From Neuma Records: New Chamber Music

Neuma Records: New Chamber Music
Galan Trio - Kinesis, Vol. 2
Ewart Asplund Ricks Trio - Emphatic Now
Hanna Hurwitz / Colin Stokes / Daniel Pesca - The Night Shall Break

Three recent releases on the Neuma Records label offer a glimpse at current chamber music. 

Galan Trio: Kinesis, Vol. 2 (February 16, 2024)

Chamber music: Galan Trio - Kinesis Vol. 2

Based in Athens, Greece, the Galan Trio (Petros Bouras on piano, Babis Karasavvidison violin, and Marina Kolovou on the cello) bridge the gap between the Mediterranean and the US via ten works for piano trio. The composers are based in various geographical regions of the United States. The first volume was highly acclaimed, and this is the follow-up.

This two-disc set includes works from the Midwest (CD1), South Central (CD2) regions of the US. 

CD1, Midwest, is a showcase of drama and expressivity. Of particular note is the atmospheric Before the Gradual Throne of Night by Daniel Powers. The darkly emootional piece relies heavily on a minimalist kind of interplay between the instruments. I also loved Alex Lubst's Elusive, with its lovely use of the piano's dark end, and the sympathetic voice of the cello.

CD2, South Central, opened with the rhythmic intensity of Larry Alan SMith's Piano Trio No. 1. Dominic Dousa's Three Sketches on the Artwork of Tom Lee are quite melodic, even contrapuntal in style where the paintings take us to a meeting between a Franciscan monk and Native Americans. The CD ends with the virtuosic Persian Dances by Brian Bondari, peppered with a sense of humour. 

Ewart Asplund Ricks Trio: Emphatic (January 19, 2024)

Chamber music: Ewart Asplund Ricks Trio: Emphatic

The Ewart Asplund Ricks Trio, and Emphatic, the album, is essentially the result of one long jam session. It took place between Douglas R. Ewart (woodwinds, didgeridoo, percussion, voice, texts), Christian Asplund (viola and piano), and Steven Ricks (trombone and electronics) during Ewart's 2022 residency at Brigham Young University. 

The album is the result of their musical encounter, in eight tracks that take their names from Ewart's poems (either the title, lines taken from them, or words suggested by them).

The approach varies from track to track. In Isness of Love and Water Song, Ewart's spontaneous spoken work talks about social concerns, themes that permeate much of his work. “Is love something we find or something we cultivate, or is it manifold?” he asks. The unusual combination of instruments blends into a unique, yet seamless sonic stew. Each adds its own character, from the fluidity of the flute to the humming digeridoo and staccato of percussion. 

Ewart, central to all the tracks, explores the limits of expression in each.


Hanna Hurwitz - Colin Stokes - Daniel Pesca: The Night Shall Break (February 16, 2024) 

Chamber music: Hanna Hurwitz - Colin Stokes - Daniel Pesca: The Night Shall Break (February 16, 2024)

Hanna Hurwitz, violin, leads this effort, with the help of Colin Stokes, cello, and Daniel Pesca, piano. Hurwitz has a reputation for championing new works, both on her own and as a member of Grossman Ensemble and Ensemble Dal Niente. On this release, however, she wanted to delve into the music of about a century ago, looking to unearth neglected jewels. 

 “I wanted to highlight my orientation toward collaboration through the presentation of intimate chamber works composed in the 1920s and 30s. This album is the first to showcase my performance of full-length works from past eras. I believe that staying active in both new and old music strengthens my overall musical approach and interpretation.” 

The release includes works by Florence Price, Rebecca Clarke, Carlos Chávez, Olivier Messiaen, and Bohuslav Martinů.

Price's Romantic lyricism is tinged with drama in her Fantasie No. 1 for Violin and Piano. The work is challenging for both instruments, weaving elements of Americana and European classical idioms together to create her unique orchestral voice. 

Clarke's Piano Trio is dark and cinematic in scope, covering a wide emotional gamut from spritely to ethereal to moody. Chávez' rhythmic Sonatina for Violin and Piano ranges from moments of delicate beauty to powerful and frenetic, whizzing through four movements in less than seven minutes. Messiaen's Thème et Variations pour Violon et Piano is among the lesser known of the French composer's works, but is characteristically haunting and atmospheric. 

Bohuslav Martinů's Duo No. 1 for Violin and Cello, H. 157, reflects the uncertainties and turbulence of the era in a mode that approaches dissonance, although not absorbed in it entirely. 

It's an interesting musical walk through a fraught era of history between the European wars.