01 VivaldiVivaldi – Concertos pour flûte à bec
Vincent Lauzer; Arion Baroque Orchestra; Alexander Weimann
ATMA ACD2 2760 (atmaclassique.com)

Vivaldi’s recorder concertos have long been respected – and enjoyed. Enter soloist Vincent Lauzer, who comes with a whole slate of achievement awards. Lauzer tackles his first soprano concerto with relish, meeting the challenge of a demandingly fast Allegro and Allegro molto; in between these two he charms us with a soothing Largo, testing the full gamut of the soprano recorder.

Turn now to the five movements of the treble recorder concerto from the La Notte suite. Once again, a Largo breathes intensity into Vivaldi’s music. Lauzer conducts us through a somewhat sinister composition; as La Notte implies there is indeed something of the night about it.

Of course, this pattern of serious Largos should not be taken as typical, as there is a lightness and pleasure in the Largo movement of Lauzer’s choice of another soprano concerto. This time, too, an Allegro draws on all the soloist’s expertise – it is breathless for both performer and listener.

Lauzer absolutely sails through this repertoire, although we should not forget the strings and basso continuo. Listen indeed to the Largo e cantabile of Lauzer’s final choice for treble recorder. It is as though with anything Vivaldi composed, no matter how complex Vivaldi intended it to be, Lauzer performs it with a passion. He enjoys total mastery of his recorders. And we are the highly fortunate listeners.

02 KuhlauKuhlau – Grandes Sonates Opus 71 & 83
Mika Putterman; Erin Helyard
Analekta AN 2 9530 (analekta.com)

Born in Hamburg and later based in Copenhagen, Friedrich Kuhlau (1786-1832) was encountered by my generation mainly as a piano sonatina composer. In his time, however, he succeeded best with music for the flute. Montreal-based specialist Mika Putterman here provides an exemplary demonstration of the Romantic flute’s beauties, in collaboration with Australian fortepianist, conductor and musicologist Erin Helyard. In Kuhlau’s Grand Sonata for Fortepiano and Flute Obbligato, Op. 71 in E Minor (1825) and the similarly named Op. 83, No. 1 in G Major (1827) the duo also practises tempo modification, i.e. speeding up or slowing down beyond what is specified in the score. It takes time to get used to this, as is usual with unfamiliar historically informed performance practices.

I particularly enjoyed the E-minor sonata for its instrumental interplay, florid display and melodic attractiveness. Putterman plays with pure, non-vibrato tone that can be sweet or sad, and is very affecting in the slow movement’s melody. Helyard is a confident fortepianist, though sometimes his solid chords are over-prominent. Both are excellent technically and their ensemble is tight. The G-major sonata’s middle movement is a set of variations, where each player impresses with the ability to play fast passages with convincing expressive touches. Of the outer movements I preferred the first, and must mention Helyard’s fluent double-thirds here and elsewhere. Along with specialists, I think this disc would appeal to those open to new challenges for performers and listeners alike.

03 Beethoven FluteBeethoven – Works For Flute 1
Kazunori Seo; Patrick Gallois; Mitsuo Kodama; Asuka Sezaki; Koichi Komine
Naxos 8.573569 (naxos.com)

Japanese flutist Kazunori Seo takes centre stage in this recording of Beethoven’s wind-focused chamber music. First up on the program are three duos for flute and bassoon, transcribed by Seo to substitute a flute for the clarinet originally called for on the upper part. It’s not certain that these duos are really Beethoven’s, and they don’t display the complexity of the other two pieces which follow them here – but their transparent simplicity is charming. Seo and bassoonist Mitsuo Kodama play with grace and attentiveness here, but are perhaps a little too cautious in their interpretation. That said, Seo’s sound on his wooden modern flute is lovely, his use of vibrato as a decorative choice is exemplary, and the instrumental blend is top-notch.

Much less reserve can be heard in the Duo in G Major for two flutes, played by Seo and Patrick Gallois with strongly shaped phrasing, dramatic shifts of dynamic range, and expressive use of articulation and ornament. The conversation’s saltier and the results are definitely fun!

The interpretive thoughtfulness continues with Serenade in D Major for flute, violin and viola, Op.25, which receives a nuanced and intrepid performance in its original scoring. This is a wonderful piece of chamber music and it’s good to hear it played with such polish and spirited engagement.

