Matthias Racz / Leon Kirchner / Chen Yi / Gil Rose

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NORDGREN: String Quartet No. 3. Equivocations. Sonata for Cello. String Quintet
Kokkola Quartet. Eija Kankaanranata, kantele, Reijo Tunkkari, violin; Hanna Pakkala, viola. Lauri Pulakka, cello. Marko lönen, cello. Janne Vikkala, cello.
ALBA SACD ABCD 421 TT: 69:50
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KIRCHNER: Sinfonia ni Two Parts.Toccata for Strings, Solo Wihds, and Percussion. Music for Orchestra. Orchestra Piece (Music for Orchestr11). The Forbidden.
Boston Modern Orchestra Project / Gil Rose , cond.
BMOP SACD 1060 TT: 62:39
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CHEN YI: Spring in Dresden for Violin and Orchestra. Suite for Cello and Chamber Winds, Fiddle Suie for Huqin and String Orchestra. Xian Shi for Viola and Orhestra.
Boston Modern Orchestra Project. Mira Wang, violin. David Russell, cello. Wang Guowei, huquin. Lizhou Liu, viola. / Gil Rose, cond.
BMOP SACD 1058 TT: 69:09
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Pehr Henrik Norgard (1944 - 2008), a major figure on Finland's music scene, has written more than 40 works for chamber ensembles, as well as an opera, 9 symphonies, orchestral works and music for solo instruments. This site has praised previous SACD issues of his Symphonies 1 and 8 (REVIEW), Symphonies 3 and 7 (REVIEW), the Accordion Concerto (REVIEW), and the large-scale choral work Divine Circus (REVIEW). On this new SACD we have four major chamber works, all receiving their premiere recordings. First is Quartet No 3 (he wrote eleven), a one-movement work, written in 1976. This is followed by Equivocations, Op. 35 composed in 1981. This featured the kantele, a Finnish folk instrument rather like a zither, along with violin, viola and cello. This apparently is the first time this unusual instrument has been used formally in a classical work. The Cello Sonata, written in 1992, has four sections: Evocation, Defiance, Interlude: Oreiller, and Patch. The disk ends with String Quintet, Op. 110, commissioned for the Kimito Island Music Festival, composed in 2000. The performances are superb, and the recording captures the varied, and sometimes unique, string sounds. A notable issue!

Leon Kirchner (1919 - 2009) was totally American, a major figure for a half century. He was a respected teacher and won a number of awards for his music .A prolific composer, Kirchner wrote primarily chamber music, much of which has been recorded. His orchestral works will be new to most listeners, although they have been championed by major conductors. The New York Philharmonic premiered Sinfonia in Two Parts in 1952 (Dimitri Mitropoulos), Toccata premiered 1956 with Enrique Jordá and the San Francisco Symphony, Music for Orchestra premiered 1969 with the composer leading the New York Philharmonic, Orchestra Piece was premiered 1990 with the composer leading the New England Conservatory Orchestra, and James Levine conducted the Boston Symphony in the premiere of The Forbidden in 2008. Now we have all of these works, most of which doubtless are first recordings, in sterling performances by the superb Boston Modern Orchestra Project under its dynamic conductor, Gil Rose. In spite of this, it seems Kirchner's orchestral music has yet to develop a following. I've listened to his recoding three times, and three is nothing here that I would care to experience again. I'm sure Rose and his ensemble do what can be done, but limited interest here. Superb audio, as usual wi BMOP.

Another BMOP SACD offers unusual works by virtually unknown composer, Chen Yi,. Born in 1953, she was a violinist and focused on composing music for string instruments. She met conductor Gil Rose when they were members of the Board of Advisors of the American Music Center. Rose, intrigued by Yi's music, suggested they make these recordings. The major work is Yi's Violin Concerto No. 2 called Springtime in Dresden, written in 2005 for Mira Wang, soloist on this recording. The 16-minute Xian Shi is the earliest work of the composer (1983) composed for Yi's graduation ceremony, scored for viola and orchestra. The premiere was played by Lizhou Liu, also heard on this recording. In this music the viola is used to suggest the sound of the the two-string fiddle yehu. Fiddle Suite features 3 types of hugin (Chinese fiddles). Recordings were made in different venues 2010 - 2014, and engineers have provided a satisfying, well-balanced sound. This is an opportunity to hear unusual music for string instruments, and we may be sure these performances are exactly what the composer intended. Yet another unusual SACD from BMOP!

R.E.B. (October 2018)