Concerts and Tickets
Live Concerts ~ DOWNLOADS

The following concerts are each available for download for a suggested donation of $15 and up, minimum $5 donation, please! Your donation is fully tax-deductible! ACP concert download donations will be used exclusively to fund the ACP Musicians' Dream Fund – an artistic wish list for commercial recordings, national and international touring and summer chamber music festival performances.

Music files are standard mp3, m4a and wav format, which works with iTunes and other music softwares.

Concert recordings by Nick Arroyo, Denny Meeker, David Layne and Tommy Joe Anderson.

 

Chamber Music at the Tavern – “Ethereal & Evocative”
Performed May 22, 2012

Chamber Music at the Tavern: “Ethereal & Evocative”
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CLAUDE DEBUSSY: Sonata for Flute, Viola & Harp

ALAN ELKINS: World Premiere ACP Commission 2012

GEORGE CRUMB: Voice of the Whale

ACP Musicians: Paula Peace, piano; Christina Smith, flute; Elizabeth Koch, oboe;  Alcides Rodriguez, clarinet; Elisabeth Remy Johnson, harp; Catherine Lynn, viola; Brad Ritchie, cello; Elena Cholakova, piano


Spivey Hall: “Ludwig & Felix”
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Spivey Hall - “Ludwig & Felix”
Performed March 18, 2012

BEETHOVEN: Quintet in Eb Major for Piano & Winds, Opus 16

MENDELSSOHN: Piano Trio in C Minor, Opus 66

ACP Musicians: Paula Peace, piano; Elena Cholakova, guest piano; Ann Lillya, oboe; Laura Ardan, clarinet; Susan Welty, horn; Carl Nitchie, bassoon; Justin Bruns, violin; Brad Ritchie, cello


Chamber Music in Sacred Spaces: “Classical Crossover”
Performed January 29, 2012

Chamber Music in Sacred Spaces: “Classical Crossover”
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BEETHOVEN: Serenade in D Major, Opus 25

MOZART: Piano Trio in Bb Major, K. 502

BOLLING: Selections from Suites for Flute or Cello
plus Jazz Piano, Bass & Drums

ACP Musicians: Christina Smith, flute; Justin Bruns, violin; Catherine Lynn, viola; Paula Peace, piano; John Meisner, violin; Brad Ritchie, cello; Brent Runnels, jazz piano; Kevin Smith, bass; Justin Varnes, drums

 

Chamber Music in Art Spaces: “Commissions Then & Now”
Performed October 23, 2011

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BUSH: Trio for Oboe, Bassoon & Piano

ELMQUIST: Junk Shot (2011) World Premiere

BEETHOVEN: String Quartet in Eb Major, Opus 127

ACP Musicians: Paula Peace, piano; Christina Smith, flute/alto flute/piccolo; Elizabeth Koch, oboe; Carl Nitchie, bassoon: Alcides Rodriguez, clarinet/bass clarinet; Justin Bruns, violin; John Meisner, violin; Catherine Lynn, viola; Brad Ritchie, cello

 

Canzona Nova:
“A Fractured Fairy Tale”Make payments with PayPal - it's fast, free and secure!

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Spivey Hall
Performed November 14, 2010

MICHAEL GANDOLFI: Canzona Nova: A Fractured Fairy Tale

ACP Musicians: Elizabeth Koch, oboe; Justin Bruns, violin; Catherine Lynn, viola; Brad Ritchie, cello; Paula Peace, piano

 

Chamber Music in Art Spaces: “Rapido! Take Two!!”
Performed October 17, 2010

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ARTHUR FOOTE: Piano Quartet, Opus 23

RAPIDO! A 14-Day Composition Contest Finalists:

Piotr Szewczyk ~ Images from a Journey

Jamie Keesecker ~ One-Minute Recipes - COLLECT ALL SIX!

