03 Benjamin LessonsGeorge Benjamin – Lessons in Love and Violence
Stéphane Degout; Barbara Hannigan; Gyula Orendt; Peter Hoare; Samuel Boden; Orchestra of the Royal Opera House; George Benjamin
Opus Arte OA 1221 D (naxosdirect.com)

It’s been four years since the Toronto Symphony gave an unforgettable concert performance of British composer George Benjamin’s opera Written on Skin. It featured the dynamic Canadian soprano Barbara Hannigan, who subsequently premiered Benjamin’s gripping new opera, Lessons in Love and Violence in this production from the Royal Opera House two years ago.

Playwright Martin Crimp uses Christopher Marlowe’s Elizabethan play Edward II, along with historic records, to recount the messy downfall of the 14th-century British King, who ruled neither wisely nor well. Director Katie Mitchell pulls off some innovative moves to shape an exciting drama from Benjamin’s gorgeous, evocative music, Crimp’s poetic text and Vicki Mortimer’s stylish modern sets and costumes. The resourceful but unobtrusive camerawork from video director Margaret Williams ensures a sense of immediacy, especially in the use of imaginative overhead shots, soft focus, and close-ups.

As riveting an actor as singer, Hannigan provides the opera’s most chilling moments as Isabel, the alluring, raging Queen. There are vivid performances from Peter Hoare as Mortimer, Isabel’s lover and the King’s nemesis, Samuel Boden as the son, Ocean Barrington-Cook as the daughter (extraordinary in a non-singing role), and Canadian mezzo Krisztina Szabó, who also sang in that TSO performance, as a courtier. But the most moving passages belong to the two splendid baritones, Stéphane Degout as the King and Gyula Orendt as his lover Gaveston, especially in their impassioned duets.

This is a timely work – and all the more eloquently rich for that. While it’s the King’s blind infatuation that brings him down, the problem isn’t that he is gay. It isn’t even that he is having an affair. The problem is that he has abused his power by neglecting his family and his people, lavishing all his attention and resources on Gaveston. Yet it’s only after the King rejects Isabel that she turns on him. By the time their children, who have been forced to witness the violent power plays that ensue, manage to seize the power for themselves, they are able to show that they have learned their lessons only too well.

04 Richard ThompsonRichard Thompson – The Mask in the Mirror, A Chamber Opera
SANAA Opera Project; Stephen Tucker
Navona Records nv6209 (navonarecords.com) 

Richard Thompson’s haunting opera in three acts The Mask in the Mirror tells the story of the ill-fated marriage between the African-American writer Paul Laurence Dunbar and the lighter-skinned Alice Ruth Moore. Thompson tells the story of the lovers with minute and tragic detail, allowing his singers plenty of space to explore the tension of this extraordinary relationship, which unfolds in the context of racism in 19th-century America as well as in terms of the psychological drama surrounding two lovers ill-equipped to distinguish between sexual desire and the loftier ideals of their fraught relationship.

Cameo Humes’ Dunbar is truly inspired and the character unfolds through his sonorous tenor which is wielded with enormous power to unlock the vivid metaphor of the mask in the mirror. Angela Owens’ Moore is equally spectacular. She describes Moore’s less successful but nevertheless equally strong character with dramatic thrust. Together with other incidental characters – all exceptionally developed by Thompson – and the superbly moody orchestral performance, The Mask in the Mirror is powerful and heady, as well as appropriately literary.

The score remains relatively spare throughout yet provides enough detail to tell the complex story. Thompson demonstrates a masterly control of dramatic pace, ratcheting up tension slowly but surely so that the final dénouement reaches a devastating climax, aided by performances – led by the dark-hued timbre of Humes’ Dunbar – which vividly project the complicated nature of the drama.

05 Perpetual TwilightPerpetual Twilight
Choral Scholars of University College Dublin; Desmond Earley
Signum Classics SIGCD558 (signumrecords.com) 

While Ireland has long been renowned for its outstanding literary tradition, it is perhaps less well known for its contributions to choral music. Nevertheless, if this CD Perpetual Twilight, featuring the Choral Scholars of University College Dublin under the direction of Desmond Earley, is any indication, it would appear that the current Irish choral scene is a very vibrant one indeed.

