Chaya Czernowin’s Heart Chamber (DVD Review)

Photo: Michael Trippel

Chaya Czernowin

Heart Chamber

Naxos DVD

Patrizia Ciofi, soprano; Dietrich Henschel, baritone; Noa Frenkel, contralto; Terry Wey, countertenor; Frauke Aulbert, vocal artist 

Deutsche Oper Berlin, Johannes Kalitzke, conductor

 

Chaya Czernowin’s opera Heart Chamber deals with the emotional journey involved in navigating a relationship. It does so with large-scale forces; in addition to vocal soloists, a substantial orchestra, a chorus and chamber ensemble placed on the sides of the stage, and surround electronics. Because this is a love story that is not without its travails, and the interior lives and subconscious feelings and fears of the characters are so potent, the use of all of these resources seems fitting. 

 

The involved couple, played by soprano Patrizia Ciofi and baritone Dietrich Henschel, are paired with two additional singers, Ciofo with alto Noa Frenkel and Henchel with countertenor Terry Wey. They serve as reflections of the deep unconscious of the protagonists, sometimes revealing hidden truths that contradict what is overtly stated. Czernowin crafted the libretto, which is non-linear in its narrative but touches on many essential themes: courtship, commitment, conflict, and parenting among them. The viewer is often invited to see the distortions of memory playing a formative dramatic role. The meeting scene, which takes place on a staircase where Ciofi drops a jar of honey and Henschel retrieves it for her, is replayed a number of times with variations, suggesting that memories are pliable and renewable dependent on a person’s current mindset. 

 

All four of the soloists display superb control, detailed musicality, and considerable acting abilities. Vocalization moves from hushed whispers to full-throated cries, with glissandos prominent in the declamation. When the vocalists are enacting the plot, Czernowin likens the sections to close-ups in a film. The electronics incorporate vocal samples, which allows for elaborations of the singing that at times take on a prismatic cast, particularly when coupled with additional layers of singing from the chorus. Some of these can be quite delicate breath and mouth noises. The opera’s dream sequences all feature interactions between the singers and chorus, some of the best music in Heart Chamber.

Photo: Michael Trippel

The relationship between the chamber group – the Ensemble Nikel – and the Deutsche Oper Berlin is similarly multifaceted, sometimes cooperative and at others acting independently. Bassist Uli Fussenegger joins Ensemble Nikel and serves a featured role; the weight of the double bass is used in what Czernowin calls “sound floods/surges,” and it often announces and depicts pivotal dramatic sequences. Different fractals of the ensemble play “Forest” segments. Conductor Johannes Kalitzke has been set a formidable task, and he rises to the occasion, eliciting a detailed and vivid rendering from the performers. The production values of the DVD are strong, capturing arresting visuals and many vantage points of the performers that allow for the viewer to get a sense of the enveloping live experience. Heart Chamber is a potent work ripe for additional productions. 

 

-Christian Carey

 

Moonbow (CD Review)

Gunnar Andreas Kristinsson

Moonbow

Sono Luminus CD

Caput Ensemble

Icelandic composer Gunnar Andreas Kristinsson’s second CD, Moonbow, presents a  selection of pieces written during the past decade for sinfonietta and chamber forces. Clarinetist Ingólfur Vilhjálmsson joins Caput Ensemble, conducted by Guðni Franzson, in Sisyphos. Written in 2014, this is the composer’s most acclaimed piece, and one can readily hear why. Based on the mythological tale of the title character ceaselessly rolling a boulder up a hill as punishment in Hades, the concerto features eruptive outbursts, virtuoso solo turns, a middle section of minimal repetitions, and a closing danse macabre

Patterns IIb, for violin, bass clarinet, and percussion (mostly mallets) is a set of variations on the Icelandic folksong “Fagurt er í Fjörðum” providing a further exploration of ostinato. Kristinsson adopts the patterning of minimalism, but uses a collection of semitones to construct a chromatic pitch structure that prioritizes semitones. Passacaglia B is a trio for bass clarinet, harp, and percussion, the bass melody traded between all the instruments – the percussion once again featuring mallets – and overlaid with differently paced repeating melodic patterns in the alto and treble registers. The passacaglia itself infiltrates the upper register at times, leaving the bass clarinet to take up a scurrying low register melody. 