Alan Elkins ~ Strange Journey

ACP Musicians: Paula Peace, piano; Christina Smith, flute; Elizabeth Koch, oboe; Justin Bruns, violin; Catherine Lynn, viola; Brad Ritchie, cello

 

Chamber Music at The Tavern: “Premieres & Prodigies”
Performed April 28, 2010

Chamber Music at The Tavern: “Premieres & Prodigies”
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Mozart: Quintet in Eb for Piano & Winds, K. 452

Jon Jeffrey Grier: Diverse Variations on A-C-P

Mendelssohn: String Quartet in E Minor, Opus 44, no. 2

ACP Musicians: Paula Peace, piano; Christina Smith, flute; Elizabeth Koch, oboe; Justin Bruns, violin; Catherine Lynn, viola; Brad Ritchie, cello

Chamber Music in Sacred Spaces: “Spotlight on Winds”
Performed November 15, 2009

Chamber Music in Sacred Spaces: “Spotlight on Winds”
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Mozart: Quartet in C major for Flute & Strings

Loeffler: La Cornemuse (The Bagpipe)

Telemann: Quartet in G Major from Tafelmusik I

Shostakovich: Piano Trio in E Minor, Opus 67

ACP Musicians: Paula Peace, piano; Christina Smith, flute; Elizabeth Koch, oboe; Justin Bruns, violin; Catherine Lynn, viola; Brad Ritchie, cello

Chamber Music in Art Spaces: “Rapido!”
Performed October 4, 2009

Chamber Music in Art Spaces: “Rapido!”
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Beethoven: Fourteen Variations, Opus 44

Higdon: Southern Harmony

Gandolfi: History of the World in Seven Acts

RAPIDO! Composition Contest Finalist Compositions:
Elkins, Grier, Richards, Safavynia

ACP Musicians: Paula Peace, piano; Christina Smith, flute; Elizabeth Koch, oboe; Alcides Rodriguez, bass clarinet; Tom Sherwood, percussion; Justin Bruns, violin; John Meisner, violin; Catherine Lynn, viola; Brad Ritchie, cello

Songs America Loves to Sing

Songs America Loves to SingMOZART, DELLO JOIO, BUNCH, HARBISON

Paula Peace (piano); Christina Smith (flute, piccolo, harmonica in C); Laura Ardan (clarinet, harmonica in G); Christopher Pulgram (violin, harmonica in D); Catherine Lynn (viola); Brad Ritchie (cello)

(MSR Classics, MS 1190, April 2007 release)

We are pleased to offer this recording that, much like a typical Atlanta Chamber Players concert, celebrates diverse style periods and a variety of instrumental combinations.

Featured is the debut recording of John Harbison’s Songs America Loves to Sing, which we co-commissioned and premiered in 2004.

AMERICAN RECORD GUIDE REVIEW

January/February 2008

“This is a highly gratifying recording, offering variety and splendid playing.”

Complete reviews of Songs America Loves To Sing are posted below.


Listen to Excerpts in MP3 format:

Amazing Grace
St. Louis Blues
Ain’t Goin’ to Study War No Mo'

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Songs America Loves to Sing

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Footeprints

FooteprintsArthur FOOTE

Piano Trio in C Minor, Opus 5
Piano Quartet in C Major, Opus 23
Paula Peace (piano); Christopher Pulgram (violin) Tania Maxwell (viola); Brad Ritchie (cello)

(ACA Digital) CM20082, February 2001 Release

“The Atlanta Chamber Players connect sympathetically to Foote’s music...they play with great generosity, technically well-balanced and crisp, but with color and warmth...” Keely Brown, Creative Loafing, May 2001.

“Splendid...Elegant, subtle, and compelling, this music holds instant appeal and grows on you mightily with repeated listening. It’s highly recommended. A grade of ‘A’.” Pierre Ruhe, Atlanta Journal Constitution.

Listen to Excerpts in MP3 format:

Foote’s Piano Quartet in C Major, Opus 23

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Footeprints

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Sacred Theory of the Earth

Sacred Theory of the EarthAnne LeBARON

Telluris Theoria Sacra (1990)
Devil in the Belfry (1993)
Sachamama (1995)
Solar Music (1997)

David Rosenboom (conductor); Amy Porter (flute/piccolo) Ted Gurch (clarinet/bass clarinet); Christopher Pulgram (violin) Paul Murphy (viola); Brad Ritchie (cello); Michael Cebulski & John Lawless (percussion); Anne LeBaron (harp); Paula Peace (piano)

(CRI Recordings) 865, November 2000 Release

“The Atlanta Chamber Players handle this terribly difficult music with technical savvy, and with the musical personality and aplomb to pull it off...” Keely Brown, Creative Loafing.

