and Editorial Reviews
Paul Lansky is best known as a successful and innovative creator of electronic music, and I say this as someone who normally detests that particular medium. If he can write masterpieces using computers, just imagine what he can do with real instruments and “carbon-based life forms,” as he wittily puts it. The three works on this CD of orchestral music are well worth hearing. Shapeshifters is a concerto for two pianos and orchestra in four evocative movements. Although highly varied in tempo and mood, the music has a serenity and flow somewhat similar in feel to Colin McPhee’s Tabuh-Tabuhan, though without the obvious gamelan influence. Composed for Quattro Mani, it’s difficult to imagine a more
sympathetic performance, and like everything on this disc the engineering is first class.
With the Grain is another concerto, this time for guitar, written for the redoubtable David Starobin. Again there are four movements, each inspired by (and named for) the patterns in the grains of various types of wood. What this has to do with the music is an open question, but then Beethoven thought the key of A-flat was “barbarous”, so as long as the inspiration leads to fine results it’s okay by me. Concertos for classical guitar, even with amplification, are terribly difficult to write owing to the inherent limitations of the solo instrument as compared to the full orchestra, and Lansky has done a spectacular job in balancing his forces so that neither solo nor ensemble sounds at all inhibited. The music is predominantly lyrical and melodic, strikingly so, but completely free as regards harmony and sonority.
The program concludes with Imaginary Islands, a three-movement land-and-seascape commissioned by the Alabama Symphony in 2010. This recording captures its premiere performances, and happily the orchestra plays beautifully under Justin Brown’s capable leadership (and they accompany very sensitively everywhere else). The music pays an oblique homage to Debussy, not at all to its disadvantage, and there’s a touch of Messiaen here and there as well, whether conscious or no. As with the other pieces here, Imaginary Islands delivers the expressive goods in music full of memorable ideas, captivatingly scored. Really, a better disc of contemporary music than this hasn’t been released in quite a while. You owe it to yourself to listen.
-- David Hurwitz, ClassicsToday.com
Works on This Recording
Imaginary Islands by Paul Lansky
Alabama Symphony Orchestra
Period: 21st Century
Written: 2010; USA
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