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Editorial Reviews

Review

New Amsterdam Records: This start-up label is showcasing the younger generation of alt-classical artists and composers, including the violist Nadia Sirota and the NOW Ensemble (coming next week to Washington and Baltimore). -- The Washington Post, Anne Midgette, October 14, 2009
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Product Details

  • Audio CD (October 27, 2009)
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Label: New Amsterdam Records
  • ASIN: B0018TEPO4
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #266,246 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

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By Dr. Debra Jan Bibel TOP 500 REVIEWER on December 17, 2011
Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
The NOW Ensemble is a contemporary chamber group consisting of electric guitar, bass, clarinet, piano, and flute, some of the musicians also being composers, though they play the works of others. Having their second album, Awake, I obtained their first offering and am just as pleased. Judd Greenstein's first piece is a pulsed melodic dance, whose middle section is an intense, serious and dark swirl; its final section commences with a British-like folk tune and a return to the first section's rhythmic pattern. Patrick Burke's Hypno-germ also has 3 parts: it begins with a Japanesque solo flute tune that when joined by the remaining musicians, is swamped by a nervous and jagged development that soon collapses in exhaustion, leaving the flute to again dominate with its lyrical riff variations. Hanging There, Mark Dancigers' contribution, is a playful hopping syncopation that goes nowhere, abiding. This is followed by Burke's second work, with its Beatle title: it drives with suspenseful tension suitable for a crime soundtrack and briefly includes a Dr. Who bassline. How About Now (is that a pun?) by Nico Muhly starts airy, as if catching various melodic phrases while on a stroll, and ends with a heated discussion among instruments. Cloudbank, Dancigers' second piece, is full of portent, its mass threatening but soon suggesting possible joy. By its title, Sing Along, the listener would expect Greenstein's last composition to be a lark, but the songbird is more akin to Vaughan Williams; nothing to hum. Seven tracks within some 52 minutes, this album gives us the essence of modern chamber abstractions: brief, interesting, and accessible poetic musical statements. The album is an enjoyable sound meal, but I somehow I am left still feeling hungry.
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Format: MP3 Music
I recommend this album highly. The compositions are wonderfully crafted, particularly Greenstein's "Folk Music" which opens the set; however, the whole album is great. The performances are clear and precise. Buy this CD now, you won't regret it.
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First, let me explain that I am not a musician nor a music expert; so my comments relate more to taste than technical issues. I am fond of the more modern composers from Debussy-Hovaness. I like the use of modern rhythms and sonorities. But challenging harmonies and discordant sounds are a bit off-putting (think Messian). The idea of this album is to show where classical music is going, including instrumentation and unusual harmonies, and some is enjoyable as a "new sound". I was first exposed to this group when I heard an excerpt on Public Radio and was intrigued enough to buy this and another album from the same ensemble. There just weren't enough appealing tunes to make me want to listen frequently to their renditions. I do not consider this one of my wiser purchases and would recommend it only if it is bargain priced.
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