“LeBaron’s harp and Amy Porter’s flute create a luminous, ethereal environment in Solar Music.” Manny Theiner, Pittsburgh Weekly, January 2001.

“Devil in the Belfry is performed with verve by Christopher Pulgram and Paula Peace....” Andrew Druckenbroad, Pittsburgh Post Gazette, January 2001.

Listen to Excerpts in MP3 format:

The Devil’s Polymer: Arabesque, the third movement of LeBaron’s Telluris Theoria Sacra

(out of print)
Soirée Sweets

Soiree SweetsKREISLER, BRAHMS, MOZART, SCHUBERT, SAINT-SAËNS MASSENET, BARILI, GODARD, FINZI, IBERT, QUANTZ

18 Famous-and-Rare Chamber Works Spanning Three Centuries

Paula Peace (piano); Amy Porter (flute); Laura Ardan (clarinet) Christopher Pulgram (violin); David Hancock (cello)

(ACA Digital) CM20063, May 1998 Release


Listen to Excerpts in MP3 format:

Brahms’ Hungarian Dance No. 6

 

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Soirée Sweets

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Conversations

ConversationsAMRAM, HARBISON, COPLAND, ROREM

A 20th Anniversary Salute to American Composers

Paula Peace (piano); Christopher Pulgram & Carolyn Toll Hancock (violin) Amy Porter (flute); Laura Ardan (clarinet); Paul Murphy (viola); David Hancock (cello)

(ACA Digital) CM20038, April 1996 Release


Listen to Excerpts in MP3 format:

Prologue: Allegro con spirito

 

Conversations

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Spirit of ‘96


BEETHOVEN Clarinet Trio in Bb, Opus 11, Finale

NPR’s Performance Today, 1996 Summer Olympics

International Broadcast Concert from Spivey Hall, Atlanta, GA

Paula Peace (piano); Laura Ardan (clarinet); David Hancock (cello)

(NPR Classics) PTCD1996, August 1996 Release

( out of print )
Jonathan Kramer

Jonathan KRAMER

Atlanta Licks (1984) Five Compositions

Paula Peace (piano); Melanie Cramer (flute); Robert Brown (clarinet/bass clarinet) Mowry Pearson (violin); Pamela Askew (viola); Paul Cohen (cello)

(Leonarda) LE 332, 1990 Release

( out of print )
Atlanta Chamber Players 10th Anniversary Celebration

SCHUMANN Piano Quartet in Eb, Opus 47

SCHOENBERG Kammersymphonie, Opus 9, arr. Webern

Paula Peace (piano); Melanie Cramer (flute); Robert Brown (clarinet) Mowry Pearson (violin); Pamela Askew (viola); Paul Cohen (cello)

(Press) P5007, 1986 Release

( out of print )

Published Reviews

December 2009
ClassicalCDReview.com

SONGS AMERICA LOVES TO SING

MOZART: Trio in E-flat, K. 498 'Kegelstatt.' DELLO JOIO: Trio for flute, cello, and piano (1944). BUNCH: Slow Dance (1996). HARBISON: Songs America Loves to Sing (2004).
Atlanta Chamber Players
MSR MS1190 (B) (DDD) TT: 72:47

Lovely. For me, chamber music comes in two flavors: the vessel of confession and spiritual journey; an excuse for people to get together and make music. I don't rate one over the other, any more than I value lemon custard over chocolate. Each has its own virtues and strength, and there's no aesthetic law that says a "spiritual" score can't have moments of guiltless enjoyment (Schubert's cello quintet, for example) or a "sociable" one can't occasionally touch the deeps (like Haydn's "Lark" string quartet). The music here falls mainly into the latter category.

