This CD, a project of clarinetist Frankie Kelly - contains six pieces of excellent new chamber works by composers of the Western hemisphere. The designation "New Music from the Americas" promises the listener a melting pot of musical styles, which this CD delivers to delightful effect. Every piece on the disc is a composition of the highest order, and one is struck immediately by the immense enthusiasm of the performers. An interpretive spontaneity (which can be difficult to achieve in the recording studio, (particularly with music of such acrobatic difficulty) runs throughout the disc.
In the opening work, Pablo Ortiz Vida Furtiva, clarinetist Frankie Kelly, violinist Adrian Justus, and pianist Elena Abend are particularly adept at capturing the humor of the composer's "neo-Haydnesque, compositional techniques. As Ortiz notes, he aimed to make the "fast changes in textures, densities, speeds and affects in his work "as extreme and inevitable as those in Haydn's late piano sonatas.
An Argentinian-born composer now on the composition faculty at the University of California, Ortiz indeed succeeds in producing a work as immediately appealing, and as rewarding of repeated listenings, as Haydn's mature sonatas. While Oritz work is founded on the compositional techniques of Haydn, Yehuda Yannay's Loose Connections is influenced by Janacek's method of introducing a "stream of fresh and contrasting musical themes in the course of a piece that are not followed by the 'obligatory development section. As Yannay writes, "The main challenge to a composer was to make the 'loose connections between consecutive musical ideas in a piece of music work as a convincing narrative continuum. Again, the ambitious goal of taking the compositional style of a great composer of the past and adapting it to one's own needs works flawlessly. And again, a wonderful compositional sense of humor comes into play. This music is quite danceable, and the three performers (clarinetist Frankie Kelly, violinist Eric Segnitz, and bassist Michael Cameron) really dance, in a fantastically vigorous and rhythmically punctuated virtuoso performance.
Yannay's Five Pieces for Three Players conclude the disc. From the somber opening movement,Coming Full Circle, to the exuberant finale Short-Long-Short Dance, clarinetist Frankie Kelly, saxophonist Jonathan Helton, and marimbist Linda Siegel give an evocative performance characterized by tight ensemble. Patricia Repar's Color Prayer is a setting of texts from greatly varied sources: Way of the Peaceful Warrior by Dan Millman, the Islamic Call to Prayer, Linda Ronstadt's settings of Mexican folk songs, the Ordinary of the Roman Catholic Mass, and Nawal El Saadawi's Memoirs from the Womens' Prison. The opening of this work - including a rapid whispering of the text "Carrion, birds, rodents, insects, and worms came to feed on the decomposing flesh that I had once imagined to be me, accompanied by eerie strumming inside the low registers of the piano - immediately pulls the listener into its sonic universe. Repar uses the extended compositional techniques of late-twentieth-century experimental music to gripping psychological effect, and seamlessly integrates her multicultural influences. Repar is a composer interested in multimedia performances, and this work begs to be seen as well as heard. The composer sings and whispers, as does clarinetist Frankie Kelly. They are joined by pianist Jayne Latva in an intensely compelling performance.
Mexican composer Leonardo Velazquez's Preludio y Danza for unaccompanied violin, a short work which is required repertoire for the National Violin Competition in Mexico City is performed with breathtaking virtuosity by Adrian Justus. The two very appealing movements are each under two minutes long, but are densely packed with violinistic fireworks and Mexican folk influences.
Matthew Nicholl's Diasporan Dances, Samba, Bolero, Guaguanco, Interlude, Guajira, and Bembe evoke a wide array of Latin and Caribbean folk dance styles and instruments by skillfully exploiting the full range of tone colors of the clarinet, violin, and doublebass. The instrumentalists are called on to whisper and sing, and the bassist taps out rhythms with the bow, all in a manner which comes of as unobtrusive and natural. The concluding Bembe is particularly appealing in its joyous drive.
Frankie Kelly is to be commended for bringing together such immensely gifted composers and performers for this CD. This is a very engaging and appealing disc of great new chamber music.