Notes and Editorial Reviews
Milton Babbitt remains a controversial figure on today's musical scene, with his ideas more frequently discussed than his music is actually listened to. This recording contains the premiere recordings of five Babbitt works that span a quarter of a century. The CD opens with a performance of Babbitt's exquisite Quatrains, sung by the brilliant young American soprano, Tony Arnold. Set to a text by a Babbitt favorite - John Hollander - Quatrains is a work of great delicacy and subtlety. Manifold Music shows Babbitt adapting his language to the organ in a most original manner. Exploiting the instrument's potential for colorful registration, Babbitt's demanding score is a spectacular workout for the hands and feet of organ virtuoso, Gregory D'Agostino. My Ends Are My Beginnings has, since its composition in 1978, been regarded by many as one of the most difficult to play works for a solo woodwind instrument. The work's dedicatee, Allen Blustine (long-time clarinetist for Speculum Musicae), gives a heroic reading of this 17 minute solo. Soli e Duettini is one of three works with this title. This work, for two guitars, is played by dedicatees William Anderson and Oren Fader. (This premiere recording was previously issued on Bridge 9042). The final work is Babbitt's just completed Swan Song No. 1. It is a remarkable composition for the unusual combination of flute, oboe, mandolin, guitar, violin and cello. CD annotator Matthias Kriesberg writes: "The experience of hearing Milton Babbitt, who for so long played off the boundaries of musical dimensions against one another, now rein in the extremes so dramatically as to focus the ear on the centered drama of calm voices interacting, is certainly extraordinary. But should we really be surprised? After all, there is a long, rich history of composers who, having definitively proven their ability to wrest music in an entirely new direction, turned their attention inward, ever inward, to contemplate that place, in the words of W.B. Yeats, "where all the ladders start."