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Modern Classical: Aranis, Basta, Christopher Hobbs, Christopher Roberts

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ARANIS: Songs from Mirage (CD on Home Records)

This release from 2009 offers 58 minutes of exciting chamber music.

Aranis is: Linde de Groof (on violin), Liesbeth Lambrecht (on violin), MaRjolein Cools (on accordion), Axelle Kennes (on piano), Joris Vanvinckenroye (on double bass), Stijn Denys (on guitar), and Jana Arns (on flute). Els van Laethem, Herlinde Ghekiere, and Anne Marie Honggokoesoemo provide choral vocals.

Recital music with a heavenly demeanor receives an emotional jolt, transforming classical airs into thrilling expressions rich with drama.

The violins provide ambrosial layers of fluttering timbre like a flock of birds casting off their ethereal disposition and basking in urgent agitation.

The bass injects a weighty undercurrent, establishing a pensive foundation for the lilting melodies.

Instances of accordion generate a jovial presence within the mix.

The piano often erupts with commanding chords, establishing a dramatic flair.

Flute strains escalate a pastoral attitude into passionate assertions.

Guitar lurks in the mix, providing subtle enhancement.

Choral vocals frequently imbue the music with a stately elegance that is rich with expansive scope.

These compositions expand the notion of chamber music into tuneage of modern charm. Their fundamental cerebral nature is tastily flavored with an accessible air that contains just the right touch of pep, resulting in songs that mesmerize while they invigorate.

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BASTA!: CYCLES (CD on Home Records)

This release from 2009 offers 45 minutes of brisk classical music.

Basta! is Joris Vanvinckenroye on double bass.

Surprisingly lively tuneage for one guy on a stand-up bass. While the engaging melodies retain a classical air, the material explores sprightly territory with a vibrant sense of adventurous daring.

Strident bowing is balanced by luxurious sawing, flavoring things from both ends of the mood spectrum. There’s plucking, slapping and touches of enhancement; in fact, Vanvinckenroye does just about everything to his instrument except fly it around the room. This extravagant performance style produces a versatile range of expressions, all of which are adroitly put to use to craft tunes of exquisite beauty.

While no actual percussion is present, carefully crafted slaps and artfully plucked strings provide suitable rhythms to the breezy melodies.

A refreshing diversity is applied to the compositions, blending traditional airs with modern sensibilities. Yet these pieces flourish with spry animation, coaxing the double bass to sing with jubilation. Pensive characteristics are infused with brisk enthusiasm, transforming this tuneage into material that will delight even those who normally find classical music to be too dry.

Highly recommended.

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CHRISTOPHER HOBBS: Sudoku 82 (CD EP on Cold Blue Music)

This release from 2009 offers 19 minutes of piano music.

Composer Hobbs’ tune is performed by Bryan Pezzone on eight pianos. Structure is achieved by allowing computer software to interpret the numbers found in hexadecimal sudoku puzzles in conjunction with random number generators.

Shorn of this technical procedure, the music displays a relaxed nature. Single notes linger, while brief gaps create a rich expectation that is eloquently rewarded by rippling chords. While the keyboard expressions remain isolated, a gentle flow is generated as the instances blend into each other, oozing like drifting smoke guided by meticulously applied breezes.

This melodic composition achieves a sultry demeanor, pitting reluctance against fortitude in a structure that results in a dreamy pastiche of haze and clarity. These contrasts lose their difference, melding into a pacific lilt that manages to allow emotion to emerge from the minimal temperament.

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CHRISTOPHER ROBERTS: Last Cicada Singing (CD EP on Cold Blue Music)

This release from 2009 offers 28 minutes of Eastern music.

Christopher Roberts plays solo qin.

Roberts coaxes a variety of expressions from this Chinese string instrument, from demonstrative plucking to scraping slides to bowed string resonance.

The melodies are stark, yet exhibit an exotic density resulting from the alignment of sounds. Hesitant pluckings are chased by whispering scrapes immersed in softly extended afterglows. Notes are flexed and twirled to produce a malleable presence. One is reminded of fireflies cavorting in a twilight garden.

These compositions employ Eastern structure, producing eerily disjunctive passages that flow into definitions that bend conventional expectations into arrangements of elegant beauty. While melodic in character, the actual melodies are elusive and seemingly erratic to Western ears. A stately posture is generated as each note approximates an aspect of nature, creating a unity only when perceived in their totality.

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