The 28-member chamber choir was founded by Earley in 1999, and since then, numerous tours to various parts of Europe and the United States have earned the ensemble international acclaim. From the opening track Dúlamán, a lively traditional working song from Northern Ireland, it’s evident that the disc is infused with a strong Irish flavour – and what a warm and mellow sound the ensemble produces! Tenors – rares aves in many vocal ensembles – appear to be a major component of the Choral Scholars, resulting in a well-balanced blend of vocal ranges.

The thoughtfully chosen program – an attractive mix of traditional folk songs with newly commissioned pieces – includes the well-known My Love is like a Red Red Rose and Danny Boy in addition to the less familiar Maid of Culmore and Bó na Leathadhairce, the latter arranged by the conductor. Earley is also a composer, and works such as the uplifting Body of the Moon and Strings in the Earth and Air, are testament to his creative talents.

Throughout, the 13-member instrumental ensemble – including a bodhrán, a tin whistle and a harp – provide a solid and sensitive accompaniment. For lovers of the Irish folk tradition, Perpetual Twilight is a delight – joyful singing from the land of Joyce and Beckett – comhghairdeas!

01 Hummel FluteJohann Nepomuk Hummel – Flute Sonatas
Dorothea Seel; Christoph Hammer
Hanssler Classics HC18103 (naxosdirect.com) 

Dorothea Seel is both a flutist and a musicologist, whose area of research is the playing techniques and sound aesthetics of 19th-century flutes. She has presented her research in her dissertation, Der Diskurs um den Klang der Flöte im 19. Jahrhundert (The Discourse about the Sound of the Flute in the 19th Century), published earlier this year by Kunstuniversität Graz, for which she has received the Award of Excellence from the Austrian government.

Her collaborator on this recording, Christoph Hammer, also a specialist in the music and instruments of the 19th century is, according to the liner notes, “also committed to the revival of less-well-known composers and the research and editing of their works.”

What I heard listening to this recording was something of a shock; it revealed an entirely different sound aesthetic from that with which I am familiar and, I would say, have come to expect, listening to recordings of music for the flute. As the liner notes explain, Seel’s research led her to “forgotten playing techniques... many of which would meet with the disapproval of modern-day exponents.” When I left behind my expectations, however, Hummel’s music took on an almost exotic quality, revealing the forgotten zeitgeist of a world long gone.

So, while I am not about to abandon my Boehm flute for an early 19th-century Viennese Ziegler instrument of the type played by Seel on this recording, I am extremely grateful for her work and her ability to translate her research into practice.

02 Mendelsson Piano Concerto 2 and Symphony 1Mendelssohn: Symphony No.1; Piano Concerto No.2
Kristian Bezuidenhout; Freiburger Barockorchester; Pablo Heras-Casado
Harmonia mundi HMM 902369 (smarturl.it/xs369d)

This brand new issue belongs to a series initiated by young conductor Pablo Heras-Casado’s Diving into German Romanticism and what better way to start than Mendelssohn? Mendelssohn was probably one of the most gifted musicians that ever lived and was capable of composing a symphony for full orchestra at the age of 12!

Perhaps due to the superiority of his later mature works, Symphony No.1 has been unjustifiably neglected but it’s certainly worth hearing as it is performed here. Typically sturm und drang and written in the sombre key of C Minor, the first movement is full of sound and fury at a frantic speed of Allegro di molto with strings rushing like a whirlwind demonstrating this orchestra’s amazing virtuosity. Peace and solace relieve the storm in the beautiful second movement that sings like one of Mendelssohn’s Lieder Ohne Worte where the interplay of woodwinds is a pure delight. The dominating C Minor stormy mood returns Allegro con fuoco piu stretto in the fourth movement with interesting contrapuntal episodes but ending the symphony triumphantly in a major key.

The Piano Concerto No.2 in D Minor was regrettably completely overshadowed by Mendelssohn’s popular, irresistible first foray into the genre. However, South African Kristian Bezuidenhout’s agile brilliance yet gentle touch on the Fortepiano Érard (Paris 1837) plus a highly precise and exciting period instrument accompaniment, makes this concerto truly shine.

As the recording progressed I found myself falling in love with Mendelssohn over and over again. And that energetically driven, passionate rendition of the Fair Melusina Overture tops it all. I haven’t heard it played as beautifully since Sir Thomas Beecham.

