The Most Interesting Ensemble I've Ever Heard
Dorothy Wood | Harrisburg, PA | 10/20/2000
(5 out of 5 stars)
"The Cygnus ensemble consists of guitars, mandolines, violin, cello, flute and oboe. They play regularly in New York City, and they have toured in Holland, Denmark, Poland, Russia, Mexico and the U.S. Because their instrumentation is absolutely unique most of their music was written for them, and in the case of the Braxton piece, they are improvising to a large extent.Sebastian Currier's Broken Consort is the title track, it's a fun piece with Stravinskian drive, building to almost cacophonic density before subsiding into a very beautiful ending. I like the opening which builds up to a V-I, a grand joke on the scale of Phillip Johnson's AT&T building with its big chippendale on the top.John Halle's piece is fun and sparkling with very inventive textures and subversive machinations. It is very well put together--despite its outward charm and excessibility Halle's movement from one section to the next is quite sophisticated and compelling.Wuorinen's Fenton Songs--if you've ever been told that Wuorinen's music is academic this will cure you of that impression. These are four lush, deep, penetrating settings of poems by the great British poet who writes so often for the NY Review of Books.Biscari's guitar duo, Resisting Stillness, is gorgeous with wonderful unison pitches between the instruments and rich chordal textures.David Lang's Frag is a bizarre little experiment for oboe, flute and cello. Anderson's septet (cygnus joined by a glass harmonica) is in two movements, the first being very Roccoco with too beautiful harmonies swirling about with guitar filigree interlaced among the sustaining instruments. The second movement is faster and it builds into surprising contrapuntal patterns which become ever more light and fleet until the end.Anthony Braxton's piece is largely improvisatory. It is fun when you learn to let go of all expectations about what music is supposed to do and just go along for the ride. It's a happening, frozen in magnetic media.Robert Pollock's Cygnature Piece is rollicking and very witty, yet despite its being perfectly accessible, Pollock's language here is very new, and often surprising."
Dorothy Wood | 10/30/2000
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Wuorinen's Fenton Songs are fantastic and they alone justify the cost of this disc. Also worthy here--Anderson's Ear Conception is very beautiful. Robert Pollock's Cygnature Piece is great fun. Chester Biscardi's precious little guitar duo I found very memorable. Among the good natured fluff on this recording--for me John Halle's Spooks stands out."