The Siggi String Quartet have been stalwart advocates of Icelandic composers, and their performance of the CD’s title work is no exception. Moonbow refers to a lunar or “white” rainbow. Sustained cello melodies ground syncopated upward directed repeating phrases. Again, there is a confluence of chromaticism and minimalism distinctive in its deployment. A poignant slow section arrives near the end of the piece, with yearning melodies offset by pizzicatos. This proves to be an interlude rather than a coda, as the patterned passages return, now juxtaposed against the plucked strings. The dynamic and intensity build to a double-time, but harmonically unresolved, finish. 

Roots is a three movement ensemble work based on spectralism. The “roots” in question are fundamentals of the overtone series. The first movement uses only one series, the second movement uses multiple series that shift into and out of focus. In the final movement, melodies are crafted from the upper partials of the series, with microtonal shadings used to better replicate their tunings. This is a well trod, but durable, version of microtonality, and it provides a contrasting approach to the other pieces on the CD, one that Kristinsson might profitably further examine. Moonbow demonstrates consummate craftsmanship in winning performances. Recommended. 

  • Christian Carey

Simple Music by Giya Kancheli (CD Review)

Giya Kancheli

Simple Music

Jenny Lin, piano; Guy Klucevsek, accordion

Steinway and Sons CD

Giya Kancheli died in 2019, leaving behind an imposing catalog that included a number of late large works for orchestra and chorus. The Georgian composer also wrote in a more intimate style, often for films and theater. These pursuits kept his work out of view of the censors of the Soviet era, so eager to hunt down modernist composers. Thirty-three of these pieces, ephemeral but attractive, are collected in Simple Music. Pianist Jenny Lin and accordionist Guy Klucevsek realize these works on a Steinway CD. 

They are not the first to create a duo version of the pieces – another recording is for piano and cello. The accordion and piano create a cabaret ambience often heard in European cinema. Lin and Klucevsek are well matched musical partners. They allow gentle, jazzy, material like “Theme from ‘When Almonds Blossomed’” and “Theme from ‘Mimino’” to unfurl with lyricism, but without undue sentimentality. Jaunty selections like “Theme from Mother Courage and Her Children” and a “Rag-time from Richard III” are clever and instantly hummable. The pieces also reference a number of classical composers, Chopin, Johann Strauss, and Stravinsky among them. Kancheli had a distinctive voice of his own, but it is fascinating to hear him working in a milieu that encourages pastiche. Lin and Klucevsek explore Simple Music’s considerable charms with a sense of wonder and adventure. 

-Christian Carey

Louis Andriessen on Nonesuch (CD Review)

Louis Andriessen

The Only One

Nora Fischer, soprano

Los Angeles Philharmonic, Esa-Pekka Salonen, conductor

Nonesuch Records

Louis Andriessen is in poor health. The eighty-one year old composer finished his last work, May, in 2019. It received a belated premiere (sans audience due to the pandemic) in December 2020 by Orchestra of the Eighteenth Century and Cappella Amsterdam, conducted by Daniel Reuss (the linked broadcast of the piece starts forty-eight minutes in).

The Los Angeles Philharmonic, conducted by Esa-Pekka Salonen, has released another of Andriessen’s final works, The Only One (2018), on a Nonesuch recording. It is a set of five orchestral songs, with an introduction and two interludes, for soprano soloist Nora Fischer. The texts are by Flemish poet Delphine Lecompte, who translated the ones used into English. 