04 Schubert TriosSchubert – Piano Trios
Trio Vitruvi
Bridge Records 9510 (bridgerecords.com)

Hailing from Denmark, Trio Vitruvi had both their Carnegie Hall debut performance and the official release of their debut album with Bridge Records in April this year. After winning two chamber music competitions and several awards in 2014, the ensemble began touring and found its unique voice in the process – their playing is polished and noble, sophisticated, astute and spirited, open to improvising in the moment yet respectful of musical traditions. The trio’s name comes from Roman architect and philosopher Vitruvius, whose concepts regarding beauty, structure and proportions the trio adopted and applied to their understanding of music and interpretations. Niklas Walentin (violin), Jacob la Cour (cello) and Alexander McKenzie (piano) are not only talented but also highly attuned to Schubert’s music.

Schubert’s final piano trio (D.929) is rich, monumental, ingenious, surprisingly intimate at times, a masterpiece of structural and harmonic genius, and one of my favourite pieces of music. I cannot help but note the parallel between the Vitruvian Triad (as written in De Architectura) and the trio’s interpretation of Schubert’s music: it seems that both Vitruvius and Vitruvi aspired to make their creations solid, useful and beautiful. Vitruvi takes it one step further – they infuse Schubert’s music with a sense of adventure and limitless colours. Here we are treated to the original, longer version of the fourth movement, which makes this recording even more precious. Notturno, written in the same year, makes for the lush, lyrical conclusion of this album.

05 Wagner OrchestralWagner – Orchestral music from Der Ring des Nibelungen
Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra; JoAnn Falletta
Naxos 8.573839 (naxos.com)

Apart from having a great sense of theatre, Wagner was also a tremendous orchestrator, much of it self-taught. He increased the size of the orchestra, invented new instruments (e.g. Wagner tuba), and like Debussy later, created a new sound, new orchestral colours, and had definite ideas as to the placement of the orchestra in relation to the stage. He was also the first one who thought of turning off the lights in the auditorium during performance. Naturally the orchestra became an integral part of his music dramas and much of his orchestral music can be independently played at concerts.

The Ring has ample scope for this, collected now on a single CD by Naxos with the Buffalo Philharmonic and their current music director, JoAnn Falletta. It’s primary purpose most likely is to show off the virtuosity of this fine ensemble and its conductor and perhaps give an introduction to the uninitiated at a low price. The excerpts evoke some of the great scenes, like the Entry of the Gods into Valhalla over a rainbow bridge or the Ride of the Valkyries where you can hear the shrieks of laughter of the warrior maidens and the neighing of the horses, or the wondrous Magic Fire Music with its shimmering curtain of sound. We can even hear the waves of the mighty Rhine carrying Siegfried to his eventual doom.

Given the enormous popularity of the Ring today and dozens of new video versions, this modest CD is a good reminder of the timeless musical beauties that might escape the hurried wayfarers of our digital, plug-in world.

06 Mahler 1 FischerMahler – Symphony No.1
Düsseldorfer Symphoniker; Ádám Fischer
Avi-Music 8553390 (avi-music.de)

It started innocently enough. Our stalwart editor kindly brought me this Mahler disc conducted by a fellow named Fischer. I presumed his first name was Iván, well known for the excellence of his Mahler recordings with his Budapest Festival Orchestra; but what was he doing in Düsseldorf? Well, I was (not so) sadly mistaken; Iván has an elder brother, named Ádám, who has been the music director of the venerable Düsseldorf orchestra since 2015. And what of the Düsseldorf ensemble? Established 200 years ago, it was led in its early days by the likes of Mendelssohn and Schumann. Though their symphonic profile is unfortunately overshadowed these days by their onerous commitments to the local opera house, they are an aristocratic ensemble of outstanding sensitivity that deserves a far greater international reputation.

In fact, I was so impressed by the excellence of this recording of Mahler’s fledgling symphony I eagerly sought out and strongly recommend their earlier volumes of this ongoing cycle as well, which Fischer boldly launched in 2015 with the most under-appreciated of Mahler’s symphonies, the sphinx-like Seventh. I was floored by that 2015 performance, which is amongst the finest I have ever heard. From start to finish Fischer never loses sight of the connecting threads of this highly sectional work, expertly driving it to a triumphal conclusion. I was reminded of an incident in 1976 when I was astonished to witness a high school band sauntering down Bloor Street during the annual Christmas parade, blasting away the principal theme of the finale of this work. Mahler himself would have been delighted to have witnessed that event; his time had indeed come! That’s exactly how joyously the conclusion of this work reaches its spirited apotheosis.

