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N A N M E L V
P H O T O G R A P H Y
A special eight-page section focusing on recent recordings from the US and Canada
Abel ‘Time and Distance’ The Benedictiona. In the Rear-View Mirror, Nowb. The Invocationc. The Ocean of Forgivenessd. Those Who Loved Medusae abe Hila Plitmann sop dcJanelle DeStefano mez ce Carol Rosenberger, abdTali Tadmor pf b
Mark Abel org eBruce Carver perc Delos F DE3550 (57’ • DDD • T)
talks to ... Cheryl Seltzer & Joel Sachs The co-directors of New York’s Continuum Ensemble on their latest Roberto Sierra recording
Mark Abel’s fourth CD on Delos is rich in those moments of inspiration when a
composer first comes under the spell of poetry. His marriages of subtly charged music with an eclectic modernist twist to emotionally provocative, introspective texts work best in Those Who Loved Medusa, set to Kate Gale’s haunting poem, in which Hila Plitmann gloriously evokes Medusa deep in a lover’s night: ‘Turn me into that thing you fear. Make me monster … wet, ripe, swollen.’ While Delos founding director Carol Rosenberger, returning to the recording studios for the first time in recent years, infuses the involving piano part with characteristic chaste beauty, percussionist Bruce Carver adds whisks and whips of colour to the feminist drama.
Also notable is In the Rear-View Mirror, Now, a nod to vintage Hollywood set to the composer’s own poems, with Tali Tadmor taking over at the piano and Abel adding ambience and a unique lyrical line at the organ. The second in the cycle, ‘The World Clock’, is a bittersweet, politically tinged paean to San Francisco before it was taken over by Silicon Valley millionaires. The third, ‘The Nature of Friendship’, includes tips of the hat to Barbra Streisand’s old Broadway hit ‘People’ and a snatch from Berg’s Lulu.
Abel heads in another direction with The Ocean of Forgiveness, exploring intimate poems of love, desolation and reconciliation by Joanne Regenhardt in quiet, moving ways. The opening and closing tracks are less memorable. Recorded at the Bridge studios in Glendale, California, the sound is always natural and gorgeous. Laurence Vittes
How did you discover the music of Roberto Sierra? We first got to know Roberto Sierra when he was working in the concert office at the University of Puerto Rico, where Continuum was invited to perform; he was in his early thirties at the time. We asked to see some of his music and were deeply impressed by the maturity of what he showed us. Since then, we have followed him closely, performing a great variety of his music. Almost all of his music for piano four hands and two pianos was composed for us. We feel he is one of the finest composers around.
Was the composer involved with this disc? We worked indirectly with him since he could not be at the recording sessions. He had heard us perform all of the pieces before we began to record them, giving us very helpful comments, and listened to the recording as it went through various stages of editing. He has been extremely kind.
How would you describe this music, and is it enjoyable to play? Sierra’s music has an extraordinary range, embracing amazing compositional integrity, phenomenal energy and a gorgeous melodiousness. He also never repeats himself. His fusion of Afro-Caribbean elements with the lessons he learned as a former student of Ligeti gives his compositions real depth. While it is virtuosic music that can be very challenging to play, those challenges – always musical, never gratuitous – bring immense rewards for performers and listeners.
What recordings can we look forward to next from Continuum? Next up will be chamber music by the late German-American Ursula Mamlok, also on Naxos, followed by our fourth Sierra recording, largely of recent works composed for us.
Biver The Cellar Door. Girl, Walking. Mirror. No Matter Where. We Meet Ourselves Fuse Ensemble Ravello F RR7993 (44’ • DDD)
Gina Biver is a musical force of nature: electroacoustic composer, producer,
electric guitarist and director of the Washington DC-based Fuse Ensemble she helped found 10 years ago. Although a busy composer of multimedia works – whether for film, kinetic sculptures, dance – the five
works gathered here were written for the Fuse Ensemble to play, with the composer one of the two vocalists in Mirror (2012; the other is the late Colette Inez, whose poem ‘Empress in the Mirror’ was the inspiration for the work). Biver is also the guitarist in Girl, Walking (2014), an at times enchanting quartet for flute, electric guitar, bass and ‘found percussion’.
Biver’s brand of electroacoustic music leans stylistically more to crossover idioms than to the type created by, for example, Pierre Schaeffer, Nono or Stockhausen. As with these exemplars from an earlier generation, Biver’s music has a strong element of improvisation, a co‑creation with the performers from a pre‑set
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