Fischer is a classically trained vocalist who is also adept in popular and cabaret styles. Her singing is abundantly expressive, ranging from Kurt Weill style recitation through honeyed lyricism to raspy screams. This is particularly well-suited both to the texts, which encompass a range of emotions, from rage to resignation, and to the abundantly varied resources Andriessen brings to bear. In The Only One, his inspiration remains undimmed; it is a finely wrought score. Much of it explores pathways through minimalism equally inspired by Stravinsky that have become his trademark. Andriessen is also well known for resisting composing for the classical orchestra for aesthetic reasons. Here he adds electric guitar and bass guitar and calls for a reduced string cohort, making the scoring like that used for a film orchestra. Harp and piano (doubling celesta) also play important roles. Esa-Pekka Salonen presents the correct approach to this hybrid instrumentation, foregrounding edgy attacks and adopting energetic tempos that banish any recourse to sentimentality. 

“Early Bird” begins with birdsong, which morphs into a melody akin to cuckoo clock birds. Unlike Messiaen, the bird doesn’t indicate spiritual uplift, the song ends with the narrator abased by a humiliating situation. Memento mori are to be found frequently in both words and music, even a tongue in cheek rendition of the Dies Irae chant. Right alongside these are defiant retorts and much dance music. “Twist and Shame” is a (near) dodecaphonic dance. The bird call from “Early Bird” returns harmonically embellished in the final song, “Grown Up,” to signify a grotesque heron, part of a grim cast of characters that join in a waltz macabre. Afterwards, the piece closes simply with the words, “The grown-up that betrayed my inner child,” followed by eight quiet dissonant chords: the curtain falling irretrievably. As valedictions go, “The Only One” is an eloquent summary of a composer’s life and work. 

-Christian Carey

Marco Stroppa on Kairos (CD Review)

Marco Stroppa

Miniature Estrose – Primo Libro (1991-2003, revised 2009)

Erik Bertsch, piano

Kairos CD

Pianist Erik Bertsch’s debut recording for Kairos is of composer Marco Stroppa’s most highly regarded piano works, the first book of Miniature Estrose. Bertsch was the first pianist to perform it in its entirety in Italy. The overall arch of the complete cycle of piano pieces, including a second book, has been sketched but not yet released. Even its partial completion is an impressive hour long demonstration of the capabilities of the piano in the twenty-first century. 

The first selection on the CD, Passacaglia canonica, in contrappunto policromatico, is dedicated to Pierre-Laurent Aimard, reminding one of the auspicious pianists who have undertaken Miniature Estrose. Bertsch more than holds his own, crafting a detailed and energetic rendition of the piece with clear counterpoint and clarion interjections. On Birichino, come un furetto, incisive repeated notes in all registers are wittily deployed to demonstrate the roguish ferret of the title. Moai features sustained chords against rapid repeating notes, trills, and dissonant dyad pairs. As the piece progresses, intricate arpeggiations unfurl amid an increasingly emphatic demeanor. 

Ninnananna is an exploration of repetition, but of a far more chromatic and embellished fashion than that of minimal music, concluding with enchanting bell-like timbres. Based on the Easter Island “bird-man” ritual, Tangata Manu is a varied creation, juxtaposing avian calls, ascending scales, insistently repeated notes, trills, inside-the-piano effects, and sustained bass sonorities. Innige Cavatina was written for Luciano Berio’s seventieth birthday. It is the piece most closely evoking the Romantic tradition, with bass octaves announcing dissonant verticals that are often echoed by enigmatically soft passages. The interplay of gestures in a wide dynamic range supplies the feeling of being aloft that is suggested by the composer’s description of the piece. 

The CD’s final work, Prologos: Anagnorisis I. Canones diversi ad consequendum, is also its most expansive. A prologue, five sets of cyclic canons, and an extended epilogue, Stroppa likens the piece both to the toccata genre and to the moment of climax, the recognition of truth, in a Greek tragedy. The composer is artful in his deployment of the venerable genre of canon amid a virtuosic, postmodern atmosphere. Bertsch’s strategic pacing of Anagnorisis reveals its intricate dramatic structure. This is also true on a larger level. The pianist does a masterful job of navigating the entirety of Book 1 with assured technique and clarity of expression. One presumes he will be one of the first to assay Book 2.

