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A touching tribute to Elias Tanenbaum that is played with conviction and verve

Gramophone

Download the article in pdf format Every piece of music on this compelling tribute to a loving father and husband, who also happened to be a musical explorer par excellence (he founded the Electronic Music Studio), compels one to trot out the term sui generis. Each of the six pieces, none more than 16 minutes long, engages its audience with a unique musical slant. The title piece, a mother's multi-layered lament to the folly of war, starts off with two bars of Gershwin at his snappiest before a futuristic segue introduces an amazing chanteuse named Kristin Norderval, a future star, who nails her high notes with velvet accuracy - plus screams and grunts when needed. Tanenbaum also writes well for the piano: Toccata is a tour de force of scrambling scales, while Najaf combines Satie with incongruous Middle East scales and notions of harmony. The 15 phantasmagoric minutes of Bubble in my Eye ought to win trombonist Monique Buzzarte a place in her instrument's Hall of Fame. Changing Times (for piano trio) and Guitarscape (written for his son David), are responses to NYC terrorism and strike unusual chords and rhythms saturated more with pain than anger. The former would make a strong encore piece. The latter is a heavily produced and closely miked performance meandering in very solitary spaces. The brilliant, proud playing by the Ensemble Pi plus guests is recorded with audiophile glee and a great deal of natural warmth at Island Studios in New York. This is classical music recorded the way it ought to be: tight, exciting, and with plenty of very cool, very hop attitude. Like Elias Tanenbaum himself, these dudes let classical music do their talking.

Laurence Vittes
Tuesday, February 1, 2011