03 RossiniThe Rossini Project Volume 1 – The Young Rossini
Orchestra della Svizzera Italiana; Markus Poschner
Concerto Classics CD 2112 (naxosdirect.com)

Rossini was a wunderkind who came on the musical scene like a comet and music just poured out of him, much like Mozart. His creative genius never diminished and his greatest works came near the end of his long life. Last year was the 150th anniversary of his death and this ongoing ambitious project, which includes some first recordings, has been created with the Lugano-based Swiss orchestra to explore and record much of his lesser-known and hitherto unedited works. It certainly starts off splendidly with a wonderfully pointed, sparkling rendition of the Overture to L’Italiana in Algeri. Though not at all unknown, it immediately demonstrates the gifted young German conductor Markus Poschner’s obvious affinity to Rossini. The overtures that follow are youthful attempts but already showing the lion’s teeth of the master emerging, as in the alternate version of L’equivoco stravagante (1811) with its beautiful horn solo and subsequent brilliant use of woodwinds, and the first manifestations of the Rossini crescendo in Tancredi Overture.

The period covered (1808-14) is mostly from Venice, young Rossini’s first major stop, just up the Adriatic coast from his birthplace Pesaro where he ran away as a teenager to become the toast of the town in a few years. The Venetian sojourn produced a dozen operas, two of them masterpieces: L’Italiana in Algeri and Tancredi , the latter duly represented here by excerpts and sung by virtuoso, strong Russian tenor Dmitry Korchak, who proves to be very much at home in Rossini’s murderous tessituras.

Highly recommended – a most enjoyable inaugural release in a series worthy of Rossini.

04 Rachmaninov Symph. 1Rachmaninoff – The Isle of the Dead; Symphony No.1
London Philharmonic Orchestra. Vladimir Jurowsky-cond.
LPO Live LPO 0111 (lpo.org.uk/recordings-and-gifts)

Rachmaninoff’s First Symphony hasn’t had an easy time. Conductor Glazunov was drunk and made it a dismal failure at its premiere in 1897 and the discouraged young composer locked the score away vowing never to perform it again. The original score was never found, but miraculously the orchestral parts were discovered in 1944 and it was performed once more in 1945 in Moscow.

This new performance comes from a recent concert in London conducted by Vladimir Jurowsky and what a concert it must have been! The audience went wild and the critics were raving and I imagine Rachmaninoff must have been very pleased and the symphony vindicated. Royal Philharmonic Society 2018 award winner Jurowsky’s name may not be too familiar, but he is one of the most sought after conductors and has a tremendous worldwide reputation that’s well proven here.

None of this music will come to you easily, in fact it requires several hearings and total concentration to appreciate Jurowsky’s “hypnotic drive,” especially in The Isle of the Dead’s sinister 5/8 ostinato undulating motion representing Charon the oarsman rowing a boat towards the other shore. It brought an “eerie chill” to the Festival Hall, one critic remarked.

The Symphony itself was a triumph. Rachmaninoff is the connecting tissue in Russian music between Tchaikovsky and Shostakovich and here you can see why. It has youthful excitement, intense passion and a tremendous emotional depth Jurowsky brings out to the utmost. The last movement Allegro con fuoco is where it all comes together; it’s both “frightening and triumphant” and one could feel the intensity and frisson of the live performance.

05 Symphonic DancesSymphonic Dances – Copland; Ravel; Stravinsky
Park Avenue Chamber Symphony; David Bernard
Recursive Classics (naxosdirect.com)

Pity the ballet orchestra musician; so much great music gets borne away from their pit by the changing tides of dance fashion. The 20th century is littered with scores from the early moderns that were introduced as dance accompaniment and became, instead, great works for the symphony stage. Hardly anyone stages Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring anymore, and almost all of Ravel’s works are similarly banished from the standard ballet repertoire.

The Park Avenue Chamber Symphony, under conductor David Bernard, has recorded three modern masterworks: Aaron Copland’s Appalachain Spring Suite, Ravel’s Daphnis and Chloe Suite No.2, and Stravinsky’s Firebird Suite. With time and space, one could discuss the ways ballet scenarios changed from the mythic to the mundane as reflected in the selected works, but better to leave that to dance critics. These are, above all, wondrous works that orchestral players love to sink their chops into, and symphonic audience members love them as much.

All three are now period pieces of early- to mid-20th-century French and American music. Don’t tell me Stravinsky was neither; he wrote for the tastes of his audience, and The Firebird often sounds a lot like Ravel. And of course, Copland was deeply influenced by Nadia Boulanger.