-Christian Carey

Curtis K. Hughes – Video Premiere and CD Review

Tulpa

Curtis K. Hughes

New Focus Recordings

“Tulpa is a term appropriated by 20th century theosophists from Tibetan Buddhism to refer to a manifestation of a physical being generated purely by thought, sometimes also likened to an imaginary friend, a doppelgänger, or a shadow version of the self.”

  • Curtis K. Hughes

Curtis K. Hughes is Professor of Composition at Boston Conservatory. Tulpa is his second portrait CD and the programmed works span from 1995 to 2017. There is a consistency from the earliest to most recent works, with the principle change being an ever more assured compositional voice and a major work in Tulpa, a 2017 piece for ensemble.

The program is designed with several miniatures between the larger works, serving as interludes. Flagrant (2008) is a snare drum solo. Despite the reduced means at his disposal, Hughes imaginatively deploys various techniques and an overall approach to strikes on the drum that bring out a number of colors in zesty gestures. This segues nicely into the percussion ensemble piece Antechamber (2015). Played by the Boston Percussion Group, the piece is both colorful and varied in gestural profile. Some parts adopt fulsome grooves, while others are pointillist, with seamless transitions between demeanors.

Lesson Plan (2007) is a piece for bass clarinet dedicated to Lee Hyla on his departure from Boston for Chicago. Since the composer’s untimely passing, it serves as an affectionate homage through various quotes and a buffo blues cast. Merger (2016), for two cellos, is one of the finest pieces here in terms of construction. Angular counterpoint and hockets between the instruments are offset by piquant harmonies.

Wingtones (2009) for clarinet and piano, is cast in two movements. The first is a loose rondo. After a potboiler introduction, there is a Hindemithian fugue opener that is gradually discarded for a swing section. A slower paced fantasy ensues that once again returns to the swing section followed by a coda with flutter tongue and unison melodies. The second movement is more reflective, a fantasy that part way through speeds up and interpolates the swing from the previous movement. Despite occasional interjections of fast music, cascades of arpeggios and altissimo clarinet playing are reasserted. The piece closes with lush harmonies and tremolandos.

It Was Not Raining (1995) is the final interlude, a piece for solo marimba that features rhythmic canons and multi-mallet technique. This is followed by the title work, a piece for large ensemble cast in four movements. The first movement, “i. telophase,” features pitched percussion and piano creating a swath of disjunct melodies. The other instruments join in a contrasting lyrical section. Gradually the two strands merge in a propulsive stream now buoyed by ostinatos. A brash unison melody provides the first climactic passage of the piece. Things go sideways in “ii. manufactured (for a purpose),” with a section for low winds followed by a tantalizing brief violin solo interrupted by a cadenza for piano and percussion. Winds and percussion cohere into a fast-shifting section of glinting harmonies. The strings, led by two low cellos, are then added to the proceedings, providing a syncopated backdrop for a more straightforward ostinato by clarinet, percussion, and piano. Gradually, their disparate grids combine into a fulsome workout, which leads directly into “iii. ‘un amour inconnu’,” an evocative setting of a short passage from Proust’s Swann’s Way, sung with impressive microtonal inflections by soprano Rose Hegele. The final movement, “iv. the number of completion,” begins with a bassoon solo that is quickly succeeded by vibrant percussion, into which it reinserts itself, both gradually taking up a unison theme before the entire ensemble takes up disjunct fast lines that are passed from instrument to instrument. The piece concludes with a ferocious pileup of thick chords in repeated eighth notes. Tulpa is engaging throughout, and seems to be a culmination of the other, smaller, compositions on the CD. Whether for soloists or writ large, Hughes writes compelling music that is artfully crafted and energetically appealing.

Sequenza 21 has the pleasure of premiering a live performance video of Merger.

Tulpa will be released on Friday April 16th.

Tulpa by Curtis K. Hughes

Five Experimental Recordings

Five Experimental Recordings

Anna Heflin

The Redundancy of the Angelic: An Interluding Play

Shannon Reilly, Emily Holden, violins; Anna Heflin: viola, voice, composer, writer

Infrequent Seams cassette and download

“I’m sitting on a galaxy. Stars and moons blanket the deep red spa chairs. I rest on constellations. Space itself supports me. Luna lifts me.”

