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ClassicsOnline Home » Mandolin and Guitar Music (American) - KAISER, T. / FEBONIO, T.G. / EDWARDS, T.D. / AXELROD, L. (Duo Ahlert and Schwab)
Many of the works on this recording were written for award-winning Duo Ahlert & Schwab, who have contributed greatly to making contemporary music from the United States a significant part of mandolin and guitar repertoire. The mellow tones and chiming sparkle associated with these instruments is represented in a wide diversity of pieces whose styles and influences include fragments of classical forms in Mark Delpriora’s Sonata, references to the mysteries of nature in Daimonelix, named after spiralling rock formations found in Nebraska, electronic music, rock music and Middle East-ern music in Indigo Trails, and chaos theory in Strange Attractor.
Never Less Than Interesting
Mandolinist Daniel Ahlert and guitarist Birgit Schwab have performed together for 20 years and their repertoire spans more than four centuries. This current recording has the duo playing out along the experimental edge of modern music, featuring works by seven contemporary American composers.
The results, while probably not for every taste, are as consistently interesting and different as music can get. Some of it is achingly beautiful, alternately joyous and melancholy, vigorous and dream-like. Other pieces (or parts of pieces) are so arhythmic and anti-tonal that they verge on becoming unlistenable. Welcome to modern music.
De gustibus non est disputandum.
Recorded with their usual technical expertise, Duo Ahlert and Schwab’s Music for Mandolin and Guitar may not make everyone’s top 10 list, but when artists this brilliant perform any kind of music, baroque or 12 tone, that music deserves to be listened to.
Recommended 8.5 out of 10
- Oscar O. Veteranomore....
By John Whitmore
American Music for Mandolin and Guitar
Contemporary music in the United States plays a big part in the repertoire of the mandolin and guitar. In the last ten years especially, many interesting and stylistically very diverse works for these instruments have appeared. This recording is conceived as a tribute to all American composers who have devoted themselves to writing for the mandolin or guitar in one or more works. Apart from the selection of works recorded here there are so many other compositions which would have been worthy of inclusion, but for reasons of time or on dramaturgical grounds not all works could be considered. We would like to give thanks to GWK and to the Swampscott String Ensemble for their support.
Tyler Kaiser: The Fates
Urth: the goddess of destiny of the past, a giantess, embodied in the past.
Clotho weaves the thread of life, corresponds to the Roman Norn.
Verthandi: the goddess of destiny of the present, a sprite, embodied in the present.
Lachesis measures the length of the thread of life, corresponds to the Roman Decuma.
Skuld: the goddess of destiny of the future, a dwarf, embodied in the future.
Atropos cuts the thread of life, corresponds to the Roman Morta.
The Fates for guitar and mandolin is a work I originally composed in 1983–1984 for guitar and recorder. I had publicly performed the first movement a few times in the past with the recorder player Shelley Gruskin but not the other movements. After I had written Den lille Havfrue for Duo Ahlert & Schwab, they requested another work so I set about rewriting this piece for them. The changes in the new version are mainly in the mandolin part to make it more idiomatic and to add textures and effects not possible on the recorder and also some rhythmic/metric changes were made in the second and third movements. Therefore, the first performance of this music by Ahlert & Schwab was at least 2/3 of a première.
The pairing of two mythologies is one of the ideas that occurred to me in the creation of the original. The same characters of past, present and future appear in two different cultures and two different instruments; perhaps the guitar is Greek and the mandolin is Nordic for the sake of the story. Otherwise, the programmatic nature of the music is primarily subjective; however, the Bartók snap at the end of the second movement represents the cutting of the thread of time.
Tyler Kaiser was born in Duluth, Minnesota and has composed, performed, taught and lived in this area longer than some would consider prudent. Most of his credentials are, therefore, from this area, because he likes to serve his community, but he has received numerous grants, commissions and awards from organizations such as the National Endowment for the Arts, the American Composers Forum, the American Society for Composers, Authors and Publishers, the McKnight Foundation and many others. His compositions include two comic operas (he is working on a third), two symphonies, numerous works for orchestra, concert band, chamber ensembles and many arrangements for assorted early instruments. As a performer using a variety of instruments he has been involved with many of the organizations of the Duluth area including the Duluth-Superior Symphony Orchestra, the Lake Superior Chamber Orchestra, the Northland Opera Theater Experience, Lyric Opera of the North, the Center for Early Music Orchestra, the Arrowhead Chorale, Colder by the Lake Comedy Troupe, the Northshore Big Band, and the Chambure Vihuela Quartet. He has given numerous faculty recitals at the College of St. Scholastica and the University of Wisconsin, Superior, both institutions where he also teaches.
