“...through which the past shines…”Nils Vigeland/Reiko Füting/Daniel Lippel/John Popham

About

"…through which the past shines…" is a collection of the current complete works for guitar, both solo and in ensemble, by composers Nils Vigeland and Reiko Füting. The music is emblematic of both composers' sophisticated voices, grounded in the tradition while forward looking in nuanced and elegantly integrated ways. All the performances on this recording of music by Vigeland and Füting by guitarist Daniel Lippel, cellist John Popham, and Vigeland himself on piano are the byproduct of close working relationships developed over the last 17 years.

Audio

# Audio Title/Composer(s) Performer(s) Time
Total Time 86:08
01Two Variations: I. Double
Two Variations: I. Double
Daniel Lippel, guitar4:10
02“...through which the past shines…”
“...through which the past shines…”
Daniel Lippel, guitar, John Popham, cello, Nils Vigeland, piano21:27
03wand-uhr: infinite shadows
wand-uhr: infinite shadows
Daniel Lippel, guitar6:29
04Hine ma Tov (arrangement of trad.)
Hine ma Tov (arrangement of trad.)
Daniel Lippel, guitar4:18
05Red Wall
Red Wall
Daniel Lippel, guitar11:03

La Folia Variants

Nils Vigeland (b. 1950)
Daniel Lippel, guitar
06I. Cadenza
I. Cadenza
Daniel Lippel, guitar2:35
07II. Sonata
II. Sonata
Daniel Lippel, guitar5:29
08III. Dances
III. Dances
Daniel Lippel, guitar7:11

Quodlibet

Nils Vigeland (b. 1950)
09I. Freshman Year
I. Freshman Year
Daniel Lippel, guitar, John Popham, cello2:50
10II. Sophomore and Junior Year
II. Sophomore and Junior Year
Daniel Lippel, guitar2:59
11III. Senior Year
III. Senior Year
Daniel Lippel, guitar5:57
12Two Variations: II. Distant Serenade
Two Variations: II. Distant Serenade
Daniel Lippel, guitar3:31
13Hine ma Tov - Digital Bonus Track (arrangements of trad.)
Hine ma Tov - Digital Bonus Track (arrangements of trad.)
Daniel Lippel, guitar8:09

Among the challenges facing a contemporary artist is how to negotiate a balance between the impulse to progress with the desire to preserve. In contemporary music, much activity aligns itself with one or the other, but not always with both at the same time. The composers featured on this recording, Nils Vigeland and Reiko Füting, unselfconsciously strike an equilibrium between the richness of our literature and the forward looking directions of the day. This project is a compilation of their music for guitar, both in solo and ensemble contexts, as well as a celebration of the values running through their work. Guitarist Daniel Lippel and cellist John Popham have cultivated a long standing relationship with both composers reflected in the care invested in their interpretations, and Nils Vigeland makes a special appearance as well, performing as pianist on his trio. Both composers draw connections with older repertoire through quotation and integration of pre-existing themes, whether it be Vigeland’s setting of the “folia” theme in his three movement variations work, La Folia Variants, or Beatles songs in Quodlibet.

Vigeland and Füting take divergent approaches to arrangement in their settings of Hine ma Tov, a traditional Hebrew melody also heard in arrangements on a bonus track by a student of Füting’s, Halldór Smárason, and in a version by Lippel. The Füting pieces are written in an alternate tuning, relishing the subtle discrepancies between the overtone based intonation of harmonics and the equal tempered world of fretted pitches. In the austere, Alps inspired Red Wall, fragile, high register trills and tremolos contrast descending plunges to forte low notes, evoking the rarefied air on a mountaintop and the dramatic, gravitational precipice leading down to its base. Wand-uhr: infinite shadows contains the most expanded timbral language on the recording, integrating percussive techniques, syllabic vocalizing, and foot stomps into the fabric of a rippling texture of arpeggios, glissandi, and repetitive cells.

None of the works on this recording identifies itself monolithically with one unusual or novel element, instead they incorporate new components into a multi-dimensional context. Neither do they shine a spotlight on the use of one traditional compositional technique – technical craft is presented with subtlety and often even disguised. Perhaps it is this cultivated balance between inherited wisdom and contemporary sensibility that allows for present music through which the past shines.

– D. Lippel

Credits:

Executive Producers: Daniel Lippel, Nils Vigeland

Recording Engineer: Peter Gilbert (#6-8 only), Ryan Streber (all other tracks)

Session Producers: Reiko Füting (#3-4), Nils Vigeland (#9-11), Ryan Streber (#1, 5, 12, 13a and c), Peter Gilbert and Daniel Lippel (#6-8), Ryan Streber/Nils Vigeland/John Popham/Daniel Lippel (#2), Halldór Smárason (#13b)

Editing producers: Nils Vigeland/Daniel Lippel/John Popham (#2), Daniel Lippel (all other tracks)

Digital editing, Mixing, and Mastering: Ryan Streber - Oktaven Audio oktavenaudio.com

Recording Locations and Dates: Oktaven Audio, Mt. Vernon, N.Y. (#2 -- 9.20.2016 and 10.4.2016; #3 -- 9.19.2017) Oktaven Audio, Yonkers, N.Y. (#1, 12 -- 2.1.14; #4, 13 -- 11.8.2013, #9-11 -- 4.6.2012), Southcrest Studio, Huntington, NY (#5 -- 7.15.2007), Harvard University Music Department Electronic Music Studio (#6-8 -- 1.10.2004)
La Folia Variants was digitally re-edited/remastered by Ryan Streber on 12.13.2017

Design and CD layout: Jessica Slaven

This recording was made possible through support from the Recording Program of the Aaron Copland Fund for New Music and the Manhattan School of Music Faculty Development Fund.

Nils Vigeland

Nils Vigeland was born in Buffalo in 1950 and made his professional debut as a pianist in 1969 with The Buffalo Philharmonic, Lukas Foss, conductor. He later studied with Foss at Harvard College and with Morton Feldman at The University at Buffalo. He has been active as a composer, pianist and teacher in NYC for forty years, retiring as Chair of the Composition Department at Manhattan School of Music in 2013. His music is available on CDs from Lovely Music, Mode, Naxos and New Focus releases. With Eberhard Blum and Jan Williams he has recorded on Hat Art the complete extended length works for flute, percussion and piano of Morton Feldman. Further information is available on the website nilsvigeland.com

Reiko Füting

Reiko Füting was born in 1970 in Königs Wusterhausen in the German Democratic Republic. He studied composition and piano at the Dresden Conservatory (Germany), Rice University, Manhattan School of Music, and Seoul National University (South Korea). Some of his most influential teachers have been Jörg Herchet and Nils Vigeland (composition), and Winfried Apel (piano). In addition to being a composer, he is an avid performer who has appeared in Europe, Asia, and the United States. Since 2000, Füting has been teaching composition and theory at Manhattan School of Music, where he serves as the chair of theory department. He has also taught vocal accompanying at the Conservatory of Music and Theater in Rostock, Germany, and appeared as guest faculty and lecturer at universities and conservatories around the world.

Daniel Lippel

Guitarist Dan Lippel, called a "modern guitar polymath (Guitar Review)" and an "exciting soloist" (NY Times) is active as a soloist, chamber musician, and recording artist. He has been the guitarist for the International Contemporary Ensemble (ICE) since 2005 and new music quartet Flexible Music since 2003. Recent performance highlights include recitals at Sinus Ton Festival (Germany), University of Texas at San Antonio, MOCA Cleveland, Center for New Music in San Francisco, and chamber performances at the Macau Music Festival (China), Sibelius Academy (Finland), Cologne's Acht Brücken Festival (Germany), and the Mostly Mozart Festival at Lincoln Center. He has appeared as a guest with the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra and New York New Music Ensemble, among others, and recorded for Kairos, Bridge, Albany, Starkland, Centaur, and Fat Cat.

John Popham

Cellist John Popham is a chamber musician and teacher based in Brooklyn, New York. His playing has been described as “brilliant” and “virtuosic” (Kronen Zeitung), “warm but variegated”, and “finely polished” (The New York Times).

Currently a member of Either/Or Ensemble and LONGLEASH, Mr. Popham has performed internationally with groups including Klangforum Wien, Talea Ensemble, and the Argento Chamber Ensemble. He has appeared as soloist with the Louisville Orchestra, the String Orchestra of Brooklyn, the Red Light Ensemble, and the Kunstuniversität Graz Chorus.

Recent festival appearances include Brücken (Austria), Open Musik (Austria), IMPULS (Austria), the Vermont Mozart Festival, USINESONORE (Switzerland), Bay Chamber (Maine), the Contemporary Classical Music Festival (Peru), Lucerne Festival, and Klangspuren (Austria).

Dedicated to new music performance, Mr. Popham has worked with composers including Pierre Boulez, Tristan Murail, Steve Reich, Nils Vigeland, and Reiko Füting. The recipient of a Fulbright research grant, Mr. Popham spent the 2013/2014 academic year in Austria, where he studied the performance practice of Klangforum Wien and worked with leading figures in contemporary Austrian music: Beat Furrer, Georg Friedrich Haas, Klaus Lang, and Pierluigi Billone.

Mr. Popham is currently cello faculty of the Extension Division of Rutgers University. He received his BM and MM from the Manhattan School of Music where he was a student of David Geber and David Soyer and was awarded the Manhattan School of Music Full Scholarship. He has recorded for Tzadik, Carrier, New Focus, Albany, and Arte Nova records.