Thus begins Anna Heflin’s debut recording, which encompasses a spoken word play, sound art, and string duets filled with secundal dissonances and sustained drones. Heflin acknowledges a debt to Mozart in the violin/viola duo textures of the music, as well as to Bartôk’s own dissonant writing, but these touchstones do not encompass the variety of microtones and the scratching textures that are brought to bear in her music. The spoken word interludes range from the spaciness in the above quote to more mundane questions about everyday life. The Redundancy of the Angelic is an unusual assemblage, but a quite compelling one. 

Claire Rousay

A Softer Focus

American Dreams Records

Claire Rousay creates sound collages that combine spoken word, ambient sounds, and warm synths. Place making is a central issue of A Softer Focus, her latest recording on American Dreams. Crackling street noise in “Preston Avenue” introduces us to Rousay’s varied sound world. It is followed by a contrasting track of sumptuous minimal synths on “Discrete (the Market).” “Peak Chroma” (video below) draws out a minor chord, successively adding overtones and a mournful melody. Eventually, the harmony progresses, with each chord is given a weighty presence corroscated by fragmentary speech samples. “Diluted Dreams” alternates sounds of children at play and traffic noises with minimal repetitions and extended held tones. Altered vocals and industrial percussion populate “Stoned Gesture.” “A Kind of Promise” closes the recording with glacially paced piano and cello (with spoken word around the edges). An enthralling listen.

“Peak Chroma’ is one of two tracks on a softer focus featuring sung lyrical content. The lyrics for it started as an iPhone Notes entry. This entry was a reminder to not fall into traps of nostalgia and the second-guessing that sometimes follows that. Reminiscing on something that not only is in the past but is something that is never coming back.” – Claire Rousay

Peak Chroma Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IWTvRAV7DYg

claire rousay a softer focus release show 

April 10th, 2021 | 3:30 PM PDT

Livestreamed on Bandcamp

$10 | Tix + info

Stephanie Cheng Smith

Forms 

A Wave Press

Stephanie Cheng Smith inhabits sound sculptures of two different varieties for the extended compositions on her latest A Wave Press release Forms. The first, “Birds,” uses b-z-bowls, which the composer describes as, “an instrument of suspended, vibrating plastic bowls that are filled with and muted by various objects (i.e. bells, balls, beads, clips, and cups).” B-z-bowls create a plethora of textures, from subtle shakes to swaths of white noise, and Cheng Smith does an excellent job using these deliberately restricted means with artful pacing. “Fish” is for violin, dark energy synthesizer (!), and laptop. It was performed within Anja Weiser Flower’s “Cosm, Organization-Construction, Second Instance” at Human Resources Los Angeles. Thus, the performance occurs within an artwork, using it both as an acoustic and aesthetic site. Thrumming, serrated synths against an insistent bass drone accompany violin harmonics and glissandos. This texture is replaced by bubbling percussion and short wave style distortions in an extended middle section. Gears shifting in grinding gestures signal a final section in which the electronics begin to spin out, joined by upper register scratched violin textures. The registral spectrum is filled out with muscular noise envelopes down a couple octaves from the main fray, only to have the top drop out and the bass register plumbed with muscularity. A denouement of progressively spaced out static attacks followed by an oscillating third on dark synth concludes the piece. The album title points out one of the most compelling aspects of Cheng Smith’s compositions: their unerring formal designs.

Matt Sargent 

Tide

Erik Carlson, violin; T.J. Borden, cello

The first iteration of “Tide” was in 2015 for double bassist Zach Rowden, who overdubbed a ten instrument cluster of sustained notes and pealing harmonics. The composer, Matt Sargent, fed sine tones to Rowden while he played, each one exhorting him to match it in realt time, creating an evolving of upper register harmonics. The current release captures two new versions of the piece, both for higher instruments and correspondingly more stratospheric results. The first is for ten overdubbed violins and ten overdubbed cellos. The two instruments’ span of harmonics interact, creating a texture that is sometimes gritty and at others glassine. The second version is for ten violins. Its shimmering harmonics are offset by downward glissandos that provide a counterweight to the altissimo highs. Both new versions of Tide supply significant and intriguing  diversity within prevailing sonic density. 

