07 Liptak Dove SongsDavid Liptak – Dove Songs
Tony Arnold; Alison d’Amato; Renée Jolles; Margaret Kampmeier; Dieter Hennings Yeomans; Steven Doane; Barry Snyder
New Focus Recordings FCR224 (naxosdirect.com)

American composer David Liptak composes texturally rich, colourful and contrasting musical sounds in four compositions here. The title track, Dove Songs, is a six-part song cycle composed for soprano Tony Arnold, who performs it with superb pianist Alison d’Amato. Arnold’s enchanting voice grasps all the contrasting storytelling/musical elements of the work, based on poetry by 1987 Pulitzer Prize-winner Rita Dove. Great moments include the dramatic vocal high pitches and piano tinkling like snow and frost in The Snow King, short phrases with subtle humourous undertones emulating domestic life’s ups and downs in Beauty and the Beast, and faster lighter lines with a final high-pitched vocal note and piano flourish in Flirtation.

More intense lyricism and held notes feature in Impromptus, composed for and played by violinist Renée Jolles with pianist Margaret Kampmeier. The duo shines in the contrasting conversational solo lines which shorten until they overlap simultaneously in the second movement, Lyrical. The seven-movement guitar solo suite, The Sighs, explores the melancholy of seven artists. Guitarist Dieter Hennings Yeomans brings out the clever compositional use of Rameau’s Baroque counterpoint in the fluctuating guitar line in the Les Soupirs and Petite Reprise movements. The extremely moving musical sentiment of Beautiful Dreamer, based on the Stephen Foster song of the same name, is unforgettable. Sonata for Cello and Piano has cellist Steven Doane and pianist Barry Synder perform a zippy second-movement race to the finish!

David Liptak’s memorable, lyrical, original compositions are timeless!

Listen to 'David Liptak: Dove Songs' Now in the Listening Room

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.

Back to top