The recordings took place in three different locations, the orchestra may well have had a few interchangeable players, and the 1919 Kalmus version of the Firebird score was edited, possibly to suit the size of the orchestra. The playing is uneven, especially as regards intonation, and microphone placement brings the wind soloists uncomfortably close, but the performances are careful and loving; in fact it’s just nice to hear a scrappy, not-quite-perfect recording of any of this material, which might make it more period-authentic than anything else.

06 AntheilGeorge Antheil – Symphonies 3 & 6
BBC Philharmonic; John Storgårds
Chandos CHAN 10982 (naxosdirect.com)

The 1940s was an especially busy decade for the prolific American composer, pianist, author and inventor George Antheil (1900-1959). With the spectre of WWII looming in the USA, in 1941 he and the actress Hedy Lamarr set out to develop a code-based radio guidance system for torpedoes. He also continued to turn out scores for Hollywood features (his catalogue lists 30), while his 1945 autobiography Bad Boy of Music – referring to the international avant-garde reputation he attracted in the 1920s – became a best-seller. As well, Antheil continued to compose for the concert stage, completing several symphonies, a violin concerto and other works in the 1940s.

This second Chandos album of his symphonic output by the BBC Philharmonic and its chief guest conductor, John Storgårds, delights listeners with outstanding performances of two of those symphonies plus three shorter orchestral works. Symphony No.3 “American” (completed 1946) is cinematic in its conservative harmonic language and highly episodic block treatment of themes. In parts, an Aaron Copland-esque American populism is jump-cut with syncopated jazzy sections and a marked stylistic eclecticism: Antheil leans strongly on the musical legacies of Sibelius, Mahler and Prokofiev. The work concludes with a triumphalist finale.

Symphony No.6 (completed 1949-50) is overall a more sombre and artistically ambitious work. The influences of Shostakovich, and in parts Ives, permeate Antheil’s patriotic portrait of American life in music in a manner both touching in its heart-on-sleeve Romantic lyricism, and evocative of the vernacular regionalisms and dynamism of post-war USA.

01 French Flute20th Century French Flute Concertos
Ransom Wilson; BBC Concert Orchestra; Perry So
Nimbus Alliance NI 6375 (naxosdirect.com) 

No nation’s composers have contributed more to the flute repertoire than those of France. From the Baroque era to the present, French composers have excelled as weavers of iridescent, gossamer musical tapestries, employing as a favourite filament the diaphanous sound of the flute. On this CD, American flutist Ransom Wilson, conductor Perry So and the BBC Concert Orchestra present three rarely recorded, captivating works by Jean Françaix (1912-1997), Jean Rivier (1896-1987) and Jean-Michel Damase (1928-2013), plus a repertoire staple by Jacques Ibert (1890-1962).

In the opening Moderato of Françaix’s Impromptu for Flute and Strings (1983), the flute dances sprightly filigrees over the strings’ waltz beat. Two sweetly dreamy movements, Largo and Andante poetica, containing echoes of Poulenc (I’ve always thought of Françaix as “Poulenc-lite”), frame a playful Scherzando. It’s an irresistibly charming piece!  

The Allegro moderato of Rivier’s Concerto for Flute and Strings (1956) alternates wistful and animated passages for the flute, followed by the central Lento sensibile, in which the flute seems to wander in a subterranean labyrinth, before emerging into the light and sprinting to the finish line in the Molto vivace.

The three connected movements of Damase’s Sérénade for Flute and Strings, Op.36 (1956), all marked Très large, encompass mystery, joy, angst-filled disquiet and a pair of hauntingly beautiful melodies. Even with its gentle, non-virtuosic ending, it should have become “standard rep” by now.

A warm-hearted performance of Ibert’s familiar, audience-pleasing Flute Concerto (1933) ends this extremely enjoyable, extremely recommendable CD.

02 Ana SokolovicAna Sokolović – Sirènes
Ensemble contemporain de Montréal; Véronique Lacroix; Ensemble vocal Queen of Puddings Music Theatre; Dáirine Ní Mheadhra
ATMA ACD2 2762 (atmaclassique.com)

2019 JUNO Classical Composer of the Year Ana Sokolović composes with her highly identifiable tonal/atonal soundscapes in four works here. Sirènes/Sirens (2000) is performed perfectly by six female voices of Queen of Puddings Music Theatre Vocal Ensemble. Inspired by ancient Balkan voices of the Sirens legend, high-pitched female voices, quasi-wobbly, humorous yet haunting vocal effects, shrieks, quieter moments, and driving vocal rhythms are intense. The five-movement Tanzer Lieder (2005) is set to five German, French and English poems by Austrian poet Francisco Tanzer. A slightly more operatic work, soprano Florie Valiquette embraces Sokolović’s trademark loud high pitches and dramatic held notes above such instrumental accompaniment as reflective flute/piccolo, piano and cello plucks. Mezzo-soprano Krisztina Szabó shines especially in her colourful lower pitches in the five-movement/language Pesma (1996-2007) above the ECM+ instrumentalists under the direction of Véronique Lacroix.

