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Saturday, September 11, 2010

Thin Ice

The new music group Sequitur has released a CD of Concertos that offer reassurance, if not absolute proof, that the modern Concerto (as an art-form) is alive and well [Albany Records, TROY 1181].

The CD includes fine works by Ross Bauer, Steven Burke, and Martin Matalon. All three are composers of exceptional talent and formidable skill, but the piece that stands out in my mind is Thin Ice by Ross Bauer.

Bauer's piece is a Concerto for cello and chamber orchestra. The work is elegant, precise, and razor-sharp in its execution of logical and dramatic form. Thin Ice draws me in, seducing me to listen to what the soloist and orchestra have to say. It's not a "one idea" work, but rather an extended multi-leveled narrative with an internal dialogue that promotes thought, excitement, and repeated visits to the CD player.

This Concerto, and the language Bauer has carefully honed over the course of decades of professional practice, resonate with me in ways that I can't fully explain. It's as if his music speaks for me, on my behalf, with a clarity and sentiment that I can fully relate to. It's so convincing that I'm solidly on board for the voyage, wherever it may lead.

Bauer's music is all about content; not novel gimmicks, sensational effects, or unusual devices. From the outset, Thin Ice presents a consistent and unified harmonic language that lays a groundwork for the progress that both folds and unfolds - not unlike the age-old practice of Japanese Origami in the hands of a master.

Lasting nearly 24 minutes and organized into four contrasting movements, Thin Ice enlists the extraordinary abilities and talents of the Violoncello soloist (Greg Hesselink). From a performance perspective, Hesselink performs acrobatics that truly push the envelope of what's possible on his instrument to the edge. At times, especially when he plays high in the stratosphere, we really do feel as if he is an Olympic skater performing feats of dazzling acrobatic wonder on ice. Working collaboratively, Bauer's writing and Hesselink's performance maintain our long-term interest and undivided attention. Although this is a sizable work, time passes quickly.

The sound of the chamber orchestra is not shabby either, and the members of Sequitur under the direction of conductor Paul Hostetter sound agile and confident in this recording. Sequitur, from their home-base in NYC, is led by co-Artistic Directors Harold Meltzer and Sara Laimon.

Check it out.



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