Tower, Perle, Schober & Thomas Albert

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4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

COMPOSERS: Perle,Schober & Thomas Albert,Tower
LABELS: Cedille
ALBUM TITLE: Collection: Thirteen Ways
WORKS: Works by Tower (arr. Otte), Perle, Schober & Thomas Albert
PERFORMER: Eighth Blackbird
CATALOGUE NO: CDR 90000 067
Eighth Blackbird, currently ensemble-in-residence at the University of Chicago, is a sextet of young American musicians with the instrumentation of the much-missed Fires of London: flutes, clarinets, violin (and viola), cello, piano and percussion. The group takes its title from the eighth poem in Wallace Stevens’s Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird, with its reference to ‘noble accents and lucid, inescapable rhythms’. Stevens’s cycle is also the starting-point for Thomas Albert’s Thirteen Ways: the poems are spoken by the players, and illustrated in straightforward musical images, with a little help from Lennon and McCartney’s ‘Blackbird’; the results are pretty, if hardly profound. Another cycle of miniatures is Critical Moments 2 by the veteran writer and composer George Perle, a neatly worked series of studies in different textures and procedures. The all-American programme is completed by a set of Variations by David Schober, a young composer who sounds promising but still in search of a style, and a new arrangement with percussion of Joan Tower’s kinetic homage to Stravinsky, Petroushskates.

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The playing is confident and vivid, and clearly the product of exceptional teamwork; the recording is excellent; the players’ would-be chatty notes are an embarrassment. Anthony Burton