SPRING 2012: New Amsterdam Records will release two beautifully contrasting records this Spring, each offering a unique perspective on the classical tradition, and each making their own case for the instrumental forces they represent. The two records are both highly focused, but around different types of musicians: one around a performer (pianist Michael Mizrahi) and the other around a composer (William Brittelle). The diversity of sound present on both records, despite this focus, is a testament to the two musicians’ broad-minded visions for themselves as artists; each is here presenting, with their New Amsterdam releases, a bold and significant statement that is both an extension of, and a departure from, the work that has previously brought them into the public eye.
In May, Michael Mizrahi released The Bright Motion, a collection of ambitious, virtuosic new works for solo piano, mostly commissioned by Mizrahi himself and largely reflecting the new music community in which he plays a vital role. As the founding pianist of the seminal chamber group, NOW Ensemble, Mizrahi has premiered over 80 works over the past eight years, creating an important and lasting repertoire for that group’s idiosyncratic instrumentation. Here, with The Bright Motion, Mizrahi presents his instrument alone, making his case for the continued vitality of the solo piano’s venerable and storied tradition. Many of the album’s composers will be familiar names to fans of NOW Ensemble, as NOW members Patrick Burke, Mark Dancigers, and Judd Greenstein are all represented on the record, along with New Amsterdam co-director William Brittelle and composer Ryan Brown, both of whom have written for NOW before (the newcomer on the album is composer John Mayrose). Given the familiarity of these composers, one might expect a homogeneity of sound to emerge on the album, but this is hardly the case, as each composer presents his own sound-world, in some cases an obvious blend of sounds from the past, in others a conscious effort to limit the instrument’s parameters in the search for new sounds. All in all, The Bright Motion is a significant contribution to the recorded history of the solo piano.
In June composer William Brittelle, with the help of the American Contemporary Music Ensemble, offers a different perspective on the classical tradition, presenting an electro-acoustic chamber music album that stands in deep contrast to his previous record, Television Landscape. Brittelle’s latest offering is titled Loving the Chambered Nautilus, a reference to the combination of organic and inorganic material of which that creature is comprised, mirroring the contrast of virtuosic live strings with the retro-futuristic electronic soundscape onto which they perform. The result is a vivid sound-world that spans a wide emotional range. Unlike his previous work, Brittelle forgoes use of his physical voice in favor of bringing ACME’s crystalline precision and infectious energy to the forefront. In fact, the only vocals present on this album are those of Caleb Burhans in the title track, which closes with the phrase “I do not hate” repeated in succession. These words are perfectly evocative of Brittelle’s effortless embrace of seemingly contrasting spirits: the grace, intimacy, and intricacy of the classical chamber tradition, and the raw power and visceral excitement of synthetic pop music.
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