The subsequent volume featuring the Fourth Symphony is equally fine, a beautifully sculpted sonic landscape imbued with the effervescent spirit of Haydn, over which passing clouds of mock menace occasionally appear. No detail is overlooked and the performance is full of personality with a chamber-music-like delicacy. It rivals my sentimental favourite performance by George Szell.

The recordings in this ongoing cycle are edits of live performances captured by German Radio. The sound is excellent and the audience is undetectable, though at times the lower frequencies seem slightly indistinct (notably in the First Symphony), likely due to the unusual spherical design of the Düsseldorf Tonhalle, a repurposed, massive planetarium constructed in 1926. Fischer himself contributes his own provocative thoughts in the program notes.

A fourth volume devoted to the Fifth Symphony was released in March. Digital downloads are available at avi-music.de. This series promises to rank among the most compelling of Mahler cycles in a very crowded field.

07 Prokofiev Symphony No7Prokofiev – Symphony No.7; Orchestral works
Sao Paulo Symphony Orchestra, Marin Alsop
Naxos 8.573620 (naxos.com)

Sergei Prokofiev made a disastrous decision in 1936 to return to his homeland, the Soviet Union. Already a much celebrated composer and pianist in the West, he was hoping the Stalinist repression and terror wouldn’t apply to him like it did to Shostakovich, who kept a packed suitcase by his bedside to be ready when the KGB showed up. It didn’t, but Prokofiev’s creative genius was much curtailed and, plagued with ill health, financial and marriage problems, he was driven to an early death in 1953 (a day I remember), a few hours before Stalin died.

The Seventh Symphony that stems from this period shows no sign of the lessening of his talents, although it was aimed at pleasing the regime. What makes it so beautiful is his melodic gifts par excellence combined with tremendous skill in counterpoint, with countermelodies going in the opposite direction in the lower registers against the main subjects in the upper strings. The effect is remarkably original, and made transparent here by Marin Alsop. She recorded the entire set of Prokofiev’s symphonies with the Sao Paulo Symphony Orchestra, with which she seems to have special affinity. Alsop takes a relaxed approach, somewhat slower than expected, revelling in the lyricism and beauties of the score, but gathers momentum in the last movement with an inimitable, energetic yet graceful style that I had the good fortune to witness when I last saw her with the TSO.

In addition, there are two excerpts from the opera Love for Three Oranges, with the Scherzo delightfully driven in good humour and devil-may-care abandon, and the Lieutenant Kije Suite, where Alsop conjures up a monumental brass fanfare from pianississimo in steady crescendo to a formidable fortississimo, a remarkable feat by the Sao Paulo brass and Naxos engineers.

08 piccolo sweet dreamSweet Dream
Jean-Louis Beaumadier
Skarbo DSK4165 (piccolo-beaumadier.com)

How much repertoire is out there for the piccolo player? Through extensive discoveries, adaptations and commissioning, Jean-Louis Beaumadier continues to amaze us with the breadth of musical possibilities that his oft-maligned little flute possesses. Sweet Dream, the most recent addition to his fine collection of nearly 20 recordings devoted entirely to the piccolo, offers fresh new works rendered with the captivating artistry we have come to expect from this musician whom Jean-Pierre Rampal once dubbed “the Paganini of the Piccolo.”

In Guarnieri’s Estudo, Guiot’s Sweet Project, and Damase’s For Piccolo, Beaumadier’s continuing partnership with pianist Jordi Torrent is the source of outstanding rhythmic precision, impeccable intonation and synchronicity of nuance. In particular, the jazzy, technical wizardry of Mike Mower’s Sonata is executed with effortlessly cool nonchalance. Carla Rees with her Kingma quarter-tone alto flute joins them in Véronique Poltz’s four expressive and inventive miniatures, Midnight with Pan. Although employing flutter-tongue, whole-tone and quarter-tone passages, this music is engagingly accessible; movement three, Sweet Dream, exudes utter serenity.

The controlled beauty of Beaumadier’s pianissimo is featured in Flint Juventino Beppe’s A Piccolo Poem. William Bardwell’s gamelan-inspired gem, Little Serenade, uses the percussive textures of the mandolin and xylophone to contrast and support some very lyrical piccolo playing. Rounding out the disc are Gordon Jacob’s Introduction and Fugue for piccolo, flute and alto flute, Magalif’s infectiously cheerful piccolo duet Tarantella and the improvisatory-like duet, Naomi for piccolo and flute with voice, by Magic Malik (Malik Mezzadri).