Mozart's "Kegelstatt" trio for violin (or clarinet), viola, and piano shows the composer in an "unbuttoned" mood. He wrote it for a bunch of his friends who used to meet regularly. "Kegelstatt" means "ninepins (or skittles) alley," and the story, almost surely apocryphal, goes that Mozart wrote the work drinking beer while waiting his turns at skittles. The title page suggests that a clarinet can replace the violin, and since Mozart had by that time made the acquaintance of the clarinet virtuoso Anton Stadler (he also got the clarinet concerto), the Atlanta Chamber Players choose to perform it that way. I must say that the clarinet adds a wonderful color to the music, much nicer and more suitable than a homogeneous string sound. The score may not represent Mozart at his most profound, but it has the virtues of tunefulness, energy, and wit. Mozart also throws in a few squibs along the way to shake things up. The central minuet, for example, plays with the barline at odd moments, enough to throw off anybody foolish enough to dance to it. The "Rondeau" finale eradicates distinctions between theme and episodes, since many of the episodes partake of elements of the theme. All in all, I love this little work.

American composer Norman Dello Joio, once regarded as a future hope of American music, has mostly dipped beneath notice since the late Fifties, in the wake of the post-Webernian serialists, chance composers, and minimalists. Dello Joio studied most notably with Paul Hindemith, although he found an original voice which signaled his maturity. What he kept from Hindemith were solid counterpoint and structural clarity. However, he added a personal lyricism that identifies the music as his within a few bars.
The Trio, on the other hand, comes relatively early. Hindemith's influence shows up most heavily in the first two movements, a moderato and an adagio. In the lively third movement, however, Dello Joio breaks free of his teacher mainly rhythmically, with an "Allegro spiritoso" closest to the second movement of the Aaron Copland Third or to Walter Piston's symphonic finales, both also from the Forties.

A name new to me, Kenji Bunch contributes Slow Dance for standard piano trio (violin, cello, and piano). I confess to violating my standard practice and reading the notes before I listened. When I got to the composer's description of the score as a "tribute to torch songs and their singers," my heart fluttered for a beat or two. The actual piece disappointed me, since I expected something reminiscent of Libby Holman and "Moanin' Low" or Judy Garland and "The Man That Got Away." Instead, we get something more like Edith Piaf -- not that there's anything wrong with that. I should follow my own rules and avoid unnecessary letdowns.

However, of the Modern and contemporary pieces, the Harbison cycle Songs America Loves to Sing definitely stands out. Harbison wrote the piece for the so-called "Pierrot ensemble," the basic instruments of Schoenberg's Pierrot lunaire -- flute, clarinet, violin, viola, cello, and piano -- with clarinet and violin doubling on harmonicas in the last number. Harbison remembers a volume in his childhood home with the very title. My house had it, too, and accompanying myself at the piano, I used to go through its contents: Stephen Foster, "Battle Hymn of the Republic," "Wearin' of the Green" -- basically folk tunes and, I suspect, anything out of copyright. Harbison includes tunes not in that volume.

The work consists of ten movements on the following songs: "Amazing Grace" (of course), "Careless Love," "Will the Circle be Unbroken," "Aura Lee," "What a Friend We Have in Jesus," "St. Louis Blues," "Poor Butterfly," "We Shall Overcome," "Ain't Goin' to Study War No Mo'," and the "Anniversary Song" (which bears an uncanny resemblance to "Happy Birthday). Harbison arranges these tunes in the following way: the odd-numbered movements feature one of the solo instruments rhapsodizing or riffing on the tune; the even-numbered ones turn the tunes into canons. In general, a canon may be described as one line of music that can replicate itself in such a way that it becomes a polyphonic composition. "Row, Row, Row Your Boat" is a simple canon. However, canons can become quite intricate. The tune can go against itself at half speed (canon in augmentation). The tune can go against itself, first note to last versus last to first (a "crab" or cancrizen canon). The tune can go against an upside-down version of itself (inversion canon). Furthermore, Harbison has some contrapuntal tricks of his own.

