Music for Vibraphone, Marimba & Piano by ARMAND QUALLIOTINE – var. performers – Albany Records

by | Apr 1, 2011 | Classical CD Reviews | 0 comments

Music for Vibraphone, Marimba & Piano = ARMAND QUALLIOTINE: Condemned to the Valley of Stones; Eight Sound Plates ; D-Flat Hypnosis; Green Fairy Visions; The piano kissed by tender hands; CapricE and Variations; Quasi Gellemi; Four Lullabies; Lullaby in the G String – Sarah Bob, John McDonald, Shoko Yamamiya, Pei-chun Lin & Armand Qualliotine – piano/ James Russell Smith, Aaron Trant – vibraphone/Hsin-yi Chen – marimba – Albany Records TROY 1229, 75:49 (Distr. by Albany) ***1/2:

I knew nothing about Armand Qualliotine until hearing this recording of some of his many works exploring the various timbres in keyboards and keyboard percussion; in this case, piano, vibraphone and marimba. Qualliotine is a very accomplished performer and composer from New York. As the booklet notes to this disc show, he has been teaching guitar, music theory and composition in a number of impressive colleges all over the east coast and, presently, as a member of the composition faculty at Berklee College in Boston. His resume is, indeed, impressive and his music is clearly well structured and also easy to listen to.

All of the music on this disc has a vaguely impressionistic feel to it and does not tax the listener. Qualliotine’s vocabulary is tonal but full of very complex, complicated chords and progressions, hovering somewhere in a soundscape that is influenced by jazz, by serialism and maybe a bit of Boulez. While certainly not traditionally diatonic, it is not atonal, not harsh and overall rather fascinating. The combinations of piano, vibraphone, marimba and any combination thereof do provide some nice variety and interesting sonic possibilities while still having some core acoustical elements in common. I also find just the titles of the works and the composer’s notes on their creation equally fascinating. For example, we learn that the very attention-getting solo piano work, “Condemned to the Valley of the Stones” is based on a grisly tale of infidelity and execution found in a film version of the “Kama Sutra”. “D flat hypnosis” is structured to intentionally pay homage to the pianoforte works of Mozart, Haydn and Beethoven. Most intriguingly, Qualliotine acknowledges that his vibraphone work, “Green Fairy Visions” was composed as a reflection on his experiences in Europe while consuming large quantities of brandy and absinthe!  In truth, all of the composer’s notes, in Qualliotine’s own words, are quite interesting and do provide insight into the sounds themselves.

I personally enjoyed the vibraphone works the most, mostly because this is such an unusual timbre to compose for as the primary or exclusive sound. The “Green Fairy Visions” and “Quasi Gellemi” (‘like twins’) are my two favorite works in this collection and I was also pretty impressed with the “Eight Sound Plates” for vibraphone. All of the performances seem first rate and Albany does its usual fine job with sound engineering and packaging. I enjoyed the disc mostly as a curiosity and – again – one that is pretty easy to listen to. The music as a whole does have a surreal dreamy quality to it which I found attractive.

I also think it works best a little at a time. As simply a listening experience, the hour plus of Qualliotine’s music gets a little static after awhile. Programmed live, for example, one or two of his works with other modern works for piano and various keyboard percussion would be an interesting venue. I do recommend this for anyone interested in the unusual but with the awareness that there is a similarity of pacing and feel to these works throughout that may or may not appeal to a wide audience.

— Daniel Coombs

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