Grecian Urn (digital download)
Mark G. Simon
Composer and Clarinetist Mark G. Simon makes his PARMA debut with his first-ever recorded album, GRECIAN URN. All selections were composed by Simon, and he is the clarinetist on every track.
“Anniversary Sonata” (1998) commemorates the 50th wedding anniversary of the composer’s parents. Movement 1, “With Restrained Energy,” is perhaps mis-named, given its sassy, Latin piano riffs (Aleeza Meir) syncopated against the melodic clarinet. “Angel Music,” is a bright, yet sympathetic Broadway-style ballad with running eighth-note phrases marked by sentimental modulations, inspired by the congeniality of the composer’s parents, his father’s vocation as a minister, and the G.K. Chesterton quote, “Angels can fly because they take themselves lightly.” Concluding the sonata is the progressive “Pleasant Hill,” a sweet treasure that could easily be set to words to conclude what is the lounge-style, popular work with innate chamber music tendencies. The composer writes: “‘Pleasant Hill,’ is based on a pop tune that came to me while visiting the quiet retirement community where my parents spent the last years of their lives.” This work is a true love song.
“Un Buen Piola Porteño” (2001) is a tango/fantasia for clarinet and piano and fabulous in every way – from the transformative qualities of the clarinet’s voicing through different octaves to the smooth, indelible, charismatic melody of the tune itself, fleshed out with the glittering harmonies of the piano. Listen for the second of three tango melodies, through which the composer promises an “out of body experience.”
In “Ode on a Grecian Urn,” Simon and Meir add soprano Linda Larson to their combo. In this setting of four of the five stanzas of the John Keats poem, in which the poet describes his visits to the British Museum, Simon reincarnates Keats’ experience noting that “The poem’s very existence to the power of art to affect people’s lives.” “Thou Still Unravished Bride,” is reminiscent of an Argento song--delicate and complex, yet unforgiving. “Heard Melodies” is a torrent of surface emotions transpired into a popular folk tune. “Coming to the Sacrifice,” is a haunting but spirited dance concluded with an extended instrumental fugue--in homage to J.S. Bach’s own Musical Sacrifice (BWV 1097). “O Attic Shape,” is an elegy directed to the Grecian Urn itself through which a harrowing soprano outcry lauds the Urn for its beauty.