American Record Guide May/June 2013
Ensemble Pi; Cassatt & Colorado Quartets Albany 1393 [2CD] 112 minutes
Laura Kaminsky is a New York composer who has accomplished a great deal in a short time. She is artistic director of Symphony Space and teaches at SUNY Purchase Conservatory. She is the recipient of numerous awards and has organized many concerts. Her music is aggressive and dissonant sometimes. The piano trio Vukovar is a 14-minute work in eight continuous “events” inspired by a trip she took with a chamber group to a bombed-out location in Croatia where they had to play with gloves, since there was no heat, and the audience showed many physical signs of past and present distress and discomfort. It is a violent way to begin a program and made me wonder if I could come to terms with her style. But this is the most dissonant piece played, though her style contains a high proportion of emotional disturbances. The trio is played by Ensemble Pi, whose members are heard separately in other works on the program. Pianist Idith Meshulam plays the six-movement suite Music for Artur as well as the short two-movement Triftmusik. These are much more friendly pieces, played with warmth and variety. We also hear her with cellist Claire Bryant in a 12-minute Duo, contrasting ‘Lamento’ with ‘Primitivo’ in effective fashion. A larger suite is Wave Hill, a recent work for violin and piano played with Airi Yoshioka. This is the longest composition here, lasting 29 minutes in three movements describing the Palisades, Grey Ice, and Arbores Venerabiles. These scenes are familiar to me; I live across the Hudson River a bit north of Wave Hill. I can’t say that the suite struck me as descriptively evocative, but Kaminsky doubtless had some associations with this kind of scenery that made her depict it in a pointillistic and angry manner a lot of the time. Yoshioka plays well, though I felt that she might have been surprised at the work’s vehemence as well. Bryant’s cello piece is more lyrical and humorous and more pleasant. The rest of the program consists of Kaminsky’s First Quartet, Transformations, written at the turn of the century and a colorful and exciting work, played with conviction by the Colorado Quartet. We also have her Fifth Quartet of a total of six so far, subtitled Cadmium Yellow, a one-movement piece from 2010 also containing considerable drama, played with a will by the Cassatt Quartet. Kaminsky’s music is full of fire as well as ice, written in an idiom that contrasts dissonance and violence with tonal beauty and meditative reflection. It is strong stuff and seems to say a lot about what makes the difference between male and female thought processes. Of course, who knows what that means? But the subject comes forth in my mind when I hear such outgoing music by a woman. Tell us more, Laura! My only complaint is of the relative shortness of these discs. But the program is valuable.