The opening movement, "Amazing Grace," gives a lot of room for the solo flute to ramble on and around the melody. However, wisps of the tune float through the accompaniment, thus foreshadowing the canons to come. In "Careless Love," a steady, repetitive piano line supports various two-part canons, as the composer introduces the instruments of the ensemble in pairs. "Aura Lee" is a canon where the entries move at various speeds. In "What a Friend We Have in Jesus," the piano adapts an increasingly raunchy, even barrelhouse style. The most complex of the "learned" canons comprises Harbison's setting of "St. Louis Blues" -- in fact, a double inversion canon. That is, there are two "leader" lines and two "follower" lines, and the followers are the leaders upside-down. Miraculously, it sounds less "learned" and more like a jam session. It also tells you something about blues structure.

For some strange reason, Harbison's score reminds me of Haydn. The American musical vernacular has so fused into his DNA that he can play with it, without feeling the necessity to "raise and purify." I regard the score as a gift to all lovers of American music.

The Atlanta musicians do very well indeed. I commend single out Laura Ardan on clarinet, especially for her solo "Poor Butterfly," and artistic director and pianist Paula Peace, who gets the fun of the score without sacrificing its wit. I complain only about the recording balance, where the piano sometimes gets lost beneath the other instruments. Other than that, you can cuddle up to this disc on cold winter nights -- a joy.

S.G.S. (December 2009)

December 2008
BBC Music

SONGS AMERICA LOVES TO SING

Works by Harbison, Mozart, Joio and Bunch
Atlanta Chamber Players
MSR Classics MSR 1190 – 72:47 mins

John Harbison’s Songs America Loves To Sing is a suite for instrumental Quintet in which well-known songs are freely arranged alternately as Solos, in which one of the instruments are highlighted, and Cannons. The treatments are never predictable: ‘St Louis Blues’ keeps on swinging even while being dissected into an accompanied double canon by inversion; ‘We Shall Overcome” is transformed into a medieval carol interrupted by bursts of faster versions of itself; the closing ‘Anniversary Song’ dissolves into a haze of harmonics and glissandos on the piano strings. It could easily have been unbearably tricksy, but it’s handled with obvious affection for the material and it’s a delight from start to finish.
The Atlanta Chamber Players, for whom the piece was written in 2004, play it with great delicacy and flair, though the recording’s unhelpful acoustic flattens out dynamics and obscures some balances. Also included is Kenji Bunch’s smoochy but insubstantial Slow Dance for piano trio, Norman Della Joio’s early, fresh, light-textured Trio for flute, cello and piano, and - rather than the Ives or Bolcom we might have expected - a lively rethinking of Mozart’s Trio for clarinet, viola and piano.

Anthony Burton

PERFORMANCE ****
SOUND ***

January/February 2008
American Record Guide Review

“This is a highly gratifying recording, offering variety and splendid playing.”

SONGS AMERICA LOVES TO SING

Atlanta Chamber Players – MSR 1190 – 72 min

This release replicates a typical concert by this superb ensemble. Variety of styles and instruments is the group’s hallmark, and that is that we get here. Mozart’s Kegelstatt Trio is given an elegant, amiable reading; it sounds like a fluid conversation between old friends, which is exactly what Mozart intended when he wrote it for his musical circle. Laura Ardan, principal clarinet for the Atlanta Symphony, carries the gorgeous clarinet part with supple grace.

The rest of the program offers modern and contemporary American music, all of it attractive. The newest, Kenji Bunch’s “Slow Dance,” is a hypnotic tribute to torch music. Lyrical string lines combine with icy piano chords to create a nostalgic tapestry. The long, rapt code includes high harmonics over plunging bass slides. John Harbison’s Songs America Loves to Sing is a collection of solos and canons based on American root songs such as “Amazing Grace,” “Will the Circle Be Unbroken,” and “We Shall Overcome.” The effect is vaguely Ivesian, though textures are more transparent. Songs are sometimes barely recognizable, but occasionally, as in “Will the Circle Be Unbroken”, a tune will emerge relatively unscathed, its original spirit intact. Paul Piece’s (sic) piano solo in “What a Friend We Have in Jesus” has great spirit; This is a winning piece from a composer who often leaves me cold.

