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Richard Cornell - 2013 - "Tracer: Recent Chamber Works"

(45:27, Parma / Ravello Records)


New Fantasias (1-4):
1. Travels in the Landscape 3:37
2. In Dark Night 5:51
3. Dance 2:14
4. Playing with Fire 3:18
5. Tracer 11:40
Images (6-9):
6. The Warring of the Sparrows 3:31
7. Star-Laden Sky 5:52
Acqua Alta
8. La Serennissima 4:34
9. Acqua Alta 4:50


A Far Cry Orchestra (1-4)
Boston Musica Viva (5-7)
Peter Zazofsky  violin (8, 9)

Prolusion. US composer Richard CORNELL is an employee of Boston University's College of fine arts, his title described on their homepage as "Professor of Music, Composition, Associate Director, School of Music". As a composer he has received numerous awards, and has produced music for standalone performances as well as material for sound installations and virtual reality artworks. "Tracer" collects four of his productions recorded in the 2000's, and was released by Ravello Records in 2013.

Analysis. When Ravello Records decided to send me two CDs for review a few months back I knew I was in for a challenge. I'm a novice as far as classical music goes, and the CDs submitted to me are actually my first attempts at reviewing this kind of music. As a person who is primarily a listener without any musical education, describing productions of that kind in an accurate manner is something I'm most likely not capable of. At least I lack genre conventions and expressions others with more knowledge of classical music will use when describing music of this nature. A specified weakness I felt was warranted to describe in some detail before venturing further. Cornell's CD "Tracer" consists of four productions, of which the first three most likely is the reason for the implied chamber works while the latter is a solo violin piece. And from this quartet I'd pull out opening suite New Fantasias to made a strongest impact. The first two of the four parts revolve around surging instrument individual motifs in tightly interwoven patterns flavored with swirling instrument details developing towards a slower paced, sombre end passage for the first and with plucked instrument details, subtly dissonant effects, and pace-filled instrument flurries utilized as dramatic effect for the second. The final two parts focus on plucked instrument details and dramatic individual instrument movements, the fourth and final part also incorporating a slower paced, darker toned interlude prior to concluding in more of a harmonic, majestic manner following a nice build up with effective use of counterpoints. An impressive opening to this disc. Standalone suite Tracer is a construction of a vastly different character, sporting single and dual instrument motifs more dissonant and subtly atonal in character, light in tone at first and shifting towards a darker tonal expression as it develops, ending up as a less chaotic and more harmonic display prior to ending out on a gentle, dark note. Unlike the preceding suite, which was a strings dominated affair, this composition features a more diverse orchestration with flute, clarinet and piano in prominent roles. The following two part suite Images continues to explore similar territories, with more defined rhythm effects applied to the opening part and the inclusion of dramatic instrument eruptions and arrhythmical piano details as defining traits of the latter. Fairly challenging and sophisticated compositions, but at least for me lacking somewhat the emotional impact needed to really captivate me. Concluding two part suite Acqua Alta is a composition written for and performed by standalone violin. A lonely and slow moving affair with occasional pace-filled flurries for the opening part and expanded in scope with plucked instrument details for the concluding one, with a frantic, pace filled end sequence concluding both suite and album. Well made and well performed, but nevertheless not really managing to engage me on an emotional level.

Conclusion. I'm a novice in the world of classical music for better or worse, and as such those who have good knowledge of this type of music will probably be advised to regard my descriptions with a slight bit of caution. As far as this album goes, opening suite New Fantasies comes across as a stunning and breathtaking piece of strings dominated chamber music to my ears, while the following two constructions are well made, quirky and challenging specimens of chamber orchestra compositions. Challenging is also something of a keyword for the solo violin piece I guess, but it's the chamber music pieces in general and opening suite New Fantasias in particular I'd recommend, and obviously recommend this album to those who found the description of those parts of this disc intriguing.

OMB=Olav M Bjornsen: June 21, 2013
The Rating Room

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