A Bevy of Connecticut Composers


SPECTRA, Vol. 2 / AUSTIN: B-A-C-Homage / Laura Krentzman, vla; Erberk Eryilmaz, pno / ROSE: Sleepy Hollow Suite / John Alan Rose, pno / HALL: Bells and Grass / Julia Broxholm, sop; Margaret, Marco, ob / JESPERSON: Icarus / Joseph Abad, a-sax; Marko Stuparevic, pno / VASI: Random Thoughts / The Thimble Islands Saxophone Quartet / TUCKER: Escape of the Slinkys. Grasshopper’s Holiday / Nancy Tucker, gtr; Tom Dest, marimba / Navona NV6188

This CD is described on the front cover quite clearly as “A Concert of Music by Members of Connecticut Composers, Inc.” There is quite a bit of diversity of style between them, however. First up is Elizabeth R. Austin’s B-A-C-Homage, a complex piece based on the notes making up the composer’s name (in German, Bb is “H”) as well as his Air on a G String, but you may not recognize either in this very well-written atonal piece. I say “atonal,” but not serial, for Austin simply moves the tonality around in a fluid manner, never playing chords with roots in the piano part though at times a home key is suggested. Laura Krentzman is a very fine, intense violinist, and pianist Eryilmaz matches her note for note and phrase for phrase. In the second half of the piece, titled “Ich Bin’s, Nachtigall,” Austin plays with pauses and “space” in the music, reducing it from busy figures to almost minimal gestures. A fascinating work.

By contrast, John Alan Rose’s Sleepy Hollow Suite is a lyrical, tonal piano piece using whole tones and chromatics for color. The second piece in the suite, “Van Tassel’s Party,” uses a cakewalk rhythm (haven’t heard that in a while!), which livens things up, while “Ichabod and the Horseman” is lively and uptempo but not too “scary.” Juanita Hall’s Bells and Grass, based on poems of Walter de la Mare, is rather interesting tonal music marred by the absolutely ghastly, wobbly, strained singing of soprano Julia Broxholm (what rock do they find these people under?).

I was particularly struck by Ryan Jesperson’s Icarus, a duo for alto saxophone and piano with strong rhythms alternating with lyrical episodes, the meter often shifting and morphing. There’s a sort of modern-French-school sound about this music that I found quite interesting and engaging. Jesperson also divides this continuous piece into various sections which give it an almost suite-like feeling.

By contrast, Frank Vasi’s sax quartet Random Thoughts is a sprightly contrapuntal piece, suggesting but not quite approaching a jazz rhythm though it is continuously syncopated. The principal feature of this music is its subtle humor, and the lyrical third movement, “The Garden in the City,” is very fine indeed—as is the finale, “Picasso’s Rag.”

The recital comes to a close with two whimsical and imaginative pieces by guitarist-composer Nancy Tucker, Escape of the Slinkys and Grasshopper’s Holiday, imaginative pieces both, and in the latter Tucker’s playing has the sound of a bluegrass guitarist.

With the exception of the very poor soprano in the Hall piece, an exceptionally fine survey of music by differing composers with interesting approaches to their music.

—© 2018 Lynn René Bayley

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