Home | Reviews | Articles | Festivals | Competitions | Other | Contact Us

Sierra Turner etc

Turner for flute, clarinet, violin, cello, piano (2002)
Trio no. 2 for violin, cello, piano (2002)
2x3 for two pianos (1993)
Sonata for cello and piano (2001)
Cancionero sefardi for soprano, flute, clarinet, violin, cello, piano (1999)

Continuum Ensemble (Cheryl Seltzer, Joel Sachs, directors)

New Albion NA135

This is a gorgeous CD which I have received a little by chance, from a company whose releases have given a lot of pleasure over the years.

I recalled enjoying music of Robert Sierra (b.1953) in the great days of the Almeida Festival in the 1980s, but had heard little of him since (he did have a piece played in the 2002 Proms).

I am sure he was featured in London's Latin-American festival VIVA! in 1989, but my reviews are lost in paper publications and fading memory... The other connection which prompted my request was a vivid experience of the Continuum Ensemble (founded 1968, one of USA's earliest specialising in contemporary music) in Luxembourg (Schwartz's Silent Scream there, as illustrated from Continuum's website); the group is still directed by pianists Cheryl Seltzer and Joel Sachs.

They play Sierra's intricate 2X3, which is the sort of music that used to be thought impossible until live pianists began tackling Nancarrow's metrically complex player piano studies. It has polyrhythmic canons spiced by fragments of tunes in different tempi, as many as six simultaneously.

Sierra's Cello Sonata stretches unison playing to its limit in constantly varying rhythms.

Turner is a major chamber work with its imagery drawn from J M W Turner paintings, including his The Burning of the Houses of Lords and Commons (illustrated).

And last, a delicious set of Cancioneri Sefardi, with folkloric vocal lines and virtuosic accompaniments with microtones and evkiong sounds of imaginary ancient instruments. Texts are suppied with the composer's own translations and Wonjung Kim is the ideal singer to put them across.

We've played it all twice through, and you'll not be disappointed, even if your chief loyalties are to earlier music and masterworks of 'the canon'...

Peter Grahame Woolf