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Skewering demons

Concert works by film composers,
played by the New Art Trio
and reviewed by KEITH BRAMICH

Phaedra    292013

Jizo and other concert works by film composers. © 2002 Phaedra Classics

The New Art Trio, a skilled young Belgian clarinet trio with a strong interest in contemporary music, has put together a fascinating disc of concert music by 'film composers'.

The Italian Nino Rota's 1973 Trio sounds as if it's from the early twentieth century -- possibly even the late nineteenth. There's something Shostakovich- and workman-like about the initial Allegro. A clear and thoughtful Andante follows, with some fine solos for clarinet and then cello. The final energetic Allegrissemo has a theme similar to Ibert's Divertissement.

Benvenuta by the Belgian composer Frédéric Devreese begins with a simple, sweet and slightly nostalgic 'Dream' which uses clarinet and cello in octaves. The other three movements all use the dance forms with which they're named, and imaginative scoring makes them sound emancipated, and a bit like a product of the Second Viennese School. In 'Habanera', for example, Devreese uses parallel motion between clarinet and cello in thirds (both major and minor), in a way that sounds striking and rather strange [listen -- track 5, 3:17-4:16]. 'Valse' occupies a similar sound world, and the final 'Tango' is loud and insistent.

Next comes the ubiquitous Argentinian tango composer Astor Piazzolla with a piece called Verano Porteño -- varied and exciting, with a rousing finish.

Jizo (a New Art Trio commission) is a product of British composer Adrian Williams's years in Asia, and portrays three Buddhist Gods that protect children, as represented in the Childrens' Gallery of Nara National Museum. It's highly likely that there's a connection here too with the composer's baby son, growing up in Japan.

Jizo statues in Nara prefecture. Photo © 2002 Keith Bramich
Jizo statues in Nara prefecture. Photo © 2002 Keith Bramich

From its initial moments, Jizo Bosatsu takes us to its own mysterious world, far from anything else on this disc, with high raindrop-like piano sounds and thin quivering cello [listen -- track 9, 0:01-1:01]. Dark, wooded and mysterious, yet gentle, positive and uplifting, this is a portrait of a popular Japanese deity which saves children from hell and the waters of the River Sanzu.

Fast, furious and war-like, Sendan Kendatsuba is the God who uses his trident to skewer the demons that attack children. Finally, Kariteimo uses some extended clarinet and cello techniques to tell the tale of a God who finally repents from her passion of eating Children.

The pity only is that Williams (a master at absorbing and using any musical style) seems to have rejected Asian musical influences, and that these last two movements portray as much of the spirit of the composer's native England (or his adopted Wales) as the mysteries of ancient Japan.

The CD ends softly with 'Primo Studio' from Quattro Studi for solo piano by another Italian film composer, Ennio Morricone. Based on a hexachord, this study of repetition and variation has an improvisatory feel, and exploits the sustaining power and dynamic contrasts of the piano.

Information in the twelve-page booklet is unfortunately a bit minimal -- maybe because the text is carried in four languages, and because of Phaedra's fascinating three-page catalogue of mostly Flemish music. I wonder if booklet preparation may have been a bit rushed? I can't fault this disc musically, though -- it's interesting, varied, well-played and well-recorded.

The New Art Trio
The New Art Trio


Copyright © 23 November 2002 Keith Bramich, Worcestershire, UK


Jizo and other concert works by film composers

292013 DDD Stereo NEW RELEASE 54'36" 2002 Phaedra Classics

The New Art Trio: Vlad Weverbergh, clarinet, Vera Baliko, cello, Stefan Meylaers, piano

Nino Rota (1911-1979): Trio (1973); Frédéric Devreese (born 1929): Benvenuta; Astor Piazzolla (1921-1992): Verano Porteño; Adrian Williams (born 1956): Jizo (2002); Ennio Morricone (born 1928): Primo Studio from Quattro Studi (1983-9)









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Record Box is Music & Vision's regular Saturday series of shorter CD reviews