But my favorite work is Norman Dello Joio’s trio for flute, cello, and piano. The outer movements are birdlike bursts of color, the slow movement a deep, gorgeous Adagio. Christina Smith, principal flute of the Atlanta Symphony, plays with joyful brightness.

The recording, made at the Dozier Centre for the Performing Arts in Kennesaw, Georgia, has a warm ambiance ideal for chamber music. The rich string sonorities and eerie harmonics of violinist Christopher Pulgram, violist Catherine Lynn, and cellist Brad Ritchie are not ruined by the cold scratchiness that afflicts so many chamber recordings. This is a highly gratifying recording, offering variety and splendid playing.

— Sullivan

March 8, 2001
The Atlanta Journal

FOOTEPRINTS: CHAMBER MUSIC OF ARTHUR FOOTE

Atlanta Chamber Players
ACA Digital Recordings — 65:27 mins.
Grade: A

Arthur Foote’s lyrical, high-calorie music needs all the champions it can attract, and this excellent new disc from the Atlanta Chamber Players makes a splendid case. A New Englander, Foote (1853-1937) studied in Europe and borrowed stocky romantic styles for his own; Brahms and Dvorak were his models. On first hearing, his voice wasn’t the slightest bit American — or even unique — and he was seen as anachronistic even in his own lifetime. The Atlanta Chamber Players’ fifth CD includes two major works: Foote’s C Major Piano Quartet, Op. 23, and his C Minor Piano Trio, Op. 5. Elegant, subtle and compelling, this music holds instant appeal and grows on you mightily with repeated listening. It’s highly recommended.

— Pierre Ruhe

September 10, 1998
The Gainesville Times

CHAMBER PLAYERS DEFINE CHAMBER MUSIC

“Soiree Sweets” is the Atlanta Chamber Players’ second CD. Ensemble members Paula Peace, piano; Christopher Pulgram, violin; David Hancock, cello; Amy Porter, flute; Laura Ardan, clarinet; and Paul Murphy, viola, play 18 short pieces from three centuries of chamber repertoire. Peace is the group’s artistic director.

From an effervescent introduction to a sad farewell, the Atlanta Chambe Players’ new CD is a delight. Aptly titled “Soiree Sweets,” this collection resembles a platter of petits fours, each different, each elegant.

Opening with Brahms’ Hungarian Dance No. 6, one of the liveliest and most charming of those lively works, the ensemble goes on to the lilting strains of Schubert’s “The Fishermaiden,” swaying like a boat on a calm sea.

The mix of tempos works well, from Gerald Finzi’s slow and almost soporific “Romance” to the brighter rhythms of the allegro from the Trio Sonata in C Minor by Johann Joachim Quantz, court composer to Frederick the Great.

In keeping with its theme, the CD serves up a taste of classical, a seasoning of Impressionism and a rich revel of romanticism. Quite as delightful are those dishes that present a piquant mix of tastes,like the modern-edged lyricism of Jacques Iberts “Two Interludes.” Lush strings and woodwinds contrast with a crisp, sharp piano.

Fritz Kreisler’s Viennese March applies a modern idiom to a traditional style to capture the flavor of Vienna as surely as a serving of Sachertorte.
Cello and ragtime are not a typical combination, bot Kreisler’s “Syncopation” makes it work. Four Kreisler works show the range of his talent, from “Syncopation” to a minuet in the style of Pugnani, stately yet sprightly.

It’s appropriate that this group, named for the South’s premier cultural center, included a work by Alfredo Barili, the European-trained founder of the city’s first music school. Lyrical falls of drifting notes float gently into sleep in Barili’s “Cradle Song,” composed soon after his arrival in Atlanta in 1880.

Chamber music is defined as music suitable for playing in small rooms for small groups. To me, real chamber music is the music that musicians play when they get together for the sheer joy of playing. This is real chamber music.
The chamber group is a partnership of equals, but each instrument does get its chance to shine.

The rippling rondeau from Mozart’s Trio in E Flat features a lovely conversation between viola and clarinet. Two old, close friends toss the melody back and forth, weaving a tapestry of complementary images.

In Benjamin Godard’s “Valse,” the flute trips merrily up and down the scale. Amy Porter handles it beautifully, carrying the work to a triumphant conclusion.