This CD is highly recommended for both the piccolo aficionados and its skeptics!

01 HovhanessAlan Hovhaness – Music for Winds & Percussion
Central Washington University Wind Ensemble; Larry Gookin; Keith Brion; Mark Goodenberger
Naxos 8.559837 (naxos.com)

This spellbinding, beauty-filled CD, featuring several world premiere recordings, will delight Hovhaness’ fans (like me). For anyone unfamiliar with Hovhaness’ luminous exoticism, these ten short, varied works spanning the years 1942-1985 are a perfect introduction.

Hovhaness’ amazing output over his long life (1911-2000) includes 67 symphonies (!) among 434 opus numbers (!), many drawing upon his father’s Armenian heritage, as well as other Eastern musical traditions. Mystically inclined, the Massachusetts-born composer revered mountains as sacred, referencing them in the titles of over 30 works, including two on this CD.

October Mountain for six percussionists highlights the marimba in music recalling Balinese ceremonial song and dance. In Mountain under the Sea, a chanting saxophone floats above throbbing harp and percussion, suggesting magma welling from an underwater volcano. The Overture to Hovhaness’ opera The Burning House, scored for flute and percussion, evokes the austere stateliness of Japanese court and theatre music. Vision on a Starry Night for flute, harp and percussion is sweet and dreamy, while melancholy informs Meditation on Ardalus for solo flute and The Ruins of Ani for eight clarinets, a threnody for a medieval Armenian city destroyed by the Turks.

The most lustrous gems in this musical jewel box are works for band. Hovhaness exulted in solemn, incantatory brass and woodwind melismas, spotlighted in the Armenian processional Tapor No.1, Three Improvisations on Folk Tunes (from India and Pakistan), Hymn to Yerevan and the six-movement Suite for Band.

A truly entrancing disc!

02 Daugherty DreamachineMichael Daugherty – Dreamachine; Trail of Tears; Reflection on the Mississippi
Amy Porter; Evelyn Glennie; Carol Jantsch; Albany Symphony; David Alan Miller
Naxos 8.559807 (naxos.com)

Among the younger composers prominent in the fecund musical topography of the United States, Michael Daugherty stands out as being fascinating, compelling and yet profoundly revolutionary in his ability to use the timbral palette of orchestral instruments, squeezing haunting and intuitive, drone-like modalities to evoke feelings of sadness and joy, nostalgia and anticipation, on a grand and sweeping scale. His music on this disc has been rendered with urbane and stylish theatre by the Albany Symphony conducted by David Alan Miller.

The cloudy sound masses of Trail of Tears have been created out of microscopic tangles of intrepid instrumental lines. These gradually become clearer as the work progresses through its ferociously revelatory second movement. This micropolyphony of the melodic line, pursued by flutist Amy Porter, entwined with the percussive outbursts of the Albany Symphony, comes to a mighty resolution in the finale.

In Dreamachine and Reflections on the Mississippi – considerably darkened by the Delta’s history – Daugherty summons his visionary skills to create a compelling musical world, at once eerie and beautiful. The music receives an epic fillip with the inclusion of Dame Evelyn Glennie on percussion and Carol Jantsch on tuba. Orchestral tensions mount in the darkened imagery of Reflections on the Mississippi; the visceral drama of Dreamachine is completely re-contextualised in Glennie’s inimitable manner and expressed in a magisterial rhythmic style, where complex layers of tempi are used to drive the music forward.

03 George PerleGeorge Perle – Orchestral Music (1965-1987)
Jay Campbell; Seattle Symphony; Ludovic Morlot
Bridge Records 9499 (bridgerecords.com)

Christopher Hailey’s excellent accompanying notes to this release quote American composer George Perle (1915-2009) on his intentions: “Music that was going to do what music used to do, with its basis being the 12-tone scale instead of the diatonic [seven-note] scale.” Based on these premiere recordings, Perle succeeds with clear phrasing and textures, melodic and rhythmic interest, consistent pitch content and colourful, inviting instrumental groups. The Sinfonietta 1 (1987) exemplifies these traditional virtues, opening with a propulsive neo-classical feel. Perle’s string writing is exemplary both in part-writing and mood creation; in the second movement, the Seattle Symphony’s string section supports a questioning clarinet solo beautifully. Other works differ; A Short Symphony (1980) is more influenced by Alban Berg’s expressionism, especially in the intriguing last movement where Perle’s in-depth involvement and analytical insight into Berg’s works produce remarkable results.

