Month: October 2021

  • Illuminating Piano Music by Victoria Bond


    Illumination: Piano Works of Victoria Bond
    Paul Barnes, piano and chanter.
    Slovak Radio Orchestra/Kirk Trevor;
    Bohuslav Martinu Philharmonic/Kirk Trevor
    Albany Records TROY 1880
    Total Time:  64:41
    Recording:   ****/****
    Performance: ****/****

    Pianist Paul Barnes is featured exploring music inspired by ancient chant in this release featuring the work of Victoria Bond (b. 1945).  Bond was a student of Ingolf Dahl and Roger Sessions and early in her career assisted on some of Phillip Glass’s film scores.  Barnes has also worked with the latter over 25 years having also commissioned pieces by the composer.  He has also been quite instrumental in the development of the music on this album collaborating with Bond on recording her music and the world of Eastern chant.

    The opening pieces here are for solo piano and take their inspiration from Byzantine chants.  Illuminations (2021) has slowly evolved into a three-movement work.  Its first movement, “Potirion Sotiriu” was composed in 1999 and incorporates the essence of that ancient chant melody into a mystical exploration that continues in the central “Simeron Kremate” (2019) which introduces a bit more intensity and dissonance; and moves into a sounder conclusion in the final “Enite ton Kyrion” (2021).  The latter pulls together the chants from the other movements to provide an apt conclusion to the work as a whole.  The music here recalls the work of Thomas de Hartmann’s mystical music inspired by the philosopher George Gurdjieff.  They are quite compelling pieces that are written in an accessible style with modern harmonic ideas adding a little extra flavor.  Bond’s music tends to be a bit more complex in construction with the chants feeling finely integrated into the musical reflections here.  As a bonus, one can listen to the chants sing by Barnes as a sort of addendum to this album.  This helps listeners better connect with the pieces further and provides another entry point for this music.

    The album also includes two re-releases of previously-recorded works for piano and orchestra that inhabit the same sort of philosophical milieu.  Ancient Keys (2002) is a single-movement concerto that also uses the opening “Potirion Sotiriu” piano work now given a more expansive pallet.  The chant is sung as the work opens to provide some context for what is to follow.  The swirling opening of that chant informs the opening orchestral material that wafts up from the lower realms of the ensemble in a sort of slow spiral.  The way the material is handled has some parallels to the work of Hovhaness, though Bond’s musical language tends to stay more traditional.  The orchestral writing does allow for some interesting interaction with the soloist with a good forward motion and dramatic flair.

    Black Light (1997) closes the release with a bit of variety in inspiration.  The works on the release overall are based on musical meditations of illumination and here Bond shifts her attention to African American musical traditions blending them with her own religious background.  The three-movement work opens with an intense driving rhythmic idea with a bit of interplay in a lighter theme for piano.  The latter displays a sense of wit.  The music here shifts to a far more dissonant set of pulses and angular piano lines that make for a nice contrast to the previous works.  The jazzier syncopation is also part of orchestration that takes its cues from jazz orchestral works making it a sort of contemporary integration of the style.  The central movement uses a Jewish liturgical chant for its primary material.  Finally, the piece wraps up with a hybrid rondo variation form inspired by the scat singing style of Ella Fitzgerald.

    Interesting works and engaging music make for a fine introduction to Bond’s music for new listeners.  The performances feel quite committed and Barnes seems to be a fine interpreter of the music here offering informed, nuanced playing in the opening Illuminations and having a bit more opportunity for technical displays in the larger orchestral concerto pieces.  Both orchestras manage to tackle these pieces with a nice sense of precision.  The Martinu orchestra seems particularly attuned to the jazz gestures and that helps the piece quite a bit.  Everything is mastered well and equalized which allows for good imaging of the piano against the orchestra.  Clarity in the textures is also quite good which is both due to Bond’s orchestration as well as the clean playing of the orchestras.  Overall a quite interesting and engaging collection of modern music for piano.

  • Woodmoon Collective Halloween Project

    With the extraordinary participation of Maestro Claudio Simonetti (Goblin), the Woodmoon collective has released a new single in the week leading up to Halloween, on digital stores and Bandcamp. "Halloween Came First” is a Classic Rock tune playfully mocking the stereotypes of one of the most beloved and controversial folklore traditions.

    Initially available on all streaming platforms, the single will later be released as a limited edition 7″ with splatter coloring, get your copy at .

    The project has involved Matteo Ciminari on theremin, Marco Mattei on drums and Roberto Di Rosa on bass. All musicians have decided to donate to the Emergency N.G.O. the proceeds from the sale of both physical and digital copies, including all royalties deriving from licensing and streaming.

    The Woodmoon Project is a collective of musicians led by Kristian Sensini and Jan Mozzorecchia, who have collaborated over the years with National Geographic, PBS, Verizon, Fox, Felt Music, Mediaset and Rai to create soundtracks for Cinema and Television. Claudio Simonetti clearly needs no introduction, as an international composer and musician, he is known to the general public especially for having composed many soundtracks for Italian and American films, including the unforgettable hits for Dario Argento's movies. He has also composed soundtracks for George A. Romero, Ruggero Deodato, Sergio Martino, Lucio Fulci, Lamberto Bava, Castellano & Pipolo and Salvatore Samperi. Kristian Sensini: composer of the soundtrack for the film "Rocks in my Pockets" by director Signe Baumane ( the film was one of the 20 shortlisted for the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature in 2015). Next year will see the release of "My Love Affair With Marriage" the second film by the same director Matthew Modine (participating in the project as co-producer and actor). For TV he wrote the music for the sixth season of "Provaci Ancora Prof" fiction RaiUno (soundtrack by Kristian Sensini and Pino Donaggio). In 2015 he won the "Colonne Sonore Awards" for the music of the film "Rocks in my Pockets. Jan Mozzorecchia, rock guitarist and author, flanks his live performances ranging from the stage of Whisky a Go Go in Los Angeles to clubs and theaters in the whole of Italy and Europe, to the activity in the recording studio, also appearing on the platinum album "La Ocasiòn Para Amarnos" (2011) of Mexican singer Maria José. He has collaborated, among others, with Steve Sylvester (Death SS) and Cesareo (Elio E Le Storie Tese). Matteo Ciminari. Composer, guitarist and theremin player. Over the years he has been involved in numerous projects between Italy and England always focused on jazz and experimentation. Rob Star, is a bass player and rhythm guitarist with twenty years of experience both live and in the studio, he has played on many stages across the United States and Europe. Marco Mattei, besides being a drummer in Danilo Sacco's band, is an author and producer with a curriculum that boasts prominent collaborations, including Anna Oxa and John De Leo.