Grossman Ensemble, Fountain of Time, New Music By Ran, Cheung, Dzubay, Ko, Mettens
By Grego Applegate Edwards for Gapplegate Classical-Modern Music Review
The world of New Music these days is as varied as it ever has been. There is no one "formula," no one style that dominates as there often has been, Anyone who follows this page sees this, no doubt. One might explain all that partly on the widening connections of worlds with worlds, communities with communities, as is made possible by the internet and the increasing ease with which one might obtain recordings in the digital medium?
In light of all this there is an interesting new anthology of chamber orchestra recordings by living composers, as performed by the Chicago-based Grossman Ensemble. The CD is entitled Fountain of Time (Chicago Center of Contemporary Composition). The program features five varied works of character by five diverse composers. The works were written just now, between 2018 and 2020. They stand out in orchestration and invention, each of them in their own way.
More overtly Modern than not? Tonia Ko's "Simple Fuel." More tonal but filled with idiosyncratic character? Shulamit Ran's "Grand Rounds."
Each of the compositions has definite substance and musical richness. Each is performed with care, flair and grace by the Grossman Ensemble, who in turn consists of some 14 musicians, variously conducted by Ben Bolter, Michael Lewanski, David Dzubay, and Jerry Hou.
Augusta Read Thomas, Professor of Composition at the University of Chicago and Director of the Chicago Center for Contemporary Composition, found the typical situation for an aspiring composer in the typical setting less than ideal--after long and arduous work the budding student-composer hands in the finished piece and eventually gets as the main point of feedback a trial rehearsal of the work lasting perhaps several hours or less. Augusta envisioned better, a true musical community where a resident ensemble can interact with emerging composers over some length of time, collaborating, fine tuning and conceptualizing, building a style up from the ground of practice so to say, and ultimately concertizing. After a bit of preliminary organization such a situation happily developed with the Grossman Ensemble. We see the fruits nicely in our CD today.
The five works presented on Fountain of Time show us how such a living community of musical practitioners can give the music a growing presence and lead to some true "progress." So in addition to the works noted above we get substantial stylistic forays with Anthony Cheung's "Double Allegories," David Dzubay's "Pho" and David "Clay" Mettens' "Stain. Bloom, Moon, Rain." Each work carves out a musical syntax of the now, gaining traction from what has gone before but then proceeding into where we can be in the present.
This rewards your listening with originality and freshness, the inventive thrust of which sustains multiple hearings and expands one's idea of what New Music can be these days. Nice going. Bravo! Definitely recommended.
View the review online at Gapplegate Classical-Modern Music Review.