"These two works were commissioned in 1978 by the chamber group Tashi, which used the same unusual line-up as Messiaen's Quartet for the End of Time: clarinet, violin, cello and piano. They are recorded here by a successor to Tashi called Antares.
The late Peter Lieberson named his piece after the commissioning group itself. It's a five movement work with a scherzo in the middle followed by a slow movement. Despite using 12-tone techniques, it feels relatively free in developing its often short-winded ideas, though there's no lack of concentration.
Roger Reynold's piece is looser and sparer, deriving its material from passages in a novel by Gabriel García Márquez. The idea is that in each movement the solo instrument shapes the phrasing of the musical lines, while the other instruments shadow it. The result is often intriguing, and beautifully balanced by both performers and sound engineers."
-George Hall, January 2012
"Antares is a wonderful new music ensemble whose instrumentation was inspired by that in the landmark work for the same combination, Quartet for the End of Time, by Olivier Messiaen. Since the Messiaen, there have been many high quality works written for this combination; many of which were composed specifically for the great ensemble “Tashi” founded in 1973 (Richard Stoltzman, Ida Kavafian, Fred Sherry and Peter Serkin). The two works on this disc, by Lieberson and Reynolds, were written for Tashi but not commercially recorded until now and Antares plays with such a conviction and style that their group hardly begs any comparison to the former. The one thing to note is that Jesse Mills performs the violin part in the Lieberson and Vesselin Gellev in the Reynolds; both extraordinary players.
The music is the compelling story. Peter Lieberson has typically – and more recently – written music that evokes tonality within a somewhat eastern context (many of his works show some Tibetan Buddhist influence) The Tashi Quartet, however, is a reflection of the composer’s first influence and love of Stravinsky with a twelve-tone vocabulary and a clear uncluttered approach to structure and rhythm. It is certainly not a static work, though. Rather, it is amazingly reflective and passionate—also trademarks of Lieberson’s music. The opening allegro is very dynamic and attention getting with its nervous energy characterized by tremolo passages in the strings, punctuated piano writing and some nearly minimalist touches. Another highlight for me is the fourth movement adagio tranquillo, characterized by a languid, pitch bending clarinet line and a mood, bordering on sadly pensive, that permeates the whole. The work concludes dramatically with some bold, syncopated accented ensemble writing that carries the work forward to a nervous, kinetic conclusion reminiscent of the opening bars of the work. This is a marvelous work that should be in the common repertoire for ensembles such as this.
Roger Reynolds and his music represent a fascinating but completely different aesthetic from Peter Lieberson. A student of Ross Lee Finney in Michigan and founder of the new music group ONCE, Reynolds has built a wide spread reputation for theatrically-inspired works and even computer-based sound sources. Over the years, he has claimed affinity for the philosophies and techniques of some known experimentalists, such as Varèse, Cage and Nancarrow. Reynolds’ music, therefore, sounds a bit eclectic and utilizes elements of pitch, rhythm, harmony and timbre in unusual ways. It would be wrong, however, to approach his Shadowed Narrative, heard here, with trepidation. This work is representative of another of Reynolds’ passions; writing music in collaboration with poets or in reflection on poetry. In this case, the music is written in intentional reflection to One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia-Marquez. This extremely dense narrative serves as a point of focus for the whole work. Each movement is entitled after just a fragment of a line in the Marquez and the composer points out that the instruments are treated almost as speaking voices within the context. (The booklet notes by the composer are quite helpful.) This is also passionate music but written in a style reflective of the strange, hard-to-decipher, metaphoric intensity of the work of Garcia-Marquez. The closing movement, “…while they were playing…”, for example, is absolutely atmospheric. This quartet also deserves a place in the common canon for this instrumentation.
You will enjoy this recording as I did for any number of reasons. This is exciting, provocative contemporary music with a strong emotional grounding and the performance of Antares is quite impressive. New Focus Recordings is a performer-run independent with a clear commitment to new music and new artists. I certainly enjoyed this release and look forward to more!"
-Daniel Coombs, November 16, 2011
"Reviews all comment on their high energy performances and extraordinary ensemble skills, qualities that are clearly evident in this wonderful recording.
In the opening movement, the violin is the primary voice, with Vesselin Gellev giving a very sensitive and expressive performance. The balance of lyric gestures with more atmospheric passages with large leaps and bursts of energy are masterfully executed. The second movement features clarinetist Garrick Zoeter, who blends traditional and extended techniques effortlessly, creating melodic lines that are beautiful, interesting, and surprising. There are many wonderful colors and technical passages that are both virtuosic and poetic. In the movement three, cellist Rebecca Patterson performs with both great energy and intensity. The writing is both aggressive and grinding in quality, with contrasting passages of delicate and more atmospheric textures. Patterson's "voice" provides a powerful expression that is filled with pain and angst. It is captivating to listen to [sic] with so much meaning and expression. The final movement is twice the length of the previous three and features pianist Eric Huebner. The breadth of colors and effects he is able to produce is quite amazing. Huebner's virtuosity is striking, with passages that are both surprising and explosive. The ensemble succeeds in creating the dialogue and narrative effect that was intended by the composer -- a great piece and a great performance.
Garrick Zoeter's performance is remarkable. The control of traditional and extended techniques blend together effortlessly, resulting in a huge pallette of colors and effects. His tone is beautiful and he shows complete mastery of all the technical demands and effects that are required for this piece. His artistry and virtuosity are compelling. This is one of the finest clarinet performances I have reviewed! Bravo!
Having reviewed numerous Cds in these pages over recent years, this CD is clearly the best recorded and performed chamber music I have heard. There is much to explore here. If you enjoy new music, especially for this quartet medium, this CD is a must have for your library."
The Clarinet, March 2011