Friday, August 26, 2005

Fine Works in Recent HurdAudio Rotation

I've been drinking in a lot of great music lately. Here are some works that really caught my attention this past week:

Charles Ives: Sonata No. 3 for Violin and Piano. Easily my favorite of the four sonatas for this instrumentation. This is the one that quotes the "I Need Thee Every Hour" hymn extensively (exactly the same one I used in my String Quartet No. 3). This work is appropriately called a sonata for violin and piano as each paints a sonic soundscape without one instrument taking a focal point at the expense of the other. These Ives compositions continue to sound better each time I revisit them.

Arnold Schoenberg: Kammersymphonie Op. 9 in E Major. It seems I can never listen to this one only once in a given sitting. Those stacked fourths forming a harmony that strains mightily against the tonal fabric are sonically addictive to my sensibilities. This is a rare chamber work of substantial intellectual gravity that demands a repeat listening almost immediately after hearing it.

Steve Reich: Drumming. The So Percussion recording of this work is crisp and exquisite. The transition between Part II and Part III was unusually trance inducing in this most recent listening as the low frequency content seemed to fall away leaving the cyclical patterns exposed in the higher registers.

Thomas Albert: A Maze (With Grace) and Devil's Rain performed by the Relache Ensemble. Like Ives, Albert draws upon a hymn tune to animate A Maze as fragments from Amazing Grace slowly drift in and out of focus before settling in on a beautiful instrumental arrangement of the complete hymn. Amazing Grace has such a great melody that I've always preferred in instrumental manifestations. I find the words unnerving and somewhat heavy-handed against the sonic "grace" of the exposed melodic line. Devil's Run is a pulsating, aesthetically satisfying counter-balance to A Maze. I'm less familiar with Thomas Albert than with Ives, Schoenberg or Reich. This is some nice ensemble writing and arranging and I'd love to hear more.

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