Tom Febonio: Water Ballads, Op 47
The Water Ballads were written in the winter of 2009 and are dedicated to Birgit and Daniel. I did not intend a suite or a program when I began composing, but about midway through the process I realized that the work was taking its own course, which I then followed to conclusion.
Tom Febonio was born in Salem, Massachusetts in 1950 and began his musical career at the age of sixteen playing the electric bass in a rock-and-roll band. This kept him occupied for about a decade, during which time he took up songwriting and recording, traditional music and jazz. As an adult he studied piano with Edith Mehaffey, and the viola, theory and conducting with Joseph A. Leary. His compositions to date are mostly tonal and structured along classical or romantic lines.
Timothy Dwight Edwards: Strange Attractor
Strange Attractor (2005) was inspired by an aptly named physical phenomenon occurring in the realm of chaos theory where the closer one looks the stranger things become.
Timothy Dwight Edwards received the Arion Award for creative achievement in music from Amherst College where he received the Bachelor of Arts degree graduating magna cum laude. His compositional studies there with Lewis Spratlan helped to forge his musical aesthetic. He later studied jazz at the University of Massachusetts, receiving a Master of Music degree. He received his doctorate in Music Composition from the University of Chicago, where his teachers included Ralph Shapey, Shulamit Ran, Andrew Imbrie and John Eaton. He has taught music at the University of Chicago, University of Illinois and Columbia College Chicago.
Lawrence Axelrod: Mercurials
Mercurials is the second piece I have written for the Duo Ahlert & Schwab. Since the first one was one extended movement that was calm, flowing and slowly developing, I wanted the second piece to be completely different. The four short movements vary greatly in character and tempo, use different kinds of playing techniques and have very limited compositional materials.
Lawrence Axelrod is a composer, pianist and conductor, whose musical activities have taken him around the United States and Europe. As a composer, he has had works played by Pinotage, the Lincoln Trio, the Duo Ahlert & Schwab, the Ensemble JungeMusik Berlin and the Verdi String Quartet in recent seasons. In the dual capacities of pianist and composer, he presented two concerts in South Africa in May 2008, one in Johannesburg and one in Cape Town. He presented an all-Mazurka program at the University of Wisconsin/Madison in March 2008. He also gave a variation of this program at Butler University (Indianapolis, IN) as a guest performer in November 2007 and as part of the Fazioli Salon Series on WFMT in April 2007, playing both classic and newly-written compositions in that form. He also opened the Swedish Electroacoustic Music Society’s conference with a recital in Stockholm in May 2007, repeating the program in Lahr, Germany a few days later. The Verdi String Quartet have been strong supporters of Lawrence Axelrod’s music, giving premières of his Diary Pieces, Anges et Déesses (with Ingeborg Danz, mezzo-soprano), and String Quartet No. 1, the last for the opening concert of the Vielsaitig Festival in Füssen, Germany in August 2004. His music was also presented in a portrait concert featuring four works as part of this festival. His compositions have been performed in composer’s festival concerts around the United States. He was invited to perform a piano recital as part of the Eighth International Festival of Electroacoustic Music held in Havana, Cuba in March 2000, and returned there in March 2004 to give a second recital. His work for orchestra and tape, Cassandra Speaks, had its première with the San Jose Symphony (CA) in June 1999, music director Leonid Grin conducting. This work was previously recorded by the Slovak Radio Symphony Orchestra, Szymon Kawalla conducting. Still Life with Sea and Whales, a work for soprano, flute and two guitars has been released on the CRS label. A CD of solo and small chamber works was released in the Fall of 2003. Lawrence Axelrod has received grants from Chorus America, Meet the Composer and Arts International for the performances of his works. He was also a founder and past chairperson of the Chicago Composers Consortium, as well as a member of CUBE. He has attended numerous composition residencies around the United States and in Europe. He has taught a highly successful opera appreciation class at Ghost Ranch Santa Fe each summer for nearly ten years. His teaching experience also includes Music Theory at Columbia College (Chicago, IL), and classes for young people. Lawrence Axelrod received his undergraduate degree from Amherst College and a Master of Music Degree in orchestral conducting from Northwestern University.
