Tony Arnold – Edward Smaldone – Once and Again (2020)
FLAC (tracks) 24-bit/48 kHz | Time – 01:07:08 minutes | 646 MB | Genre: Classical
Studio Master, Official Digital Download | Digital Booklet, Front Cover | © New Focus Recordings
Edward Smaldone’s compilation of chamber music “Once and Again” encapsulates consistent priorities in his work over five pieces for diverse instrumentations. There is a formalist’s bent in these pieces, presenting the pitch and motivic material for the music within the opening measures, and reflecting a large-scale architecture that is teleological despite intentionally built-in asymmetries. The harmonic language is richly chromatic, but achieves a sense of forward direction with clearly articulated goals. The rhythmic approach prioritizes metric organization, and relies frequently on dance rhythms. The result is an attractive blend of control and freedom, indicative of an experienced compositional hand that creates musical systems that generate their own germane material.
The opening work, Cantare di Amore, is written for soprano, flute, and harp, and heard here in a performance by Tony Arnold, Tara Helen O’Connor, and June Han, respectively. Setting Italian texts already used by Monteverdi in his Madrigals, Smaldone uses lyricism and the lush instrumentation to conjure love in all of its guises. The opening movement, “Longe date, cor mio,” features flowing arpeggios in the harp underneath interwoven, fluid passages in flute and soprano. “Piagn’e sospira” is more somber, unfolding in a more rhythmically free setting, culminating at one point in sharply articulated harp glissandi played with two plectrums, combined with flute flutter-tongue techniques, creating a dramatically expressive gesture. The final song in the set, “Darà la notte il sol lume alla terra,” begins with an exotic, impressionistic passage in flute and harp before leading into swooping, melismatic lines in the soprano part.
Smaldone cites the influence of George Perle’s Sonata a quattro on his Double Duo, both written for the same instrumentation of flute, clarinet, violin, and cello. Written initially at the completion of his PhD work before a revision many years later, the aesthetics underlying Double Duo were formative for Smaldone’s subsequent work. The piece opens with an easy groove punctuated by accented chords that are connected by slithering lines and cello pizzicati. A slow, mournful section follows, with instruments taking turns sounding the primary melodic line. Smaldone then combines these two themes and energies and presents them integrated together in development and recapitulation sections.
1. Tony Arnold – I. Longe date, cor mio
2. Tony Arnold – II. Piagn’e sospira
3. Tony Arnold – III. Darà la notte il sol lume alla terra
4. Tara Helen O’Connor – Double Duo
5. Susan Narucki – No. 1, Mrs. P.H. Andrews
6. Susan Narucki – No. 2, Your Loving Zola
7. Susan Narucki – No. 3, Graduation Gift
8. Susan Narucki – No. 4, Thank you, Luther
9. Susan Narucki – No. 5, Dear Sister
10. Susan Narucki – No. 6, Mrs. P.H. Andrews (Reprise)
11. Charles Neidich – I. Duke
12. Charles Neidich – II. Monk
13. The Brno Philharmonic Strings – Sinfonia