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Evocative Music of Ancient & Modern Tableaus

Catching up with a coupe of digital only titles today released on streaming platforms on Navona Records.

Some are likely familiar with guitarist Frederic Hand who through the last quarter-century or so released a number of albums blending ancient musics with a touch of jazz. Lutenist Laudon Schuett takes a slightly different approach in his release Dedications: New Works for the Lute (Navona 6422). His is a collection of new music that uses various forms and musical techniques of the Renaissance and Baroque eras. Those whose knowledge of the lute repertoire from these periods will have a great time hearing how Schuett employs a sort of free fantasia approach that explores chromatic writing of the Renaissance as well as specific vocal techniques now applied to the lute itself. The various dance forms and fantasy's also adapt Italian and English lute music from specific generations. Each piece here also has a specific dedication to reveal a personal connection for Schuett and this adds a nice extra context for the music. The album sounds fairly good with a nice presence for the instrument. Certainly something worth tracking down and adding to one's playlist.

In this third volume of Figments (Navona 6419), listeners are treated to a variety of contemporary chamber music. There are six composers represented here with music for various combinations of trios and quartets. The album moves along using a particular instrumental thread to move us through these diverse styles. Jacob Goodman's delightful Variations for a Rainy Afternoon for flute and string trio opens the album. His tonal modernist style is similar to that employed by Gary Belshaw in his brief Piccolo and Chalumeau. Both works have a nice wit and interplay on display here. A Trio for Oboe, Horn, and Piano by Andrew Lewinter follows. This three-movement work is also cast in a semi-romantic style with some beautiful lyrical writing and dialogue writing that appears in the opening movement. This comes out a bit more in the central "Romanza" appropriately. The final movement is a delightful set of theme and variations. Lewinter's writing allows both soloists to shine well here with fine interplay and gorgeous writing with the piano also adding to the discussion punctuating sections well. No less wit, but slightly more modern in tone is Thomas Mann, Jr.'s odd little Dance of the Lizards. Here flute, clarinet, violin, and cello intertwine for a piece that moves us a little further into some disjointed tonal writing for excellent effect. The octet Three Autumn Sketches by Elliott Miles McKinley is slightly more experimental still focusing on smaller motivic ideas and gestures across the three evocative movements. It is an excellent little work with good dramatic writing that moves things forward well. Instrumental color is also explored. Also interesting is a sort of mini tone poem by Eleanor Alberga, Shining Gate of Morpheus for horn and string quartet. In this work, Alberga's motives are shaped to reflect the ongoing shift in one's dreams. It makes for a fine conclusion to this excellent collection of chamber pieces. These works also feel like they would make great additions to repertoire of any ensemble as they are mostly composed in accessible language with excellent dramatic shape that also sound quite fun to play.

Both these albums are available in streaming platforms and are easily recommended for fans of early music and/or chamber music.


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