Legends and Light (CD)
PARMA Recordings presents LEGENDS & LIGHT, a compilation album featuring works by composers Hans Bakker, Jan Järvlepp, Clive Muncaster, and Shirley Mier. Each has a different, unique story to tell, and the narratives are brought to life by the orchestra and string ensemble.
Hans Bakker showcases his Canzona III: Hidden in Her Light in ternary form. Described by the composer as a “hymn to the sun,” this tone poem is reminiscent of the symphonic storytellings of such greats as Tchaikovsky and Rimsky-Korsakov — with a heritage of folk melodies and rhythms to boot. The extraordinary balance between strings, woodwinds, brass, and percussion is expressed so fluidly, yet individually, the listener is immediately enveloped into the epic saga Bakker is telling.
Jan Järvlepp expresses his unique composition style in Suite for Strings. In this celebration of lively rhythms, short melodic phrases are repeated and altered in such a way that the work becomes a meditation in several movements. The vibrant first movement focuses on echoing melodic fragments and dynamic contrast. The second movement is an exploration of the differences in chromatic tension when a singular phrase is echoed at varying octaves. Following is the darker third movement; heaviness ensues in this dies irae of sorts. Closing is a dance movement in which the string ensemble becomes the foreground of a down-home celebration in middle-America. The violins become fiddles and there is foot stomping to fit the mood. In this incredible pedagogical work, Järvlepp brings the listener through a gamut of emotions.
Clive Muncaster’s Redcliffe Gardens Suite for Strings follows suit perfectly with a romantic “Petronella,” enormously expressive in every way. “Pastorella” takes it down a notch, toeing the line between major and minor, somewhat demonstrating the complexity of romantic love. But, obviously, love wins. “Stella” is the heroic ballad to profess it. “Fuga Romantica” layers the sweetness together using one of composition’s most complex forms. It is loaded with tone painting — butterflies in the stomach are aflutter in the entire ensemble, but finally come to rest. “Girandole” opens with a romantic, Americana section followed by a section with exquisite suspensions. The return of the first section and themes ties it all together.
Shirley Mier’s Of Lakes and Legends, a programmatic work written for the Century Chamber Orchestra, closes the album. Each movement is set at White Bear Lake in Minnesota, the city where the Century College and the ensemble are located. It opens with “Legend of the White Bear (Manitou Island),” a love story between a Sioux maiden and a Chippewa brave whose tribes are at odds with each other. The affection, tension, and strife within the story is brought to life through the power of the orchestra, culminating in the brave defending his lover from a white bear - a battle in which both the warrior and the bear are mortally wounded. In their deaths, both are transformed into the subjects of legends. “Ride on the Rails (Lake Superior & Mississippi Railroad Depot)” is the symphonic representation of a new train engine’s journey from St. Paul to White Bear Lake in September of 1868. The storyline of the train’s inaugural trip tells of the excitement of the passengers as they pass through the beauteous natural landscape and arrive at a gala celebration at the Depot. “Parlor Recital (Fillebrown House)” is set to “capture the sounds and moods of [the] intimate concerts” a town piano teacher held in her home. This celebration of music is tinged with nostalgia, as it both recalls these concerts and reflects on the fact that they now exist only in time past. The piece concludes with “Regatta (White Bear Yacht Club),” an energetic homage to the influential boatmakers of White Bear Lake and the thrilling races that still occur on the Lake today.
This, hands down, is contemporary composition at its best. This album has been perfectly curated to offer continuity in the listening experience. PARMA patrons, old and new, will find enormous satisfaction in this collection.