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Classical Music Review

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American Stories


Composers: various
Performed by: Anthony McGill (clarinet) and the Pacifica Quartet
Label: Cedille Records
RRP: £13.99
CDR 90000 216
Release Date: 11 November 2022

Clarinetist Anthony McGill and the Pacifica Quartet release their new album, American Stories, which features works by living composers, via Cedille Records. The recording features works by Richard Danielpour, James Lee III, and Ben Shirley, plus a hometown tribute by Valerie Coleman...

If I'm being perfectly honest collections like this usually excite me... while also leaving me cold. Releases that are comprised solely of modern composers tend to lean a little too far toward the avant-garde.

Thankfully on American Stories the avant-garde element is kept to brief segments. For me, classical music has to resonate on an emotional level, not have the listener reaching for the button to skip to the next track. Here, the content is heavily weighted to the melancholic and emotionally rewarding variety - making the whole experience one I thoroughly enjoyed.

The album opens with, I'd argue, the most emotive piece: Richard Danielpour's 'Four Angels'. This was a piece I instantly warmed to. The other three works - James Lee III's 'Quintet'; Ben Shirley's 'High Sierra Sonata and Valerie Coleman's 'Shotgun Houses' - took me a few listens to really get onboard with. While I enjoyed them on the first play through, it was only with subsequent listens that I really started to appreciate the finer points.

This is a lovingly crafted collection of modern works, wonderfully performed by clarinetist Anthony McGill and the Pacifica Quartet.

Track listing:

Richard Danielpour
01 - Four Angels* (13:45)

James Lee III
Quintet* (21:58)
02 - I. Forgotten Emblems (5:49)
03 - II. Awashoha (4:37)
04 - III. Alas, my identity… (7:42)
05 - III. Celebrated Emblems (3:39)

Ben Shirley
High Sierra Sonata* (19:04)
06 - I. Buttermilk Morning (8:15)
07 - II. Angry Secrets (3:34)
08 - III. Reflections on a Day (7:14)

Valerie Coleman
Shotgun Houses (17:43)
09 - I. ShotGun Houses (5:21)
10 - II. Grand Ave. (5:38)
11 - III. Rome 1960 (6:35)

*World premiere recording


Darren Rea

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