American Music for Flute, Cello and PianoDAN LOCKLAIR (b.1949): Reynolda Reflections, JENNIFER HIGDON (b.1962): American Canvas, NED ROREM (b.1923): Trio.
Catalogue Number: 02W070
Label: Navona Records
Description: This striking program of fine, tonal trios by living American composers is based around the relationship between music and the visual arts, a not infrequently explored connection for composers. Locklair's superb suite depicts five paintings in Winston-Salem’s Reynolda Museum of American Art, a similar exercise to Philip Martin's "Serendipity" piano trio (Altarus 9011 - we offered it years ago and can still get it), which musically "narrates" paintings in an Irish collection. The first movement represents "The Old Hunting Grounds" by Thomas Worthington Whittredge, an Ohio artist of the Hudson River School, whose landscapes are marked by the incredible level of detail and immersively atmospheric lighting common to that movement. The composer finds the influence of the English landscape master, John Constable, so to emphasise its connection to English landscape, the movement comprises variations on the melody by Thomas Tallis that Vaughan Williams used for his Fantasia. The second movement is based on Thomas Hart Benton, whose robust, bold, solid figures of people in everyday situations illustrated all aspects of American life, including nightmarish war imagery and the humdrum, homely, high- and low-life. A jazzy, propulsive movement, it suggests the huge impact of machinery on American society. A warm, passionate, sensuous slow movement follows, inspired by an anatomically suggestive landscape by Georgia O'Keeffe. The clarity and bold gestures of Dances before the barn illustrate a group of rural buildings painted in geometric shapes by "Precisionist" painter Charles Sheeler, and the thrilling, highly Romantic finale is "Songs to the Wind" after a stormy landscape by Elliott Daingerfield, whose Hudson River School influenced paintings exude a visionary glow and a palpable sense of natural forces in motion. The piece recalls the lush, surging romanticism of Wagner or Rachmaninov. Higdon's American Canvas was inspired by three very different American painters and their works (Georgia O’Keeffe, Jackson Pollock, and Andrew Wyeth). O'Keeffe is represented in rich, luminous, saturated, neo-romantic tones, combining sensuality and a feeling of wide-open landscape. Pollock's movement is vital, constantly in perpetual motion, obsessively weaving strands of melody and gesture of varying colour, density, and shape - a hyperactive scherzo, perfectly representing the vigour and energy of drip and splatter paintings. Wyeth's obsessively focused, emotionally oblique, technically meticulous art is the subject of the intricate finale, with its bold chiaroscuro counterpoint. Rorem's 1960 Trio in four movements limned in his characteristically slightly acerbic tonal vocabulary, emphasising melodic line above all. The first movement is like an aria, the flute substituting for Rorem's favourite melodic instrument, the voice. The second is a dramatic Largo, the piano irritably and insistently interrupting an "idiotic" (the composer’s word) repetitive, sinister whispered conversation between the other two instruments, while the third is a lyrical, songlike movement prominently featuring the cello. The finale is a vigorous, unbuttoned romp, fast, energetic, nonchalantly directionless. Pangaea Chamber Players.