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Thin Air (11'36") for three strings is avowedly programmatic, inspired, we're informed, by a trip among the high California Sierras; its opening 'Mountain Goat' most certainly evokes the clarity and freedom felt on 'terra firma' at 10,000 feet. Similarly calm, lengthening shadows, and fading light may be read into 'Twilight'. Hindered by a high-altitude mishap, the Wolfgangs returned to the city where their two cats became the subject of 'Paws' -- and yes, we do briefly hear something of felines prowling gingerly about the composer's dwelling.

Pianist Dolores Stevens, dedicatee-performer of Night Shift (8'09"), is known for her international concert tours and chamber recordings; notably works of Bach and Brahms. The territory of Night Shift is dreams; here they're put to bed and woken from slumber with a jazz-oriented lullaby [listen -- track 10, 6:35-8:06].

All six of these works have the benefit of highly professional performances demonstrating the composer's variety of styles to their fullest advantage while the music is shown to be charged with interest, invention, individuality and variety. Wolfgang seldom, if ever, ventures into the minefield of 'crossover' composition; instead, possibly as a result of his work for TV and cinema, he moves freely between conventional 'pictorial' chamber music and programmatic jazz-inspired numbers.

Not quite my cuppa tea but easy listening with lots of interest.

Copyright © 29 October 2006 Howard Smith, Masterton, New Zealand


Gernot Wolfgang: Common Ground - groove-oriented chamber music

TROY854 DDD Stereo NEW RELEASE 59'42" 2006 Albany Records

Gernot Wolfgang (born 1957): Metamorphosis (2001) (Margaret Batjer, violin, Brian Dembow, viola; Stephen Erdody, cello; Robert Edward Thies, piano); Common Ground (2005) (Blues Upside Down; Trading Places; Igor, At Last) (Judith Farmer, bassoon; Armen Ksajikian, cello); Jazz & Cocktails (2003) (Tereza Stanislav, violin; Cécilia Tsan, cello; Robert Edward Thies); Dual Identity (2005) (Judith Farmer); Thin Air (2002 revised 2005) (Mountain Goat; Twilight; Paws) (Margaret Batjer, Brian Dembow, Stephen Erdody); Night Shift (2005) (Delores Stevens, piano)



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