Mark Delpriora: Sonata
My Sonata for mandolin and guitar was written for and is dedicated to the Duo Ahlert & Schwab. The title Ruins refers to the fragments of classical forms contained within the two movements. Sonata, rondo, scherzo, adagio forms are all present but perhaps not quite followed through. The emotional states of the two movements run from the hauntingly melancholic to the somewhat giddy. In fact, the initial gesture of the second movement is inspired by motion of lizards hopping about from rock to rock in sunny Lagonegro, Italy while taking a walk with Daniel Ahlert and Birgit Schwab.
Mark Delpriora was born in New York City. He began his composition studies with Roland Trogan at the age of fourteen and later with Giampaolo Bracali. His guitar studies began with Rolando Valdez Blain and continued with Manuel Barrueco in the 1980s during which time he was Manuel Barrueco’s teaching assistant. Mark Delpriora is currently co-chair of the guitar department at the Manhattan School of Music. His works are published by Editions Orphée and Bèrben Edizioni Musicali.
Jay Gordon: Daimonelix
The word “daimonelix” refers to a series of spiraling rock formations found in Northwestern Nebraska in the United States. The rock formations, not surprisingly, are situated in a lonely place without much sign of human habitation. Even though the general landscape is seemingly unremarkable, there is great mystery to the place. I visited there some years ago and found myself transfixed by the living quality of the place. The piece is in two sections. The first part is meant to convey the approach to the daimonelix, at times reverentially hushed, but not without some dramatic struggles and frustrations. The last section is the arrival at the daimonelix with a sense of serenity and the unknown. The ‘daimonelix’, by the way, are speculated to be the fossilized borings of giant prehistoric beavers. Perhaps I just took the mystery away. My apologies.
Jay Gordon is a composer-guitarist based in Minnesota. Since studying classical guitar and composition, he has been active as composer, guitarist, teacher and concert producer. He writes primarily choral and guitar music. Original works for guitar include Superbliss-machine Embrace, Midwest Locations, and the collections LISTENING POINT and Royale Picture Dances. His Diggunim Trees for two guitars, a Buddhist reflection on landscape, is available from online audio sources as is Hoary Plucks: Renaissance Lute Music of Italy, Spain and England played on guitar. Choral titles include The Keeping of the Soul, a sort of global mass in nine languages, including Latin, Pali, Lakota and Chinese; Monte Jalama, a nature-inspired work in reflection on a Spanish mountain; and Sixty Against One: the life of Joan of Arc.
Jeffrey Harrington: Indigo Trails
My music has always sought to exploit under-explored melodic and rhythmic territories from around the world without openly quoting or utilizing pastiche. I seek to be influenced by and then warp energies and textures which abound in today’s world music saturated world. Two major influences informed the composition of Indigo Trails and serve as contrasting forces, popular electronic and rock music and Middle Eastern music. Indigo Trails uses these influences within a classical context by taking apart the rhythmic and melodic motives and putting them back together to create new material. The title, Indigo Trails, comes from a bike path on Sanibel Island where I lived for 2 1/2 years before moving to France. It is an extremely wild, sandy road through a mangrove swamp and was full of alligators, crocodiles, manatees and all kinds of subtropical water birds. Indigo Trails was written for and premiered by mandolinist Mike Marshall for a fund-raising concert for New Music Works of Santa Cruz, CA in 2009.
Jeffrey Harrington was born and raised in the Deep South of the United States. While he has studied with many famous composers at Juilliard and Tulane, including Elliott Carter and Roger Sessions, he attributes his musical education to self-study and his familiarity with the music of New Orleans where he spent most of his formative years. He is likely the first composer to utilize the internet to further his career, and probably invented the free music distribution model. By employing pre-web computer systems he distributed his music (both scores and all recordings) to musicians and listeners around the world free of charge and continues to do so to this day at his site: http://jeffharrington.org.
Music notes by the composers
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