“Perceptions” = KYLE PETER ROTOLO: String Quartet No. 1, ’Macchiato’; QUINN DIZON: Awakening; AMELIA S. KAPLAN: Insolence for violin & piano; KEVIN McCARTER: Above the Clouds; JASON BARABBA: Rhetorical Devices; THOMAS L. READ: Capricci – New England String Quartet/various soloists and ensembles – Navona NV5909 (Distr. by Naxos), 67:08 ***:
This is basically another of the many quite interesting compilation discs featuring music by relatively unknown composers worth discovering, that Navona does so well. The concept of “dialogue between composer and listener” that holds a ‘personal perception’ for each listener is a bit of a stretch for an album concept. This is, however, a nice, uncomplicated collection of small ensemble works featuring strings that, generally, work quite well.
I was particularly impressed with Kyle Peter Rotolo’s String Quartet “Macchiato”. Rotolo is a young talented composer who graduated from Pepperdine near Los Angeles. This string quartet is a well-structured work that challenges the players and captivates the audience. I was especially taken with the contrast between the simple beauty of the third movement, Daisy’s Aria and the urgent finale, Grind. This is a really nice addition to the contemporary string quartet genre.
Awakening by Quinn Dizon makes an equally attention getting follow up. This is a mysterious, dark and somewhat ponderous work that stays with you. There are some very nice moments that seem almost film-score like. Dizon is another quite young Californian with some good work under his belt already. I would say he is a composer to watch based on this dark, restless work.
There are three pretty disparate works in this collection for violin and piano. Amelia Kaplan’s Insolence for violin and piano is another very interesting piece. The title is an apt description for this somewhat angular and spiky work, reminiscent a little of some of the academic atonal (or at least, very harmonically and rhythmically diverse) works written many years ago. Kaplan teaches at Ball State University, Indiana and was trained at the University of Chicago.
Kevin Mc Carter’s Above the Clouds is also aptly titled and quite a departure from the Kaplan. This very restful little piece features a lovely midrange long line violin melody that floats, as might clouds, above a fairly static and lovely piano line. This is a very nice piece and leaves a very positive impression. McCarter has apparently written extensively for chorus as well and the singer approach to composition seems evident.
The mood shifts abruptly again with Rhetorical Devices by Jason Barabba. The clever title comes from the composer’s view of different forms of human communication, both spoken and not. Barabba rather cleverly picks styles that match the idiom being depicted. For example, the slow and ponderous tone of “Sermon” stands in contrast to the atonal back-and-forth of “Bicker” or the staccato, choppy “Twitters.” Barabba is another young California based composer with much to offer.
Capricci by Thomas Read closes the collection in a very unique way. This is an upbeat and spritely quintet for guitar and string quartet; surely one of only a very few. This most unusual but enjoyable work has elements of the Baroque, some Hindemith-like passages and even minimalist touches to it. The Vermont based Read is the most veteran composer in this group and Capricci whets the appetite for more.
The performances here are all very fine indeed. I personally enjoyed the Rotolo, Dizon and McCarter works the best but I do think there is something in this engaging little collection for everyone.