MICHAEL G. CUNNINGHAM (b.1937): Counter Currents, Op. 16b, Time Frame, Op. 90a, 2 Impromptus, Op. 149c, Transactions, Op. 90b, Symphony No. 7 (A Cummings Synchrony), Op. 29 (Moravian Philharmonic Orchestra; Petr Vronský and Pavel Šnajdr), A Bach Pre-Symphony, Fauré - Nocturne No. 6 (Janáček Philharmonic Orchestra; Stanislav Vavřínek).
Catalogue Number: 12W050
Label: Navona Records
Description: Like our previous offerings of Cunningham's output (e.g. 05V051, 10U060), this disc displays the many facets of the prolific, versatile veteran composer's evolving style. This stylistic diversity and evolution was charted in his cycle of quartets (03S066), and as there, these works progress from a mid-20th century, serious and uncompromising tonal idiom with some influence from Shostakovich, Bartók, and Prokofiev, via a thornier, less tonal style, to a free, tonally based but more eclectic vocabulary. Counter Currents, from 1966, is as the title suggests, a taut weft of counterpoints, whereas 1980's virtuosic piano concertino in all but name, Time Frame, is comparatively modernistic in style, inviting comparison with Messiaen, and even more so, Lutosławski. TransActions, from the same year, is more immediately approachable, a work of real stature and considerable power, the title hinting at the music's tensely intersecting, conflicting lines and planes of material. By 1999, the year of the Impromptus, the composer was once again writing in a tonal idiom not unlike that of his early period, just as tautly argued but more emotionally expressive. A Cummings Synchrony is to be either performed or heard during simultaneous reading or recitation of four selected poems of E.E. Cummings" which the composer has identified as referring to the Four Elements of antiquity; unfortunately, and unhelpfully he refers to these only by page numbers in "The Complete Poems", which depends on which edition is used. No recitation or printed text is provided, so what we have here is four movements of extremely atmospheric, inventive orchestral textures and sound effects which vividly evoke the four Elements. Slow, ambient, not especially dissonant chords and undulating wave motifs overlain with striking surface glimmers and scintillations have little in the way of "symphonic" shape, structure or development, but provide a perfect sonoristic backdrop to Cummings' gorgeously lyrical but bewildering oblique poetic style in general (and perhaps in particular if we knew which poems are being illustrated). The composer’s fondness for Romantic orchestration of keyboard and chamber works has previously been documented in Bach and Chopin; here he redistributes the parts and continuo of four Bach trio Sonata movements among the voices of the orchestra, and calls the result a Pre-Symphony, and presents a full and dramatic, slightly bombastic, orchestration of Fauré's Nocturne No. 6.