Bolcom: Scherzo Fantasy; Three Donald Hall Songs; Sessions II & III; Virtuosity Rag; Haunted Labyrinth; Five Fold Five

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COMPOSERS: Bolcom
LABELS: Koch
WORKS: Scherzo Fantasy; Three Donald Hall Songs; Sessions II & III; Virtuosity Rag; Haunted Labyrinth; Five Fold Five
PERFORMER: Detroit Chamber Winds & Strings; Joan Morris (mezzo-soprano)
CATALOGUE NO: 3-7395-2
The American polystylist William Bolcom (b1938) is probably best known for one huge piece, the evening-long Songs of Innocence and of Experience, and one tiny one, the exquisite piano rag Graceful Ghost. This disc expands our knowledge of his varied output with a selection of chamber music spanning more than three decades up to 1994, when it was recorded. We meet the brash Milhaud pupil of the 1962 Scherzo Fantasy for wind quintet and piano, the uneasy acolyte of European modernism in Session III for five players (1967), the recycler of popular song styles in the Three Donald Hall Songs with ensemble (1979), and the accomplished upholder of the ragtime tradition in Virtuosity Rag for brass quintet (1982). We also discover a more elusive mixer of styles in Session II for violin and viola (1966), and Five Fold Five for wind and piano again (1987) – as well as, unexpectedly, a purveyor of Kagel-like jest in the solo piano Haunted Labyrinth (1994). The recording is generally clear, if a little unfocused in the larger pieces, and the performances are excellent; Bolcom’s wife Joan Morris is inimitably deadpan in the song cycle, which includes perhaps the best song ever written about cheese. Anthony Burton

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