Fleeting Realms: PARMA Recordings releases new Joseph Summer album

FLEETING REALMS is an inviting compilation of chamber music featuring six composers. Though the album obviously mixes different compositional voices, the different pieces share many characteristics. FLEETING REALMS is defined by a pervasive uplifting quality. Many of the album’s works feature driving rhythms and a joyfully relaxed sensibility. Even dissonance is used playfully or as a counter weight to beautiful lyricism. Such consistency in manner across six pieces by six diverse composers is obviously remarkable, and it makes FLEETING REALMS a very special musical collection. The album’s tone is set by three works: Bruce Babcock’s Irrational Exuberance, Joyce Tang’s Snowy Landscapes, and Nora Morrow’s Luca’s Dream. Each is powerful, yet gentle, and exudes a kind of musical warmth that draws the listener into the rest of the album. Irrational Exuberance, for alto saxophone, cello, and piano, is thematic and rhythmically active, and features conversational imitation between its three instruments. Although interior sections of Irrational Exuberance are more subdued, Babcock’s work is markedly hopeful and confident. Tang’s Snowy Landscapes and Morrow’s Luca’s Dream perfectly embody the subject matter of their titles. Luca’s Dream is scored for solo vibraphone, and Morrow clearly exploits its bell-like sound to emphasize the work’s overall innocence. A fantasia of sorts, Luca’s Dream moves through a series of different melodic ideas, which are united by their rhythmic energy. Beginning in a very sweet, diatonic space, Luca’s Dream becomes increasingly chromatic until its final section, which returns to the gentleness that carries through most of the work. Snowy Landscapes is more texturally active than these other two works, but is nonetheless beautiful and welcoming. Scored for piano trio, Snow Landscapes begins and ends with sections of long violin and cello melodies accompanied by a resonant piano part. In between, we hear more contrapuntal and energetic textures, which, like Irrational Exuberance, feature playful imitation between the trio’s instruments. David Maki’s Five Impromptus for Two and Craig Madden Morris’s Crosscurrents are also notable because they are the album’s most dissonant works. Nevertheless, they approach their dissonance with a warmth and playfulness that fits well with the character of the other works on FLEETING REALMS. Crosscurrents, for example, begins with dissonant solo piano, which eventually gives way to a stately and Romantic cello part whose lyricism comes to dominate the rest of the piece.

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