All About Jazz

Home » Articles » CD/LP/Track Review

329

Phoenix Ensemble / Mark Lieb: Clarinet Quintets: Morton Feldman, Milton Babbitt

Troy Collins By

Sign in to view read count
The pairing of works by classical composers whose aesthetics are diametrically opposed to one another can sometimes reveal surprising, unforeseen similarities. Other times, the end result can be a schizophrenic listening experience. The Kronos Quartet has (for the most part) successfully navigated such waters for years. The Phoenix Ensemble, a mixed chamber ensemble from New York, manages the same feat on Clarinet Quintets: Morton Feldman, Milton Babbitt.

Though the combination of Feldman and Babbitt may seem incongruous at first, a close listen reveals subtle parallels between the two composers writing. Members of the Phoenix Ensemble, led by Founder and Artistic Director, clarinetist Mark Lieb, work wonders with each piece, drawing out the understated dynamics of the Feldman, finding common ground in the Babbitt.

Feldman's minimalist tendencies rely on subtle changes in volume and intonation, incurring dulcet, languid phrases that develop at a glacial pace. As the inventor of total serialism (an extension of Arnold Schoenberg's twelve tone technique) Babbitt's work is infamous for its rigorous sequencing, dense chromatics and contrapuntal intricacy; complex structures that are generally at odds with the linear simplicity of minimalism.

Though Feldman's intuitive writing and Babbitt's meticulous approach originate from opposite ends of the aesthetic spectrum, the resultant compositions share an otherworldly ambience not readily quantified on paper. The subtle unresolved dissonances in Feldman's "Clarinet and String Quartet" find common tonality with Babbitt's knotty "Quintet for Clarinet and String Quartet."

Exuding somber tranquility, the Feldman piece ebbs with solemn grace. Drifting laconically between subtle themes and movements, it unveils a nuanced yet kaleidoscopic array of colors and tones. Unfolding less assertively than some of his more vigorous works, the Babbitt builds gradually, adding layers of interwoven counterpoint and shifting rhythms. A world premier recording, Lieb's clarinet follows the same model of lyrical restraint as the Feldman piece, never strident—seamlessly integrated into the sinuous fabric of the string quartet.

The Phoenix Ensemble's commitment to these works is implicit; their intonation, precision and palpable enthusiasm is conveyed in each measure. Despite the seeming stylistic disparity of the two works, the album flows effortlessly.


Track Listing: Morton Feldman: Clarinet and String Quartet; Milton Babbitt: Quintet for Clarinet and String Quartet.

Personnel: Mark Lieb: clarinet; Aaron Boyd: violin; Kristi Helberg: violin (1); Alicia Edelberg: violin (2); Cyrus Beroukhim: viola; Alberto Parinni: cello (1); Bruce Wang: cello (2).

Title: Clarinet Quintets: Morton Feldman, Milton Babbitt | Year Released: 2009 | Record Label: Innova Recordings

Tags

comments powered by Disqus

Shop Music & Tickets

Click any of the store links below and you'll support All About Jazz in the process. Learn how.

Related Articles

Read For You CD/LP/Track Review
For You
by Patrick Burnette
Published: November 12, 2018
Read Espace Cardin 1977 CD/LP/Track Review
Espace Cardin 1977
by Karl Ackermann
Published: November 12, 2018
Read Song of No Regrets CD/LP/Track Review
Song of No Regrets
by Peter Hoetjes
Published: November 12, 2018
Read Ay  Que Boogaloo! CD/LP/Track Review
Ay Que Boogaloo!
by Chris M. Slawecki
Published: November 12, 2018
Read When Sunny Gets Blue: Spring ’68 Sessions CD/LP/Track Review
When Sunny Gets Blue: Spring ’68 Sessions
by Roger Farbey
Published: November 12, 2018
Read Lake Geneva CD/LP/Track Review
Lake Geneva
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: November 11, 2018
Read "Deuce" CD/LP/Track Review Deuce
by Dan McClenaghan
Published: April 8, 2018
Read "Travelers" CD/LP/Track Review Travelers
by John Kelman
Published: May 18, 2018
Read "Dionysus" CD/LP/Track Review Dionysus
by Nenad Georgievski
Published: October 31, 2018
Read "Modern Lore" CD/LP/Track Review Modern Lore
by Doug Collette
Published: February 11, 2018
Read "Geometry of Caves" CD/LP/Track Review Geometry of Caves
by Troy Dostert
Published: July 16, 2018
Read "Straight Ahead" CD/LP/Track Review Straight Ahead
by Dan McClenaghan
Published: March 26, 2018