Dueling Realities | Chris Evan Hass
Indigo Bunting | Brad Balliett
Swift | Brian Raphael Nabors
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Given the bassoon’s concise solo repertoire, each recording of new music has the potential to contain a gem that becomes a lasting addition to the canon. Such might be the case with Room to Breathe, featuring American bassoonist Joseph Swift with pianist Calvin Hu. The five young composers on this disc have all created thoughtful, colourful works inspired by the tumult of 2020-2021.
Swift leads off with Dueling Realities by Chris Evan Hass: well-written in a lyrical, modernist style with nice rhythmic grooves in the outer sections and some beautifully expressive writing in the middle. Gala Flagello’s Mother Time, Father Nature features some extended techniques like inside-piano damping and pitch slides, but the overall effect is lyrical and engaging. Indigo Bunting by Brad Balliett opens with dark, Bartók-like piano chords, the bassoon replying with fistfuls of cascading 16th notes, dealt with expertly by the soloist. At just over 13 minutes, this is the longest piece on the disc, disturbing in its frenetic energy but given ample relief in its more cinematic middle section. I only wish its oddly abrupt ending were more satisfying. Swift by Brian Nabors is written in a rhythmic, modernist style, with hints of Hindemith, perhaps.
The gem on this disc, for me, is Karalyn Schubring’s i.C.u: an improvisatory, impressionistic duo full of delicate expression. Swift’s playing throughout is articulate and commanding: plenty of technical mastery, with a warm tone and expressive vibrato.