Time Flies for Elaine Funaro

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TIME FLIES / DONAHUE: Chronological Ordre. JANELLO: Prelude & Counterpoint No. 1 in C Major. NORIZUKI: Flavor of D: No. 1, Prelude. SMORGONSKAYA: 3 Dances: No. 2, Andantino, sostenuto. PAULETTA: Deux pieces croisées: No. 1, Andante. SNOWDEN: French Suite: II. La joyeuse. COLLETT: Sonatine: II. Parler du fond du Cœur: Andante. ROTHENBERG: Partita IV: Tambourin; Vivace. KRUTYKOV: Little Monkey Ten Snapshots: Nos. 6, 8, 10. BASFORD: 4 Postcards: No. 3, Pudu in the forest. BAN: Vestigio: Vivo. BOZICEVIC: If There is a Place Between: No. 3, Fandange: Con fuoco. Summer in the World. DONAHUE: 5 Shapes. YATES: Capriccio Furie del Gravicembalo. LUNDE Jr: Insectum Communis / Elaine Funaro, hpd / Centaur CRC3783

Like the late Sylvia Marlowe, Elaine Funaro is a harpsichordist who promotes modern music. The difference between them, from what I can gather online, is that Funaro only plays modern music whereas Marlowe also gave concerts of J.S. Bach, Couperin, Handel etc. to complement the modern pieces. In her earlier years, Marlowe was also a proponent of boogie-woogie, which I wrote about in an earlier blog post.

On this particular release, most of the works presented are given in excerpts rather than the whole piece. The exceptions are Thomas Donohue’s Chronological Ordre and 5 Shapes, Mark Janello’s Prelude & Counterpoint No. 1 in C and Ivar Lunde Jr.’s Insectum Commmunis. I liked most of Donohue’s Chronological Ordre except for No. 2, “For the time being,” a piece that just sort of repeated the same silly phrases over and over and over in different keys with pauses between the key changes. Since my download of this album came without liner notes I haven’t a clue what Donahue meant by this, but it drove me crazy. Fortunately he makes up for this in the third piece, “Time Flies,” after which the album is named. Here, there is rhythmic but not thematic repetition, and Donohue varies the sound with passages in which the harpsichord’s strings are dampened.

Janello’s Prelude & Counterpoint No. 1 in C is not terribly modern in either form, harmony or melodic contours; in fact, it sounds very much like a piece by C.P.E. Bach, but at least it’s a pretty good work. There are, however, some nifty syncopations in the “counterpoint” portion. Surprisingly, considering that much modern Japanese music is rather daring harmonically, Satono Norizuki’s Prelude from Flavor of D is a very conventional and even uninteresting piece, and sounds rather Latin in feeling. By contrast, the Dance No. 2 by Dina Smorgonskaya does not sound the least like Eastern European music nor much like an “Andante.” It is a fairly brisk piece with a swaggering beat in 3.

Gianandrea Pauletta’s “Andante,” by contrast, is a fairly slow, sad-sounding piece using a repetitive thematic snippet which is morphed and adapted as the music progresses. The excerpt from Laura Snowden’s French Suite was, to my ears, the most advanced, original and interesting piece so far on the record, using quirky rhythms and harmonies to make its (brief) point, but the excerpt from Andrew Collett’s Sonatine was also quite engaging, using a somewhat repeated six-note rhythm in the left hand against the much simpler thematic material in the right. I also enjoyed the “Tambourin; Vivace” from Adam Rothenberg’s Partita, in which he juxtaposed a major-key accompaniment with a minor-modal melodic line in the right hand, which gave it a Middle Eastern flavor.

The three short excerpts from Sviatoslav Krutykov’s suite Little Monkey was also rather varied in its approach, the music shifting its harmonic base like quicksand. And another surprise: the excerpt from Daniel Besford’s 4 Postcards sounded to me more like Japanese music than the Japanese piece. I found Yuri Ban’s Vestigio: Vivo to be a repetitive and very poorly-written piece, almost like that old P.D.Q. Bach joke on Beethoven where the same motif just keeps being repeated over and over in different keys. The “Fandango” from Ivan Bozicevic’s If There is a Place Between was also repetitive, but with rather more development and a particularly fine middle section in double time in which Funaro runs up and down the keyboard.

Donahue’s 5 Shapes sounded much like his Chroonological Ordre, consisting of repeated motifs with luftpausen stuck in for contrast. Apparently, Donohue isn’t much of a composer. Bozicevic then returns with Summer in the World, a minimalist piece of little interest.

I did, however, like Stephen Yates’ Capriccio Furie del Gravicembalo, which was somewhat minimalist yet developed and changed as it went along. To be honest, however, there isn’t much furie in this capriccio; it’s a rather gentle piece in A major with a few harmonic and rhythmic diversions along the way. We end our musical excursion with Lunde Jr.’s Insectum Communis, a fairly short suite of three pieces titled “Erusca (The Caterpillar),” “Papillonis (Butterflies)” and “Blatta (The Cockroach).” These pieces, too, tend towards minimalism; apparently, Funaro likes this school of composition (I don’t), although “The Cockroach,” an insect most people despise, has the liveliest and most interesting music.

Some of these pieces are excellent, a few quite good, and several others not interesting to me at all, but if you are a fan of minimalist music you might certainly enjoy more of this CD than I did.

—© 2020 Lynn René Bayley

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