The title of the violin concerto Evta (2017) means “seven” in Serbian Roma. Seven joined movements are inspired by chakra colours and associated with each note of the scale as Sokolović now explores her characteristic sounds with only instruments. The ECM+ ensemble, with soloist Andréa Tyniec, performs with technical and musical greatness, executing more rapid ascending lines, held notes, pizzicatos and plucks, touches of Gypsy-flavoured sounds and the occasional more tonal sections in this less intense composition.

One can only imagine how gratifying it must be to successfully perform and compose such complex contemporary works. Yes it is intense, but worth the time to listen to and understand Sokolović!

03 Dawn DaviSweet Apple
Dawn Davi
Independent (dawndavi.com) 

These subtly musical performances are a telling document of pianist Dawn Davi’s compelling, life-affirming compositional gift. The nine pieces on her second album Sweet Apple are also sufficiently exceptional to stand out in what is becoming a rather crowded field of young musicians who feel compelled to express themselves. Certainly the expressive way in which Davi’s music suggests quiet humanity also gives us a fine example of the self-effacing poetry that appears to be the hallmark of her style.

Her use of synthesizer and sustaining pedal give this music a degree of harmonic blurring which in turn – when listened to in consonance with the brass and strings that are added to these songs – also conveys the ethereal effect that she intends us to hear in her music. Davi takes a decidedly elegiac view of life in the expressive music of this disc. In doing so she offers a performance of mellowness and beauty. On Eyes of a Tree (for instance) she coaxes the strings into gentle harmonic enjoinders to her stoic melody which she essentially plays pianissimo, but with exquisite dynamics throughout.

This is typical of Davi’s eloquence and her ability to create a hauntingly beautiful soundscape evocative of a bard contemplating the natural world and the glories that lie within it. With Sweet Apple, clearly Davi has succeeded in celebrating the mysteries of life with music of exceptional stoicism and beauty.

04 Sergio CervettiSergio Cervetti – Parallel Realms: XXI Century Works for Orchestra
Moravian Philhjarmonic Orchestra; Petr Vronsky
Navona Records nv6217 (navonarecords.com) 

The Uruguayan-American composer Sergio Cervetti has long enjoyed a celebrated career as composer and educator (a former professor at the Tisch School of the Arts at New York University), and has clearly cultivated an impressive work ethic in his life, creating and releasing challenging and provocative new music at an impressive rate. Realized here by the Moravian Philharmonic Orchestra under the skillful direction of conductor Petr Vronský and captured beautifully in the sonically satisfying Reduta Hall in the Czech Republic, Parallel Realms is comprised of three single-movement symphonic works, Et in Arcadia ego, Consolamentum and Plexus, in which Cervetti uses religious and scientific themes to musically confront childhood memories that have remained with him throughout his life.

The selections contained on this 2019 recording combine new music with a reimaging of a 1970 semi-graphic score (Plexus) that thread together the composer’s desire to bridge the deeply religious and spiritual with the metaphysical. Vacillating between the tumultuous swirl of the orchestra and quiet minimalism, Cervetti uses the ensemble to its fullest, finding beauty in opposite extremes of the group’s dynamic range. Clearly this is modern music, but anchored as it is to the strong narrative of biography and religious themes (as captured in the accompanying liner notes), the recording presents here as timeless, capable of tapping into universal human emotions and feelings.

The eighth Cervetti recording to be released on the Navona Records label, Parallel Realms comes recommended for fans of symphonic music who hope to be challenged in their listening and satisfied in their quest for exciting and beautiful new music.

05 Silent AitakesFrédéric D’Haene – Music with Silent Aitake’s
Reigakusha Gagaku Ensemble; Ensemble Modern; Kasper De Roo
Ravello Records rr8008 (ravellorecords.com) 

Frédéric D’Haene is a Belgian avant-garde composer who studied with several renowned European and American composers. But it was his 1986 discovery of gagaku (court music of Japan) which dramatically changed the direction of his musical worldview. D’Haene’s study of gagaku – a musical genre a world apart from his own – and its incorporation in his scores, ultimately resulted in what the composer calls “paradoxophony” or “paradoxical coexistence.” This transcultural approach has informed his compositions ever since.