Six Bagatelles (1965) are miniatures. No.5 is notable for its otherworldly high divisi strings that surge and recede. In No.4, a solo cello emerges powerfully, contrasting with sustained woodwinds. This piece led to the Concerto for Cello and Orchestra (1966), where the solo-orchestra juxtaposition becomes a natural fit with Perle’s style. He contrasts one orchestra section with another or with the cello in an idiomatic and imaginative way. American cellist Jay Campbell is expressive and assured, conductor Ludovic Morlot balances all wonderfully, and the Seattle Symphony shines. The clever Dance Fantasy (1986) rounds off this remarkable disc.

04 Kernis DreamsongsAaron Jay Kernis – Dreamsongs: Three Concertos
Paul Neubauer; Joshua Roman; Royal Northern Sinfonia; Rebecca Miller
Signum Classics SIGCD524 (signumrecords.com)

In these three very disparate concertos, composed between 2009 and 2014, Pulitzer Prize laureate Aaron Jay Kernis has drawn inspiration from very disparate sources, ranging from African instruments to Bach, Schumann and Yiddish folk song.

Bittersweet melodies pervade the three-movement Viola Concerto, dedicated to and performed by superb violist Paul Neubauer, former principal of the New York Philharmonic. The 32-minute concerto is dominated by its third movement, A Song My Mother Taught Me, lasting nearly 20 minutes, in which Kernis elaborates on the Yiddish song Tumbalalaika and the Fughette from Schumann’s Klavierstücke Op.32.

The 26-minute, two-movement Dreamsongs is dedicated to and performed by virtuoso cellist Joshua Roman. The first movement, Floating Dreamsongs, pits dreamily, plaintive melodies in the cello against orchestral textures featuring harp, marimba and vibraphone. Kora Song, the second movement, is more animated, cello pizzicati evoking the sound of the kora, a plucked gourd, with the orchestra augmented by a West African djembe drum.

Echoes of Bach’s Brandenburgs inhabit the16-minute Concerto with Echoes, scored without soloist or violins. Its three movements encompass a vigorous Toccata, a poignant passacaglia (Slowly) and a nostalgic Aria that gently fades away.

Many critics, myself included, have commented in the past that Kernis’ lyrical lines often lapse into sentimentality, as can be heard on this CD. I’m convinced, however, that this very sentimentality has actually been the basis of his music’s audience appeal and the key to the ongoing success of his compositional career.

05 MortensenFinn Mortensen – Symphony Op.5
Stavanger Symphony Orchestra; Peter Szilvay
SSO Recordings 3917-2 (sso.no)

Weighty Brucknerian moods and gestures imbue the dark-hued, dramatic Symphony by the previously unknown to me Norwegian composer Finn Mortensen (1922-1983), enhancing a powerful and rewarding listening experience, so much so that I played and enjoyed it again immediately after my first hearing.

A restless, long-lined chromatic melody in the lower strings launches the Allegro Moderato. A gentle English horn solo then creates a moment of calm before a storm of prolonged, repeated thunderbolts, followed by a return to the grumbling opening theme. Finally, a solo flute breaks through the gray clouds with a ray of sunlight and the movement ends in radiant glory.

The Adagio continues the pervading noir-ness, a gripping musical counterpart to the popular, bleakly brooding Nordic detective novels. The scherzo, marked Allegro Vivace, alternates dancing, light strings and woodwinds with heavy, ponderous brass and percussion. In the final Allegro Moderato, an aggressive fugue leads to the English horn melody of the first movement, now transformed into a triumphant concluding brass chorale.

This tempestuous, late-Romantic music receives a full-blooded performance from the Stavanger Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Peter Szilvay, who first fell under the Symphony’s potent spell as a teenage violist performing it with a Norwegian youth orchestra. At only 37 minutes, this CD may seem less attractive than the two other CDs of the Symphony, both of which include additional Mortensen works; nonetheless, this splendid recording of this splendid symphony is well worth your consideration.

