Zodiac Trio (CD Review)

Zodiac Trio

Dreamtime

Zodiac Trio

Kliment Krylovskiy, clarinet
Vanessa Mollard, violin
Riko Higuma, piano

Blue Griffin Records CD/download

Formed at Manhattan School of Music in 2006, the Zodiac Trio have been ambitious in their commissioning projects. Joined by guest cellist Ariel Barnes, on their second album Dreamtime they tackle a program consisting entirely of 21st century music.

The CD features two substantial commissioned works: Lamentations, by Richard Danielpour, and Andrew List’s Klezmer Fantazye.  As one might well expect, both use the scalar patterns and gestural language of Klezmer, Danielpour in plaintive fashion and List with greater exuberance. On Aboriginal Dreamtime, List uses that culture’s creation myth as a starting pointing for an evocative piece. The group switches gears on John Mackey’s Breakdown Tango. Joined by Barnes, the Zodiac demonstrates ample virtuosity, playing with rhythmic verve and tight knit ensemble coordination.

Dreamtime is capped off with Across the Universe, a twelve-piece collection featuring one-minute pieces all inspired by signs of the Zodiac. It is a great way to put a distinctive stamp on the commissioning process (each piece responds to its particular sign thoughtfully and imaginatively) and to provide a “taster platter” of several composers’ styles. Standouts include Stanley Hoffmann’s lilting dance for Capricorne, James Romig’s delicately mysterious Virgo, John McDonald’s piquant Scorpio, and Francine Trester’s bumptious Aries. 

One hopes that Zodiac will continue commissioning. Dreamtime demonstrates that they excel at bringing new compositions to life.

 

Laura Cetilia on Estuary, Ltd.

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Used, Broken, & Unwanted

Laura Cetilia, cello, autoharp, voice, and electronics

Estuary Ltd. CD

 

A live recording from 2013 made in Providence, Rhode Island, Used, Broken, and Unwanted demonstrates to good effect the wide-ranging timbral palette and drone-based structures that artist Laura Cetilia explores. The title track makes use of repetition, not in the symmetrical fashion of process-driven minimalism, but to create an undulating undergirding for the wisps of vocal and cello melodies that sporadically emerge. This elegantly segues into the exquisitely fragile “Thrum/Pin.”

“Plucked from Obscurity” makes efficacious use of pizzicato; the electronics with which it contends range from the bell-like to the percussive. Particularly lovely is the delicate album closer “Tears of Things,” in which the main, initially pizzicato-driven, ostinato is gradually supplanted by sweeping guttural electronics and an accumulation of upper register sustained notes.

In the surprisingly burgeoning field of cellists who sing, Cetilia is a distinctive one. Alternately penetrating and atmospheric, Used, Broken, and Unwanted is a stimulating listen throughout.

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Crossings – New Music for Cello (CD Review)

Crossings – New Music for Cello

Kate Dillingham, cello; Amir Khosrowpour, piano

Furious Artisans Recordings

 

On Crossings, cellist Kate Dillingham brings energetic artistry to a program of new works. The CD includes a number of solo pieces. Bhakti 4, “Atma Shatakam” (Song of the Self), by Jonathan Pieslak, pairs a meditative modal melody over a drone. Tian Jing Sha, by Yuan-Chen Li, calls upon the cellist to sing in delicate tones alongside a vigorously arpeggiated accompaniment rife with trills. Behold the Lamb of God by Jorge Muniz  is a supple work, its ardent melodic lines creating a rhapsodic ambience that alternates with brusquely repeated notes. Chemin, Three Episodes, and Aria for solo cello by Federico Garcia de Castro exploits the cello’s full range in insistent low double stops, long glissandos, and penetrating harmonics. These surround a mid-range melodic thread built out of unconventional scalar fragments. David Fetherolf’s E io li tenni dietro is an extended suite featuring a variety of demeanors and playing techniques. Passages of pizzicato (plucked) figures, multi-stops, and harmonics are complemented by dancing figures and moody angular melodies.

Joined for duos by pianist Amir Khosrowpour, Dillingham digs in to Gilbert Galindo’s Almost Within Reach, relishing its passionate long breathed melodies and altissimo register cries. Khosrowpour is equally impressive, performing limpid cascades and stentorian chordal outbursts with precision and forceful authority. Allen Schulz’s A Dance of Shadows finds the duo in a dramatic colloquy filled with syncopated gestures and brusquely dissonant verticals. The recording’s highlight, Adagio pour Amantani  by Gabriela Lena Frank, is an expansive and beautiful piece, filled with lyrical cello recitatives and soaring passages for the piano. Frank’s harmonic language is intriguingly varied, at some points incorporating triadic writing while at others delving into more intricate chromaticism. Crossings does indeed provide an intersection between a multiplicity of compositional voices and aesthetics. It is unified by the commitment and considerable capabilities brought to each and every performance on the recording. Recommended.