Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Finding a Voice: the Evolution of the American Sound, Walden Chamber Players (2016)

We have written before of the Walden Chamber Players, the Boston-based chamber group that has been garnering so much attention of late in the musical press.  The Players were founded in 1997, and it is composed of 12 artists in various combinations of string, piano and wind ensembles.  This provides great versatility in both approach and musical genre, and the Players happily mix both classical and contemporary composers.  The Players are currently under the artistic direction of Ashima Scripp

The Walden Chamber Players have just released a new CD, Finding a Voice: the Evolution of the American Sound, and it is an important event for enthusiasts of American music.  It brings together composers as disparate as Aaron Copland (1900-1990) and Marion Bauer (1882-1955), and encompasses many musical moods and approaches.  It is essential listening for any serious student of American classical music.

Bauer is represented with a spirited performance of the Trio Sonata No. 1, Op. 40.  Copland is in evidence with his thrilling Threnody 1: In Memoriam Igor Stravinsky, and also with Threnody 2: In Memoriam Beatrice Cunningham.  These are simply the best recordings of the Copland pieces I have ever heard, clear and emotionally exacting in their clarity and color.

Virgil Thomson (1896-1989) is on hand with the Serenade for Flute and Violin.  This is beautifully rendered by the Players, as are two pieces by composer Ned Rorem (born 1923), the Trio for Flute, Cello and Piano (1960), and the absolutely unique The Unquestioned Answer (2002).  We at The Jade Sphinx played The Unquestioned Answer several times in order to fully appreciate Rorem’s musical argument, and came away delighted with the dynamic playing that made it so come to life.

Also on hand are Canzone for Flute and Piano, by Samuel Barber (1910-1981) and Sonata for Flute and Piano, by Paul Bowles (1910-1999).  In short, this recording creates a generous mix of musical moods and types of composition, and all of them are fully realized by the Walden Chamber Players.

For this recording, the players included Marianne Gedigian (flute), Curtis Macomber (violin), Tatiana Dimitriades (violin), Christof Huebner (viola), Ashima Scripp (cello), and Jonathan Bass, (piano).  It was recorded in the Players own backyard, at the WGBH studios in Boston, and Huebner and Bass also served as producers.  You can find it on

This wonderful recording gives lie to several misconceptions about classical music currently in favor.  To those who think that there are no younger people in the field of note, I refer them to the Walden Chamber Players.  To those who think America has no significant classical music tradition, I refer them to this champion album.  And to those who think that serious music is no longer relevant, I argue that the success of groups like the Players are a stunning refutation of that notion.  As more and more people hunger for substantive music, for works that challenge the mind and the heart, groups like The Walden Chamber Players will become increasingly important.  And for those who want to hear music infrequently played by their classical music radio station, look no farther than Finding a Voice: the Evolution of the American Sound.

No comments: