NatarajaConor Nelson, flute & Thomas Rosenkranz, piano

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Several of the works on this collection of fascinating music by flutist Conor Nelson and pianist Thomas Rosenkranz (colleagues at Bowling Green State University) are oriented around dance, but a dance that is more cathartic and transformational than communal.

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In Hinduism, the god Shiva appears in many guises; one of the most powerful is as Nataraja, the cosmic dancer whose dance, "symbolizes the cycles of creation and destruction." Several of the works on this collection of fascinating music by flutist Conor Nelson and pianist Thomas Rosenkranz (colleagues at Bowling Green State University) are oriented around dance, but a dance that is more cathartic and transformational and less communal.

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Several of the works on this ambitious release were written for the performers, and it represents an important contribution to the available recorded output of avant garde flute music. The recording opens and closes with works by British composer Jonathan Harvey. Run Before Lightning depicts a close encounter with lightning, and the mixture of exhilaration and fear inherent in that experience. His beguiling Nataraja concludes the recording, and is a nuanced portrait of Shiva as Lord of the Dance. Harvey's Messiaen influenced harmonies provide an exotic background for this mercurial music, as it twists and turns in a search to eradicate illusion and clear the way for insight. Oberlin Conservatory faculty Josh Levineʼs work, Dances vagues, exists at the boundary of dance and abstraction, balancing references to Vareseʼs iconic solo flute work, Density 21.5 and the Sarabande from Bachʼs E minor Lute Suite. Bowling Green faculty Christopher Dietzʼ piece, Kinderspiel (child's play), was inspired by watching play dates between the composerʼs son and a pair of twin girls. The workʼs focus is the subtle dance between children with different temperaments. New York based Sam Pluta's work, "Light and Water" and C.R. Kasprzyk's Archetypes provide the most contemplative music on the disc, each looking at nature as a still-life. Nelson's rendering of Elliott Carter's iconic solo work, Scrivo in Vento, emphasizes the expressive contrasts between frenetic and lyrical that provide the propulsion in the piece.

- Daniel Lippel and Conor Nelson

Conor Nelson

Canadian flutist Conor Nelson gave his New York recital debut at Carnegie Hallʼs Weill Recital Hall and has appeared frequently as soloist and recitalist throughout the United States and abroad. Solo engagements include performances with the Minnesota Orchestra, the Toronto Symphony Orchestra, and numerous other orchestras. Recent highlights include two recitals in London, England, performances at Carnegie Hallʼs Zankel Hall, the Kimmel Center in Philadelphia, and a recital at the Tokyo Opera City Hall that received numerous broadcasts on NHK Television. Dr. Nelson is currently the Assistant Professor of Flute at Bowling Green State University.

Thomas Rosenkranz

Thomas Rosenkranz enjoys a musical life as a soloist, chamber musician, and artist teacher. Since winning the Classical Fellowship Award from the American Pianists Association, his concert career has taken him to four continents. His repertoire extends from the works of J.S. Bach to premieres of works written exclusively for him, often including improvisation into his performances.


Reviews

New Music Buff

This is a curious collection of flute and piano music. It is framed by two pieces from the late great Jonathan Harvey (1939-2012), one by Elliott Carter and a collection of world premiere recordings by composers far less familiar and markedly different in style.

The premieres are all by living composers (Josh Levine, Christopher Dietz, C.R. Kasprzsyk and Sam Pluta). Now these are all fine compositions but their style is so very different from the Harvey and Carter pieces that it is almost jarring to the listener. This living set of composers is represented by a far more conservative compositional ethic (please don’t read that as a negative) than the older, more modernist pieces which frame their efforts here.

Of course only time will tell the eventual place of these works in the annals of musical history but the fact here is that we have two towering works by Harvey, a tasty bit of one of Carter’s lesser known works and essentially unheard works from a gaggle of newcomers. The listener just has to be prepared to switch gears.

The performances are beautiful and loving throughout. The Harvey pieces truly stand out as the masterpieces they are as does the Carter. Curiously Carter (1908-2012) has been somewhat maligned since his passing for reasons that defy logic but I am glad that this late Carter piece was included.

This is a lovely recording and performance. The juxtaposition of the modernist pieces framing the neo-romantic pieces by the younger composers is striking but stick with it. The pleasures of this recording are in the loving and committed performances as well as the recording itself which is quite lucid.

Conor Nelson on flute and Thomas Rosenkranz, piano are new names to me but I will keep them in mind having heard what they have done here. The ear who made this recording so listenable was Ryan Miller, the recording engineer. -- Allan Cronin, New Music Buff, 6.27.2016

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