"Solaris, in residence
at the University of Akron, offers a nicely varied program of woodwind
quintets new, standard, and transcribed. In this vibrant account
of Samuel Barber's wonderful and often-recorded Summer Music,
each event in the patchwork quilt of events is given thoughtful
expression. It is a study in sonic sensuousness, each instrument
exploring timbral variety, lines passing from instrument to instrument
with only subtle changes of tone quality.
While Henry Cowell is
a major name in modern American music, his Suite (1930) is
not well known. A little Allegretto is a fleet study in major-minor
interplay, the final chord juxtaposing both. An Allegro has syncopated
figures over lyrical fragments and a sustained bassoon line. The
almost two-minute Adagio Cantabile (longest of the four movements)
explores polytonality, and the final Allegro Con Moto is a quirky
bit of perpetual motion.
Two Solaris members
contribute some fine arrangements, including flutist George Pope's
settings of nine Anniversaries, originally piano portraits
by Leonard Bernstein. In the first of two sets, 'For Felicia Montealegre'
is gentle, poignant, and quite touching. 'For Johnny Mehegan' is
buoyant, humorous, and about a half-minute long. 'For David Diamond'
sounds like memories both wistful and intense, and 'For Helen Coates'
gives me the impression that she and Bernstein had some jolly good
times. The second set of five is just as varied and interesting.
These are fine transcriptions of little-known works, and woodwind
aficionados should seek them out.
In horn player William
Hoyt's arrangement of Gershwin's Preludes, the sunny I gives spritely
melodies to each player in turn. In II, the soulful tune is played
by oboist James Ryon, the gently swinging one by bassoonist Lynette
Diers Cohen. In III, the noodly melody is played by clarinetist
Håken Rosengren and flutist George Pope.
Then there are three
recent, original works. The title of Your Offending Kiss,
by Roger Zahab (faculty member at both Akron and the University
of Pittsburgh), makes you expect to hear something that justifies
the title. Listening uncovers a few passages that seem indignant,
but nothing more, so you go to the notes for an explanation. They're
no helpit's a mystery! Another evocative title, Ancient
Evenings & Distant Music (1971), also conjures images that
aren't borne out by the music. It is a very nice set of variations
on a theme by Jack Gallagher, professor of music at The College
of Wooster (OH). Last on the disc is Nicola Resanovic's Golden
Canon, a fascinating and beautiful work that develops great
complexity while maintaining a basic tonality and theme.
It is a pleasure to
listen to Solaris, whose members have wonderful tone quality, virtuoso
technique, and excellent ensemble skills. Recorded sound is crisp
and direct for everyone but horn player Hoyt, who sounds a bit more