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Classical Music Review

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Volume 2
A Concert of Music by Members of Connecticut Composers, Inc.


Composers: Various
Label: Navona Records
RRP: £13.99
Release Date: 12 October 2018

Spectra: Volume 2 brings us another collection of works from members of the Connecticut Composers Inc. In this volume, we are treated to pieces by six composers, each of whom tells a unique, memorable story.

For me, the biggest problem with this collection is that there seems to be no real connection between the tracks, other than they're all composers from the same institution. I didn't find Volume 1 overly interesting, but I appreciated its finer points, and why people would embrace it.

So what does Volume 2 have in store for us? There are a total of 17 tracks (1 hr, 02 min, 25 sec). First up is Elizabeth R. Austin's 'B-A-C-Homage', a tribute to the German Baroque composer. Based on Bach's name and his 'Air on G' respectively, the first and second movement reflect upon the clarity of his work through the lens of Austin's decidedly modern tonal language.

John Alan Rose's 'Sleepy Hollow Suite' for piano has a timeless appeal that bridges centuries. You can imagine Washington Irving claiming this as a soundtrack for his eponymous story. Rose empathetically retells the American literature in a three-movement suite.

'Bells and Grass', composed by Juliana Hall, brings five poems by Walter de la Mare to life with only a soprano and an oboe.

Ryan Jesperson's 'Icarus' is a duo for alto saxophone and piano. Like the eponymous mythological character, it starts out soaring, but undergoes a considerable transformation, culminating in a spectacular fashion.

Frank Vasi's saxophone quartet 'Random Thoughts' is a four-movement work which wouldn't be out of place in an upscale jazz venue. Vasi toys with compositional difficulties throughout, such as the conflict between two contrasting time signatures in 'The Argument'. The quirky Picasso's Rag sounds exactly how one would imagine it according to the title.

Nancy Tucker brings the album to a close with two of her playful, upbeat compositions. 'Escape of the Slinkys' imagines the life of named perennial childhood toy with bewildering depth of imagination. 'Grasshopper's Holiday', an unapologetically catchy guitar piece, evokes images of road trips and carefree summers with such cheerful drive that one might find it difficult to stop listening to it on repeat.

I have to admit that I found it hard to listen to this album all the way through. Yes, on their own merits, each piece is interesting but as a collection something just didn't gel for me, which sort of ruined the whole experience. This is more an album to dip in and out of, or to take certain tracks and add them to a playlist.

Track listing:

Elizabeth R. Austin
B-A-C-HOMAGE (2007) for viola and piano
Laura Krentzman (viola)
Erberk Eryilmaz (piano)
01 - I.  B-A-C-HOMAGE
02 - II.  Ich bin’s, Nachtigall (I am the one, Nightingale)

John Alan Rose
Sleepy Hollow Suite (2007) for viola and piano
John Alan Rose, piano
03 - I. Ichabod and Katrina
04 - II. Van Tassel’s Party
05 - III. Ichabod and the Horseman

Juliana Hall
Bells and Grass (1989) 5 songs for soprano & oboe
Poems by Walter de la Mare
Julia Broxholm (soprano)
Margaret Marco (oboe)
06 - I. Echo
07 - II. Gone
08 - III. Why?
09 - IV. Coals
10 - V. Rain

Ryan Jesperson
11 - Icarus (2017) for alto saxophone and piano
Joseph Abad (alto saxophone)
Marko Stuparevic (piano)

Frank Vasi
Random Thoughts (2014) for saxophone quartet
The Thimble Islands Saxophone Quartet
David Langlais (soprano saxophone)
Will Cleary (alto saxophone)
Frank Vasi (tenor saxophone)
Tim Moran (baritone saxophone)
12 - I. Random Thoughts
13 - II. The Argument
14 - III. The Garden in the City
15 - IV. Picasso’s Rag

Nancy Tucker
16 - Escape of the Slinkys (2004)
Nancy Tucker (6-string guitar)
Tom Dest (marimba)

Nancy Tucker
17 - Grasshopper’s Holiday (2001)
Nancy Tucker (6-string guitar)


Darren Rea

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