Halldór Smárason

Halldór Smárason (1989) earned his B.A. degree at Iceland Arts in 2012 and graduated from the Manhattan School of Music with a master’s degree in 2014, as a Fulbright-grantee. Through the years his main teachers include composers Dr. Reiko Füting, Atli Ingólfsson and Beat Furrer, and pianist Sigríður Ragnarsdóttir. Among others, Halldór has worked with Ensemble Intercontemporain, Orchestre philharmonique de Radio France, Radio-Sinfonieorchester Stuttgart des SWR, Iceland Symphony Orchestra, Psappha, TAK and Oslo Sinfonietta, and holds a Manhattan Prize award. Additionally, he has participated in various festivals, including Manifeste and Podium. Halldór also performs and records actively as a pianist. halldorsmarason.com


Reviews

The Art Music Lounge

This unusual album of modern guitar music features the work of American composer Nils Vigeland and German composer Reiko Füting, both of whom were faculty members at the Manhattan School of Music at the time when guitarist Daniel Lippel also studied there. As the notes point out, both composers like to quote and integrate themes from older music into their work, which are then mutated into their own work. Füting also liked using an alternate tuning for the guitar, made around the overtone series of low D, going up to A-C-F#-B-E, working around the pitch discrepancies between the fretted notes on the guitar and its natural harmonics. Vigeland uses a similar approach in the La Folia Variants.

Normally, I shy away from reviewing guitar discs because I am not a fan of the soft, wimpy, uninflected playing of most classical guitarists, but Lippel, who also played jazz even while he was studying classical guitar (he told me he was a big fan of Wes Montgomery), plays with more vigor than normal and uses a wide range of dynamics, which give his music plenty of color. We start our journey with Vigeland’s Two Variations, which are essentially tonal although the tonality used mostly avoids the home key (to my ears, Ab). The score is very well attuned to the guitar’s natural sound, exploring its themes with an progression of eighth-note figures which are interspersed with soft, half-note chords. Interestingly, the two variations are split up in sequence on this CD, the first of them opening the disc and the second coming in the 12th track, near the end. The first Vigeland variant is followed by the quirky, atonal trio for piano, guitar and cello, …through which the past shines…, tuned and played in such a way that the cello almost sounds like an electronic instrument! Yet after the almost shocking introductory passage, the music relaxes into a lyrical section, and in this the cello is freed at one point to play lyrically while the other two instruments plink and plunk around it. This leads into a fairly rhythmic section in which all three instruments play in counterpoint to each other, creating an interesting web of sound. Although the music is not at all jazz-based, I can see why it appealed to former jazzman Lippel, as it is reminiscent of some of the crossover musical experiments of the 1960s such as the classical-influenced works of Ornette Coleman. Oddly, a bit of tonal grounding seems to pop up here and there in the music, particularly in the cello part, although the music seldom stays there.

Next we hear Füting’s wand-uhr: infinite shadows, which despite the tuning described above “sounds” to the naked ear like a standard guitar piece with unusual “slides” and pitches tossed in here and there. It is a softer piece than the previous two works, comprised mostly of short, rapid figures played in an almost perpetuum mobile fashion. Towards the end, he also slaps the body of the guitar, sometimes playing notes (and whispering) at the same time.

The odd tuning of the guitar is much more noticeable in Red Wall (after the arrangement of the folk song Hine ma Tov), where Lippel plays with extraordinary facility and, again, a light touch. To my ears, however, the music in this piece meanders a bit too much and says very little.

Vigeland’s La Folia Variants are also quiet pieces in a similar vein, but for me much more interesting music. The second movement, “Sonata,” is particularly interesting, and here Lippel plays with the kind of rhythmic verve and excellent use of dynamics that one heard from Julian Bream (my all-time favorite classical guitarist-lutenist). In the third movement (“Dances”), Lippel plays quirky rhythmic figures in bitonal harmony. As the movement progresses, the rhythm straightens out and becomes a bit livelier, with Lippel alternating single-note and chorded figures with deft precision (and a good beat). Towards the end, as the tempo slows down, he hits the body of his guitar with what sounds like the heel of his hand.

Quodlibet is an unusual duo for guitar and cello, the latter playing initially very deep in its range, almost like a bowed bass while Lippel picks soft figures around him. A bit later, in the second movement, cellist John Popham plays a few notes very high up in his range, then moves down to the middle as the music eventually becomes faster and more complex. The third movement is rather dark and sinister-sounding, the music more out-of-tonality than previously, as Popham sustains a very high F# for some time as Lippel continues on his merry way. Eventually, they set up a neat chorus in counterpoint to each other, followed by Popham playing lyrically while Lippel plays rapid downward pizzicato figures on the guitar. Neat stuff!

The second Vigeland variation is a nice little piece, rather lyrical, with a few out-of-tonality passages. Lippel also displays some very nice picking in certain passages. The CD ends with a triple arrangement of Hine ma Tov by Vigeland, Halldor Smarason and Lippel himself, which I found to be not only more complex but more varied and interesting than Füting’s (sorry about that). All in all, however, this is an excellent disc of new guitar music, nice conceived and stunningly played.

—© 4.11.2018 Lynn René Bayley, The Art Music Lounge

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