Miller conducts Kernis concertos
Dreamsongs; Viola Concerto; Concerto with Echoes; Tambalalaika; Fughetta, Op. 32 No. 4
Paul Neubauer (viola), Joshua Roman (cello), Aaron Jay Kernis (piano); Royal Northern Sinfonia/Rebecca Miller
Signum SIGCD 524
The CD cover features Aboriginal art, perhaps inspired by the name of the title track, Dreamsongs. In fact, the two-movement concerto for cello and chamber orchestra takes its inspiration from Africa: the kora, a stringed instrument with a similar timbre to the harp and pizzicato cello, and the djembe drum appear throughout the second half of the work. There is elasticity in the music’s structure, and a poignancy to the developing variations. The work’s dedicatee, cellist Joshua Roman, is the soloist; his extended pizzicato cadenza thrills.
Two additional concertos are featured. The Viola Concerto draws on music by Robert and Clara Schumann, and a Yiddish folk song, the latter being the basis for the third and longest movement. Concerto with Echoes follows a more traditional structure, with a slow- moving Passacaglia bookended with sprightly toccatas and looping melodies.
Tumbalalaika and Schumann’s Fughetta, the source material used in the Viola Concerto, appear as bonus tracks performed by Kernis on piano. Although the significance of these short pieces are explained in the liner notes, their inclusion feels random, and has the effect of watering down an otherwise original collection.