Music with Silent Aitake’s – performed by the esteemed Reigakusha ensemble joined by the premier group Ensemble Modern, both conducted by Kasper De Roo – is a banner example of that approach. Scored for gagaku and chamber orchestra, the five-part work exemplifies D’Haene’s ideal of the coexistence of Western and Japanese instrumental worlds. The liner notes underscore the composer’s key aim: pluralism. It’s an aesthetic and social vision of coexistence which does not favour one musical world over another.

D’Haene’s principle of paradoxophony penetrates his combinations of perceived dual opposites in Music with Silent Aitake’s. We hear modality, atonality and spectral music techniques, stasis and dynamism, sound mass and silence, as well as simplicity and complexity coexisting within both random and organized forms.

Deliberately avoiding Eurocentricity, exoticism or easy melody-with-accompaniment tropes D’Haene has indeed fostered a kind of musical common ground between his chosen two groups in this work. That he’s done so maintaining the integrity of their identities and performing traditions, while expressing his own forceful vision, is indeed an impressive achievement.

06 Greek WindsGreek Wind Quintets
Aeolos Woodwind Quintet
Naxos 8.579037 (naxos.com) 

Pop quiz: name three contemporary Greek composers whose names don’t begin with an “X.” I am not the only one who would fail this test. The aptly named Aeolos Woodwind Quintet has undertaken a project to improve their compatriots’ international profile, and so released a CD of nothing but works for that ensemble: small forces to accomplish a large mission; but the effort is to be applauded.

Aeolos has included just over one hour of material by seven composers, some deceased, some fairly advanced in years. No one born after the 1960s is included, leaving one to wonder if younger composers are ignoring the form or if the group chose to focus only on more established names.

The players acquit themselves well, but much of the earlier material sounds a good deal as though the composers all admired Carl Nielsen; the music is folkloric, charming, tuneful and tonally fresh, but not very exploratory. The more recent works, towards the end of the disc, are the most interesting. Giorgos Koumendakis’ A Blackbird in the Cricket’s Gorge (2013) is a lot of title for a brief, tonally fluid bit of sound painting (including bird calls) originally written for three pianos. Theodore Antoniou’s Woodwind Quintet No.2 (2014), dedicated to Aeolos, is in turns mysteriously searching about and madly dancing in place, a challenging piece rhythmically and tonally, played with confident flair. Woodwind Quintet (1995) by Andreas Makris, closes out the disc with the players passing a rhythmic motif back and forth against a lyric counter argument, ideas which play around for an interesting ten minutes (the longest cut on the disc).

06 Beneath the TidesBeneath the Tide – A Collection of Concertos
Soloists; Croatian Chamber Orchestra; Miran Vaupotic
Navona Records nv6216 (navonarecords.com) 

Don’t be misled by the CD’s title or the accompanying notes that liken its contents to “ocean currents… uncovering what was previously hidden.” Rather than exposing murky, below-the-surface secrets, all five pieces, by four Americans and one Taiwanese composer, display immediately accessible clarity of expression. Nor is this disc “a collection of concertos,” as stated on its cover. Although all the works are scored for instrumental soloists and chamber orchestra, only three are genuine concertos and are so titled.

Restless dissonances in the outer movements of Michael G. Cunningham’s 15-minute Clarinet Concerto Op.186 bracket the middle movement’s brooding lyricism. Virtuoso runs from bottom to top of the clarinet’s range help make this a brilliant showpiece for the instrument.

Rain Worthington’s ten-minute In Passages for violin and string orchestra is a sustained, moody beauty, imbued with Middle Eastern melodic melismas and glissandi. It would make a superb slow movement for a full-length violin concerto.

In her 15-minute Guitar Concerto No.1, subtitled Remembrance of Hometown, Ssu-Yu Huang draws upon musical traditions of her Chinese forebears to create an impressionistic series of atmospheric brush paintings in sound.

At just under six minutes, Bruce Reiprich’s Lullaby features a long-lined violin solo, more intense than gently calming. Perhaps it just needs another title.

The CD concludes with Beth Mehocic’s cheerful 18-minute Piano Concerto, music that suggested, to me at least, playful leprechauns, the final Allegretto a rousing Irish jig. An entertaining end to an entertaining disc.

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