My 2018 in the Arts


One of the Theater Organs at House on the Rock, Spring Green, WI, a really fun place to visit.


I’m skeptical about year end lists but I have enough people asking me that it would be impertinent to skip this task. I make no claims to having even listened to enough to make any definitive statements about the “best” but I have my own quirky criteria which I hope at least stirs interest. Here goes.

Let’s start with the most read reviews. Without a doubt the prize here goes to Tim Brady’s “Music for Large Ensemble”. This reviewer was enthralled by this recording by this Canadian musician whose work needs to be better known.

This little gem was sent to me by a producer friend and I liked it immediately. I knew none of these composers but I enjoyed the album tremendously. Don’t let the unusual name “Twiolins” stop you. This is some seriously good music making. It is my sleeper of the year.

Running close behind the Twiolins is the lovely album of post minimalist miniatures by the wonderful Anne Akiko Meyers. Frequently these named soloist albums of miniatures are targeted at a “light music” crowd. Well this isn’t light music but it is quite listenable and entertaining.


The creative programming and dedicated playing made this a popular review to New Music Buff readers. Definitely want to hear more from the Telegraph Quartet.

Another disc sent by my friend Joshua. This one is a DVD/CD combo of music by a composer whose existence was only revealed to me a couple of years ago. Marin includes a clever animated video which accompanies the title track.

I was fortunate enough to have been able to hear Terry Riley and Gloria Cheng in an all Terry Riley program at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts. Both were in spectacular form and the audience was quite pleased.

I would be remiss if I didn’t include the fabulous 6 night series of concerts produced by Other Minds. This is why I am a rabid advocate of OM programs. More on that soon with OM 24 coming up.

And lastly I want to tell you about two more composers who are happily on my radar.

One of the joys of reviewing CDs is the discovery of new artists to follow. Harold Meltzer is now in that group for me. This basically tonal composer has a real feel for writing for the voice and has turned out some seriously interesting chamber music.

Another composer unknown to these ears. I bristle at the term “electroacoustic” because it sometimes means experimental or bad music. Not so here. Moe is fascinating. Definitely worth your time.

OK, gonna can the objectivity here to say that this is possibly the most underappreciated album I’ve heard this year. Combining a recording of the Debussy Preludes along with Schoenberg’s rarely heard “Hanging Gardens”, Webern’s Variations, and Berg’s Piano Sonata creates a picture of a moment in history when music moved from impressionism to expressionism. Jacob Greenberg is very much up to the task. Buy this one and listen, please. It’s wonderful.

Also beyond objectivity is this fascinating major opus by Kyle Gann. It didn’t get much recognition on my blog but it’s a major work that deserves your attention if you like modern music.

Well this is one of my favorite reviews in terms of the quality of my writing. The work is most wonderful as well. Though this review was actually published on December 31st I’m still including it in my 2018.

This is definitely cheating on my part but after that concert at Yerba Buena I can’t resist making folks aware of this wonderful set on the independent label, “Irritable Hedgehog”. Trust me, if you like Riley, you need this set.

I review relatively few books on this site but by far the most intriguing and important book that has made it across my desk to this blog is Gay Guerilla. The efforts of Mary Jane Leach, Renee Levine Packer, Luciano Chessa, and others are now helping to establish an understanding of this composer who died too young. Here’s looking forward to next year.

I know I have left out a great deal in this quirky year end selection but I hope that I have not offended anyone. Peace and music to all.

The Twiolins: Secret Places


twiolinssecret

Hännsler PHI 7002

Wow!  What a discovery.  This album was kindly sent to me by a friend, one of his most recent discoveries.  And from the moment I put this in the CD player I was entranced.  Despite the appearance of yet another cute musical duo these are two amazingly talented musicians playing some of the best post-minimal pieces this writer has heard in years.

Twiolins is are violinists with a wide range of interests (their repertoire as reported on their web site is impressive) but with a clear love for post-minimalist music.  In fact they are brother and sister, Marie-Luise Dingler and Christopher Dingler.  Unlike acts that seem to be designed to reach an audience with mediocre pop-inflected classical music Twiolins here presents 13 works by composers completely unfamiliar to this writer but astoundingly fresh and inventive.

My first impression reminded me of the music of the late great violinist and composer Michael Galasso.  There is a remarkable similarity in styles between the composers represented here but all seem to fall basically into a post-minimalist category.  The difference is that this music went right to my head (so to speak) and I found this music invaded my nervous system in the same delightful way that my first encounters with minimalism did.  My linear thinking was impaired and I found myself carried away, willing to follow wherever the music led me.  It was a curious mix of nostalgia and revelation.

There are 13 relatively brief tracks (ranging from 2:13 to 6:46) representing 13 compositions.  Once I put the disc in the CD player I just had to hear the whole thing.  No pause allowed.  There is a consistency of styles with these pieces and the ordering on the disc promotes a nice flow from faster to slower pieces, then faster ones again.  And adding to the basic quality of the compositions is a clear sense that these musicians are able to bring out details in the phrasing of their playing that make these compositions shine in ways that would flatter any composer.

Tracklist:

Rebecca Czech, Germany: Ich glaub´, es gibt Regen

András Derecskei, Hungary: Balkanoid

Benjamin Heim, Australia: Trance No.1

Edmund Jolliffe, UK: Waltz Diabolique

Jens Hubert, Germany: Rock you vs. Ballerina

Johannes Meyerhöfer, Germany: Atem • Licht

Nils Frahm, Germany: Hammers

Aleksander Gonobolin, Ukraine: Metamorphosis

Dawid Lubowicz, Poland: Carpathian

Vladimir Torchinsky, Russia: Eight Strings

Benedikt Brydern, USA: Schillers Nachtflug

Andreas Håkestad, Norway: Three Moods, I

Levent Altuntas, Germany: Chasma^2

This is apparently their third album (their first was released in 2011 and another in 2014).  It was released in late 2017.  I picked these up at Amazon as digital downloads for comparison.  It would appear that these musicians have been carefully cultivating their sound and selecting their repertoire.

Granted there is a slightly populist feel here but none of these composers are known to this reviewer so it’s difficult to say if this is typical of their work.  These are strong, well-wrought pieces that will delight and move the listener.  The term “populist” here is not intended to imply simplicity or lower quality, just a nod to the fact that it will likely have an immediate appeal to listeners.  The composers are a nationally diverse set and doubtless have other compositions of interest in their catalogs.  Listeners can doubtless anticipate more tasty little miniatures as well as (hopefully) selections from their repertoire of concerti and the like.

This is not a mind bending or taxing album but neither is it negligible.  The liner notes give little info about the pieces but that doesn’t really matter because they’re relatively brief and you will either like them or not but this writer is betting on “like”.