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Zodiac Trio – “Dreamtime” = Works of DANIELPOUR, LIST & MACKEY – Blue Griffin

Very exciting ensemble and some compelling modern works.

Zodiac Trio – “Dreamtime” = RICHARD DANIELPOUR: Lamentations; ANDREW LIST: Klezmer Fantazye; Visions from the Aboriginal Dreamtime; JOHN MACKEY: Breakdown Tango; various composers: Zodiac: Across the Universe – The Zodiac Trio – Blue Griffin BGR391, 58:05, (3/08/16) (Distr. by Albany) ****:

(Vanessa Mollard, violin/Kliment Krylovskiy, clarinet/Riko Higuma, piano)/Ariel Barnes, cello)

The Zodiac Trio is a very exciting new ensemble that specializes in contemporary music, continuing a tradition, perhaps, for this genre started by the esteemed Verdehr Trio. These three very talented musicians met at the Manhattan School of Music in 2006 and have made quite a name for themselves, becoming the first American group to enter the Ysaye Quartet Chamber Music Program at the Paris Conservatory.

All of the works here are impressive and worthy additions to the trio repertoire but the most eclectic and hard to describe is also the one piece that offers the most curious results. The Zodiac Trio decided to take advantage of their name or muse and solicit scores of one minute compositions depicting the various astrological/astronomical signs of the zodiac. So, the Trio selected one piece for each sign from the works submitted to form the suite of twelve short pieces. None of the composers are “household names,” yet and I felt that some movements worked better than others; Noel Fortman’s “Libra”, Gaetano Nenna’s “Pisces” and J.F. Wojchiekowski’s “Gemini” being highlights for me.  Other composers contributing to the suite are Ben Newhouse, Bojan Glavina, James Romig, John McDonald, Alan Ishii, Stanley Hoffman, Luke Flynn, Francine Trester and Martin Loridan. It will be interesting to see who among these composers will begin to amass a reputation beyond what these little morsels reveal; all in all this is an interesting little concept suite that largely succeeds.

John Mackey’s Breakdown Tango is like much of his music; entertaining, somewhat jazz-inspired and quite clever. In this case, the Trio is joined by guest artist Ariel Barnes from the Vancouver Symphony. This is a very exciting and high energy piece. Barnes also joins as the fourth player in Richard Danielpour’s Lamentations, a very moving and emotionally involving work intended to pay homage to Iranian women, in particular, who have historically been forced into silence and subservience. This is a serious topic and this somewhat dark but beautiful work carries its message well. (Danielpour’s Cello Concerto is another outstanding and similarly toned work.)

Lastly, there are two truly engaging works by Andrew List. His Klezmer Fantazye showcases clarinetist Kliment Krylovskiy’s gifts with that implied style and his Visions from the Aboriginal Dreamtime is a very ethereal work with misty harmonies and a sense of the celestial mysticism practiced by the aboriginal tribes in Australia. I found both of these works a highlight of this collection.

The real stars of this disc are the members of the Zodiac Trio and guest cellist Ariel Barnes. These are truly gifted musicians with a great ensemble sense and I admire and respect their dedication to promoting the works of living composers. This is a fine ensemble and I look to hearing more.

—Daniel Coombs

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