Taylor Brook

Star Maker Fragments

Tak Ensemble: Laura Cocks, flute; Madison Greenstone, clarinet; Marina Kifferstein, violin; Charlotte Mundy, voice; Ellery Trafford, percussion; 

Taylor Brook, electronics

Star Maker Fragments is a setting by Taylor Brook of fragments from Olaf Stapledon’s 1937 novel Star Maker. A history of billions of years and an early example of multiverse theories, Star Maker is one of the most ambitious early science fiction books and remained influential for generations. The ensemble and Brook create a suitably interstellar landscape, one that encompasses extended techniques and sounds both lush and at times akin to the bleeps on the bridge of the Starship Enterprise. It is left to vocalist Charlotte Mundy to carry the narrative components of Star Maker Fragments forward, which she persuasively does through spoken word and singing. One of the most imaginative sections of the piece is “Musical Universe,” which in the book is depicted as a universe that contains only music and no physical space. Tak and Brook respond to this prompt in a rapturous vein. Brook is an abundantly creative composer to watch.

-Christian Carey

Josquin at 500 (CD Review)

Josquin: Missa Hercules Dux Ferrarie – Missa D’ung aultre amer – Missa Faysant regretz

Tallis Scholars

Gimell Records

 

Josquin Motets and Mass Movements

Brabant Ensemble

Hyperion Records

 

The Golden Renaissance: Josquin des Prez

Stile Antico

Decca Classics

 

While scholarly consensus on Josquin’s birthdate has moved around over time (current estimates are around 1450), his death was in 1521, five hundred years ago. To mark this anniversary, three of the best ensembles singing early music have released recordings devoted to the composer’s works. 

 

The Tallis Scholars began their Josquin masses recording project decades ago, and this program of Missa Hercules Dux Ferrarie, Missa D’ung aultre amer, and Missa Faysant regretz completes their cycle of these totemic works with a ninth recording (on a previous CD, they even included a mass that may be by Bauldewyn or Josquin, just to be safe). They have saved some of the best works for last. Missa Hercules Dux Ferrari is the first known soggetto cavato mass, mapping syllables of the name of its dedicatee, Duke Ercole I D’este of Ferrara, onto solfege syllables. The motive is repeated a number of times, often in the texturally prominent tenor voice, commemorating the dedicatee resplendently and demonstrating a technique that would be taken up by a number of composers. Missa D’ung aultre amer is an earlier and relatively compact work, with more syllabic and homophonic writing than one often finds in Josquin. It uses a rondeau quatrain by Johannes Ockeghem as its principal building blocks. Unusual yes, but also fascinating and fetching. Missa Faysant regretz is based on a three-part rondeau that is either by Gille Binchois or Walter Frye. The mass is saturated with a four-note motive that appears more than 200 times; it is divided up among all of the voices and appears in various rhythmic guises. Faysant regretz rivals Missa Hercules in compositional virtuosity. While retaining a number of longtime personnel, the Tallis Scholars sound vivacious and well-balanced from sonorous basses to shimmering upper sopranos. They keep a crisp pacing throughout, and the rhythmic verve they demonstrate serves to clearly delineate the counterpoint in all three masses.

 

A collection of motets and mass movements are featured on the Brabant Ensemble’s recording. Ricocheting entrances contrast sumptuous, widely spaced verticals in O Bone et dulcissime Jesu. Pungent dissonances and imitative counterpoint enliven a setting of the Stabat Mater. The included mass movements, rather than being part of an Ordinary cycle, are freestanding. The Gloria de beata virgine and the Sanctus and Benedictus de Passione are easily as musically substantial as sections of complete mass settings and serve as a reminder that, irrespective of the way in which Renaissance music is often presented in concert and on disc, service music in practice was far from a tradition of monolithic cycles. The Brabant Ensemble and Stile Antico share some personnel, notably Helen, Kate, and Emma Ashby in the soprano and alto sections. The singers in both groups create a warm and impressively blended sound.

