Reviews and occasional notes on classical music

Reviews and occasional notes on classical music

"Music, both vocall and instrumental, so good, so delectable, so rare, so admirable, so super excellent, that it did even ravish and stupifie all those strangers that never heard the like." - Thomas Coryat, after hearing 3 hours of music at the Scuola di San Rocco in Venice, 1608.

Sunday, July 7, 2019

A brilliant musical partnership

Palimpsest: Music for marimba & clarinet by Bach, McKinley, Piazzolla, Ravel & Zorn

Darius Milhaud introduced the marimba into the classical orchestra with his extraordinary 1947 Concerto for Marimba and Vibraphone, and composers from Leoš Janáček to Steve Reich were quick to introduce the striking colours this marvellous instrument can add to chamber and orchestral works. This new disc from marimbist Mike Stoltzman and her husband, clarinettist Richard Stoltzman, provides a great overview of various styles ("from Bach to Zorn" is a great way to talk about a wide range of music!)

Mika Stoltzman's own adaptation of Bach's perfectly adaptable Chaconne, from his D minor Partita for Solo Violin, shows the musical and emotional range of the instrument, as well as her own brilliant playing. Ravel's Pavane pour une infante défunte is another work that's made its way into many, many arrangements, and Richard Stoltzman's version for marimba & clarinet sounds exotic and familiar at the same time, in other words, just right for this kind of music.

For me the highlight of the album was the John Zorn piece which provides the title of the project. Richard Stoltzman describes the work in the liner notes:
Mika begins by playing quite tonal music, and then the clarinet jumps in with something abstract and arrhythmic, with crazy leaping intervals, almost as if Ornette Coleman had stepped into the room, and it keeps in conflict with the steady metre of the “old manuscript” underneath Mika’s part. It’s really fun to play, and it has been a surprise hit with audiences.
So many of the pieces here (including the Bach arrangements) are jazz- and blues- inflected. The Piazzolla works seem so natural, partly because the great composer from Argentina worked in his own jazz/classical idiom, but also because of the groove that the Stoltzmans and bandoneonist Pedro Giraudo are in throughout.

Mika and Richard Stoltzman play John Zorn's Palimpsest

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