Saint-Saens’ “Swan” sails graceful and elegant in David Hancock’s redition of this classic. The full, deep lyricism of the cello is immensely suited to depicting this stately bird. The richest and sweetest tidbit of all, “The Swan” is barely tasted before it becomes a memory.

Meals end with dessert, but how does one end a menu of sweets? Regretfully, with Fritz and Hugo Kreisler’s “Farewell to Cucullain.” Every child of Ireland, no matter how many generations removed, responds to this sad and sentimental melody. Sadly, Ireland has produced no great composers, but must rely on an American to arrange her most favorite tune.

— Anne Madison

July August 1997
Fanfare

CONVERSATIONS: A TWENTIETH ANNIVERSARY SALUTE TO AMERICAN COMPOSERS

Atlanta Chamber Players
AMRAM: Conversations. COPLAND: Sextet. HARBISON: November 19, 1828. ROREM: Trio for Flute, Cello, and Piano.
ACA CM 20038 [DDD] – 66.47

This is a lovely recording released to celebrate the Atlanta Chamber Players’ twentieth anniversary as a working ensemble. The four works for various mixed ensembles explore different aspects of American chamber music and include two commissioned works, the Amram and Harbison, that the Atlanta Chamber Players premiered in 1988. The title piece by David Amram is a quintet for flute, piano, and string trio. The three movements follow reasonably classic lines, with a sonata-form movement succeeded by a blues and a theme and variations on a melody originally written for a 1957 production of Macbeth. Throughout the music Amram’s experience as a jazz player shows up in the different accompaniment figurations and on occasion in the melodic material. The composer-described blues has rather distant jazz echoes and could only be called a blues in the most refined, Ellington-derived use of the term. The Finale, given the source of its melodic material, adds a slightly Renaissance quality to the mix. I realize this makes the work sound hopelessly eclectic, but it hangs together very well. The performance seems fine.

I have a variety of problems with John Harbison’s work, although most of them have to do with his writing about music rather than his music. The present work is no exception. The title refers to the date of Schubert’s death, and the four movements have a program dealing with Schubert in the afterlife. It is a tombeau in the manner of Ravel’s tribute to Couperin where Harbison incorporates certain aspects of Schubert’s style as he portrays the older composer making and encountering music in the afterlife. Harbison naturally plays it completely straight. The work is completely devoid f the postmodern ironies of a composer like Schnittke. This sounds deeply silly, but the music is very fine. Harbison uses the piano, which is recorded slightly distanced, to portray Schubert, while the string trio plays the music Schubert encounters in his new existence. Probably the finest movement of the four is the third, which incorporates a rondo fragment by Schubert dating from 1816.

The Copland Sextet was described by the composer as an act of desperation after orchestras in the United States found his Short Symphony entirely too difficult to play. Copland transcribed the work for flute, clarinet, and string quartet, renaming it Sextet and gave it new life while he waited for orchestral musicians to develop the rhythmic facility of solo players. Comparing the present performance with Michael Tilson Thomas’s new recording of the work in its original form, I have to say that I greatly prefer the chamber transcription. It is one of the Copland works that is largely devoid of a good tune. The melodic gestures are immediately identifiable as Copland, but they never blossom into real melody. This deficiency is largely irrelevant in the chamber version, where Copland’s endlessly inventive use of his restricted instrumental palette catches the ear by surprise at every turn. The performance at hand is very fine, full of rhythmic bite and a surprisingly wide dynamic range.

Ned Rorem’s Trio is somewhat at odds with the composer’s general reputation. His songs cover an enormously wide range of emotional states, but his instrumental works are generally thought to be pleasant, loosely constructed suites, essentially diverimentos regardless of what major instrumental form he happens to be writing in. The Trio is easily the toughest music on this disc, and I found it very rewarding. Rorem’s characteristic gift for melody is everywhere in evidence, but it is aligned with a rhythmic toughness and a vision that is close to tragic. The four movements have a spiky integrity that is very appealing to me.

The recorded sound is fine. The disc will be a fine addition to any representative collection of American chamber music.

— John Story