 

Stile Antico’s first Decca CD features a premiere recording of the beautiful chanson Vivrai je toujours. The rest of their selections include some “greatest hits” – Ave Maria Virgo Serena, Inviolate, integra, et casta es, Salve Regina, and a charming but slightly incongruous inclusion of El Grillo. The centerpiece is Missa Pange Lingua, a paraphrase mass from late in Josquin’s career that employs one of the central hymns of the Catholic liturgy. Stile Antico takes a spacious approach to the mass, with relaxed tempos and impressive delineation of the pervasive appearances of the hymn that define much of the mass. Two laments on the death of Josquin, Dum vastos Adriae fluctus by Jacquet De Mantua and O mors inevitabilis by Hieronymus Vinders, provide a fitting and stirring conclusion to this compelling recording. If asked to choose I would say: get all three. 

 

-Christian Carey

 

Douglas Boyce: Hunt by Night (CD Review)

Douglas Boyce

Hunt By Night: Chamber Works by Douglas Boyce

counter)induction; Trio Cavatina; Beth Guterman Chu, viola; Schuyler Slack, cello, 

Ieva Jokubaviciute, piano

New Focus CD 

In selecting the fifteenth century “L’Homme Arme” tune as the centerpiece for his quintet by the same name, composer Douglas Boyce demonstrates an affinity for connecting music of the past with an individual contemporary voice. The piece leads off his portrait CD Hunt by Night, and it matches a structural integrity akin to Renaissance talea with an energetic, propulsive demeanor. Chamber ensemble counter)induction impressively navigates the intricacies of the score, particularly impressive in their rhythmic coordination of a number of turn-on-a-dime entrances. 

Two pieces from Boyce’s A Book of Etudes both deal with rhythm in still more intricate fashion. Stretto Perpetuo, played by cellist Schuyler Slack and pianist Ieva Jokubaviciute, deals with, as its title suggests, constant and varied kinds of overlap. A recurring ostinato is broken into sections where the opening gesture is treated in different tempos and various playing techniques. Metric modulation further complicates the structure of Stretto Perpetuo, but Slack and Jokubaviciute present a detailed and robust performance of even the work’s thorniest challenges. The title work, a trio played by clarinetist Benjamin Fingland, pianist Ning Yu, and cellist Caleb van der Swaagh, members of counter)induction, is filled with ostinatos as well; its three-fold repetitions of small melodic cells take on a post-minimal cast. Fingland plays impressively, employing glissandos and rasps reminiscent in places of Klezmer. Elsewhere, all three instrumentalists engage in an elaborate game of follow-the-leader that suggests the title’s hunting metaphor. The coda reenacts this passage in slow motion, culminating in a delicately arcing descent to the bass register. 

Piano Quartet No. 2 is sinuously textured, with glissandos and repeating fragments providing a counterweight to angular melodies. Repetitions are offset to create a kaleidoscopic panoply of gestures. Trio Cavatina, joined by violist Beth Guterman Chu, provides supple sliding tones, explosive repeating gestures, and characterful delineation of the piece’s sectional progress and playful conclusion.

Sails Knife-bright in a Seasonal Wind, the title taken from Derek Mahon’s poem Achill, was written for counter)induction members violinist Miranda Cuckson, guitarist Dan Lippel, and percussionist Jeffrey Irving. Boyce dedicates the piece to his then four year-old son, and the younger Boyce’s loves – a half-size guitar, movement and dance, and the moon and the stars – all evoke touching moments in the piece. Lippel’s playing takes on a puckish character, while Cuckson’s violin outlines a jaunty dance tune adorned by colorful percussion from Irving. Finally, the games end, naptime encroaches, and we are treated to a dreamscape presented as a gentle lullaby. Boyce moves easily between technical fluency and emotional resonance, making Hunt by Night a most satisfying collection of his music.

-Christian