06 Chambers coverKenneth Newby – Chambers: Emergence Trilogy Volume 1
Flicker String Quartet; Flicker Ensemble
MP3-320 digital edition, CD Baby, Spotify, iTunes, Apple Music (flickerartcollaboratory.org)

A member of the Computational Poetics research group, British Columbia composer-performer, media artist and senior researcher at UBC’s Centre for Culture and Technology, Kenneth Newby’s music is not well known among the general audience on this side of the country. Newby’s music uses computational techniques in combination with acoustic ones, marked by his training in classical and improvised musics, as well as his extensive music studies in Bali and Java during the 1980s. His current work involves interdisciplinary collaborations in the creation of audiovisual installation works that represent complex images of multicultural identity. The composer writes that his Emergence Trilogy is “the culmination of a five-year research-creation process that involved the formulation of a personal theory of music which guided the development of a set of generative processes for music composition...”

Consisting of 23 primarily aphoristic tracks, Chambers is the first album of Newby’s Emergence Trilogy, the other albums being Elegeia, and Spectral (Golden) Lyric, also available for download. The works are performed with precision and panache by the Flicker String Quartet and Flicker Ensemble. For Mingus is Newby’s longest composition at just under ten minutes. It is also the most varied texturally and timbrally. It prominently features the double bass – as one might expect given the title – the prepared piano, a lacey battery of bells, bowed cymbals and other metal percussion, plus an inventive use of winds. The pointillistic texture is revealed over time via a motoric rhythm, lending the colourfully orchestrated work an attractive forward momentum. For Mingus exhibits several facets of Newby’s advanced transcultural musical aesthetic where echoes of gamelan mingle successfully with Edgard Varèse and John Cage. It certainly deserves to be more widely heard and performed.

Listen to 'Kenneth Newby – Chambers: Emergence Trilogy Volume 1' Now in the Listening Room

07 Music for Empty EarsSeán Mac Erlaine – Music for Empty Ears
Seán Mac Erlaine; Jan Bang; Eivind Aarset; Sadhbh Ní Dhálaigh
ergodos ER28 (ergodos.ie)

Music for Empty Ears gives the perfect hint to what you are about to hear on this new release by Dublin-based woodwind instrumentalist, composer and producer Seán Mac Erlaine. It comes as no surprise that he was noted as one of the most progressive musicians of his generation in Ireland – his music is truly unique. On this album, Mac Erlaine collaborated with two Norwegian artists, live sampling pioneer Jan Bang and guitarist Eivind Aarset. Together, they have created a sonic story that will play with your perceptions of time and space, and make your ears beat with pleasure.

I was immediately taken by the first track on this album, Winter Flat Map. The music ushered me into the post-apocalyptic space of pulsating sound waves, enriched with ethereal clarinet lines. This tune was followed by The Melting Song, featuring tranquil vocals (the fantastic Sadhbh Ní Dhálaigh) and gentle minimalism. And so the journey begins into the world of Mac Erlaine. Although sparse at times, the music is so richly textured that one truly needs to start listening with empty ears or, rather, without any preconceived notion or expectations. Layers upon layers are laid down with a variety of woodwind instruments, electronics, guitar, keyboards and vocals, creating a world of wonders, surprises, haunted melodies and melancholic impressions. This album is a gem.

08 Stephen AltoftRASP (trumpet in 19 divisions of the octave)
Stephen Altoft
Microtonal Projects MPR008 (microtonalprojects.com)

Stephen Altoft is an explorer who draws maps of musical terrain with his trumpet. The title track, his own composition Rasp, is a slow motion expansion from a breathy hiss to an intense broken buzz, like an angry housefly on a window pane. The logic of the progression is as stark as the material itself: a fearless opening statement and sensible at the same time, announcing to the listener “this is what I work with.”

The following tracks (especially the tenth, Studie by Manfred Stahnke) demonstrate the microtonal potential of Altoft’s remarkable customized trumpet. An extra valve and tubing permit him to divide the scale into 19 pitches without the guesswork of constantly adjusting a tuning slide mid-phrase. The effect is both comforting and disconcerting: one hears unusual pitches securely nailed instead of groped for, and wonders if one is hearing the “normal” tuned notes or the “altered.” And that’s the point, I believe – to re-normalize the various tunings that equal temperament has hidden behind its bland reductiveness.

I’d love to better understand the effects produced on many of the tracks. Electronics play a significant role in some, including the MalletKat, a digital marimba. Despite a promise on the jacket, I could unearth no information on the site about the 11 different composers or their pieces. Nevertheless, the succession of short pieces (none more than eight minutes, most five or less) provides a fascinating trip through this new (or forgotten) country.

Listen to 'RASP (trumpet in 19 divisions of the octave)' Now in the Listening Room

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