With five minutes to spare somewhere in the mix, we turned to Elly Ameling, soprano, and Rudolf Jansen, piano, for Schubert's "Suleika I," a golden oldie, if ever there was one. Bliss.
And we made a welcome new acquaintance in the otherworldly Sinikka Langeland, from Norway's "Finnish Forest." Singing and playing the local variant of the zither known as the kantele, she infuses regional folk music with touches of jazz. From her new album Wolf Rune (ECM 2021), we heard the spacious title track, spun in a silvery, somehow monastic soprano over a low-lying accompaniment, and "When I Was the Forest," seven minutes of time-stopping serenity. On June 6, we came back for an encore: "Polsdance from Finsskogen," which is livelier, though still very, very chill.
From The Four Seasons, a cycle of song cycles by Robert Paterson, accompanied by the American Modern Ensemble (American Modern Recordings 2021), we sampled three tracks, which is all the FCC allows:
- Marnie Breckenridge, soprano, in "Summer Music," from "Summer Songs";
- David Neal, bass-baritone, in "The Snow Man," from "Winter Songs";
- Blythe Gaissert, mezzo-soprano, in "November for Beginners," from "Autumn Songs.
From this admittedly limited exposure, the material struck me as academic, with the virtues (conscientious craftsmanship) and drawbacks (insularity) that assessment usually implies.
Finally, we had our share of puzzlers.
* The single "To the Edge of Longing," the title song from a cycle to be included in its entirety on Freedom Over Everything, an album of music by Vince Mendoza due for imminent release on the BMG. The cycle was written for the soprano Julia Bullock, who in my experience can do no wrong, either in her repertoire choices or as an interpreter. Lacking context, though, this preview of coming attractions, accompanied by the Czech National Symphony Orchestra, seemed to me rather a question mark.
* From Konstantia Gourzi: Anájikon (ECM New Series 2021), "Hommage à Mozart"/Nils Mönkemeyer, viola; William Youn – Three epigrammatic movements, transparently laid out, and very elegantly played. But in the absence of thematic echoes or formal resemblances, a listener may wonder wherein the tribute consists. For the record, the composer was born in Greece but now makes her home in Germany.
* The three final movements ("Act 6") of the Lim Fantasy of Companionship for Piano and Orchestra (Signum 2020). If I have this right, the surgeon Dr. Susan Lim and her colleague Dr. Christina Teenz Tan came up with the concept for a proposed musical called "ALAN," leaving it to Manu Martin to write a score. Drawing on songs intended for the show, the album purports to chart an epic of Artificial Intelligence, following the journey of a soul from an animate being to an inanimate being and ultimately to a human being. Cutting to the chase, we heard music reminiscent of Elton John, Andrew Lloyd Webber, and, perhaps most telling of all, the Richard Strauss bits from the soundtrack of 2001: A Space Odyssey.