February 26, 2021

  • Greve/McKinley/Cunningham/Lentini Releases

    One of Navona's gifts for composers and listeners is the opportunity to hear how composer works in different mediums.  Today we are looking at four releases that explore the music of an equal number of composers.

    The Palace of the Dreamking and Other Works (Navona 6257)

    Released at the end of 2019, this collection of Peter Greve's music gives listeners a fine survey of his work for orchestra, chamber pieces, and even choir.  Greve's music has some rather interesting lyrical qualities and a style that sometimes recalls mid-century Hollywood scoring.  That is on display in the title work of the album which is a 10+ minute symphonic poem.  Also included here is Magic Winter, a three-movement work for string orchestra that has a Bartokian feel at times with some hints at impressionist mystery.  This blend of modernism has additional links to more Baroque-currents which can be heard in the Partita for 11 Instruments, and even to some extent the concluding Aria for Trumpet and Organ (which also appeared previously on Navona's In Tandem release).  The sacred undercurrent that seems to also influence Greve's work comes out even more so in Give Us Peace, a fascinating multi-movement work for chorus and organ.  The collection is a fine blend of Greve's modernist voice that has some fine romantic undertones.  His lyrical writing which often appears in long, sweeping thematic ideas, is often quite stunning.  Certainly a release to track down! (https://www.navonarecords.com/catalog/nv6257)

    Shadow Dancer (Navona 6264)

    Chamber music by composer Elliot Miles McKinley is featured on this late 2019 release.  The album opens with his String Quartet No. 8 (2016).  This is a tightly-constructed work that maintains a modern bent in a quite accessible musical language.  Motivic development helps provide important links through the work that also features some fine writing across the ensemble.  A stunningly-intense "Nocturne" forms the center of this work with dense harmonies adding to its often somber beauty.  A final fire-y "Rondo" closes the work off with hints at past Classical ideas and some jazzy rhythmic inflections to add further flavor.  The Auriga Quartet acquits themselves well in this intense, and often virtuosic demands McKinley challenges the players with in this work.  At the center of the album is a work for cello and piano.  A Letter to Say I Love You, and Goodbye (2011) is a more impassioned work that provides a fitting contrast to what has come before.  The album takes its name from the closing work, a multi-movement piano trio.  Written in 2018, the music boasts some great thematic material that blends contemporary style with blends of jazz harmonies and rhythms as well with each of the different "dances" finding new ways to move through excitement to moments of quietude and beyond.  It makes for a rather engaging collection of chamber music.  (https://www.navonarecords.com/catalog/nv6264)

    Indiana Collectanea: The Music of Michael G. Cunningham (Navona 6270)

    Navona has released a great deal of Michael Cunningham's music over the past few years.  This release focuses on his time when he was a resident at the Indiana University School of Music.  It pulls together 11 live recordings made their between 1969-1973.  In provides a snapshot of Cunningham's early work while also showing off some of the talent available to him at the time.  The chamber pieces here run the gamut from more traditional groups (string trio, brass quintet, and solo piano) to experimental forays into writing for percussion ensemble and unique combinations (like the bass clarinet and harp work, Phases).   (https://www.navonarecords.com/catalog/nv6270)

    Through Time and Place (NV 6273)

    James Lentini's ensemble music is presented in this excellent collection of pieces that show off his dramatic and accessible orchestral writing.  Many of the pieces here were specific commissions and won accolades at music festivals.  The Sinfonia di Festa (1996) kicks off the album with an exciting orchestral work that invites the listener in with its burst of energy and then captures the attention with its sinuous narrative writing.  The style is in that some what post-modern romantic quality form composers like Michael Daugherty or Richard Danielpour.  It makes for thrilling listening.  Perhaps a bit more cerebral the two-movement Symphony No. 1 (whose subtitle is also that for the release itself) allows for some brilliant work across the orchestra that allows differnet sections to shine.  The second movement is an exciting conclusion.  From these more energetic moments, we shift gears to two more reflective works.  A beautiful work for soprano, chorus and orchestra, Three Sacred Meditations (2000) seems to echo some of the classic American works in this genre of Randall Thompson.  For many, this and The Angel's Journey (1998) for wind symphony, will be the real highlights with their modernist Americana qualities that are paired with brilliant writing.  Dreamscape (1994) is another short tone poem of sorts that moves us back into more dissonant orchestral territory but which is no less an engaging and dramatic work.  Lentini's pieces here are all solid compositions that deserve to take their place along many of the other 1990s orchestral works that enticed audiences back to modern music with their accessible language that also is not afraid to add powerful dissonant writing.  https://www.navonarecords.com/catalog/nv6273)