Every once in a while a disc pops up that take you by surprise. So often the compendiums of “new” music prove to be a huge disappointment. They are after all a gathering of mostly unknown composers, and so the odds are not often great that you will find a hoard of terrific talent, let alone terrific pieces. This one is a little different, and while I cannot in all honesty say I adored every work in this collection, there are enough that whet my appetite to give it a thumbs-up for those who are open to new discoveries.
The pieces here are all quite tonal, and by and large present no problems from that arena. They are all attractive and interesting, and a few deserve mention. Roger Davidson’s English Suite is a neo-classic work based on the character of English country dances that have haunted him since childhood. Burt Fenner, who teaches at the Mannes Collge of Music, penned a piece called Neat Proportions that is drawn from the proportions of 2:3, 3:4, 4:5, and 5:6, found in all aspects of the composition. Really I could care little about that; it is the resulting very striking music that proves the bait taken by the listener, despite the mathematical calculations behind it. The Village features music from the opera by the same name of Joel Mandelbaum, and this song cycle has some wonderful moments, as does Dancer in a Garden, a bona fide song cycle by Elaine Erickson, a composer working in Iowa.
Some of the pieces sound better than others; there are a variety of recording venues here, and I must mention that clarinetist Richard Stoltzman [who is on the label’s board of directors…Ed.] plays the music he is involved in with his usual commitment and tonal allure. As you can see by the heading, all of the performers here are first class, as are the performances. For a fine sampler of what’s-happening-now in the “tonal” world of contemporary music, this is a good introduction.
— Steven Ritter