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Of the several Naxos albums of young prolific American composer Jonathan Leshnoff, this is the most appealing, most intriguing to me. His String Quartet No. 2 is romantic and engaging, composed in honor of the 50th wedding anniversary of a Baltimore Jewish couple. Its nostalgic melodies and flowing dance rhythms are simply wonderful, and it must have charmed the Edelmans. With the mysterious title of Seven Glances at a Mirage, the following trio of clarinet, violin, and piano is impressionistic. A connected sequence of seven diverse rhythmic sections that approach and fade back from a musical theme without apprehending it give us a classical Misterioso indeed. Each instrument's part is exceedingly well crafted in interplay. Another trio, this time of violin, cello, and piano, also perform an usual take on a ghost theme. Cosmic Variations may sound pretentious or unduly philosophical, but the piece does have that metaphoric deep space quality. The violin's slow, sparse upper register set the stage and the piano bass notes give gravitas. One of the variations suggests the climbing of a celestial ladder, rising and falling back a little each striving. Another variation is angular and jagged, reminiscent of Bartok. The cello is performed throughout in imitation of a viola, the typical sonorous sounds, at least as audio-engineered here, is often lacking until about 12 minutes into the 17-minute composition. The intense work concludes in the mist of a vestigial theme. Leshnoff is among the composers who wrote a work related to the horror of 9/11. This brief haunting work for vibraphone, marimba, and percussion is spectral by timbre and demanding drums. It too dissolves as a departing phantom. Leshnoff is a talented composer and this album is further proof.
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on December 25, 2013
These works exhibit an inner strength, lyricism and poignancy that are trademarks of Leshnoff. The performances are sensitive and bold. This album is a must-have in any contemporary music collection.
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