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- Drones by Nico Muhly
8/10 Brian Staff review, 16 November 2012
This isn't quite the drone-fest I was anticipating from this Vermonter. His work is stationed within more abstract/avant-classical fields, primarily piano/string based, so the opening pieces appear as jarring plink 'n' clunk-scapes with a hovering wistful string drone that meanders in the background. Not quite my kind of thing, doesn't really get going for me until the exuberant and excitable third piece that only lasts little over a minute. Then the music gets minimalist and sombre again.
'Part V' is a return to the ecstatic heart-racing peals of piano with the undulating urgent waves of cello (?) coming up the rear. Some of what sounds like brushed cymbal embellishment for an all too brief minute there as well. I prefer these kinda pieces.'Drones' is a quality collection of moods veering sharply between tentative chamber-like reflection and sweeping full-blooded eagerness. Like many modern composers, Muhly relies seemingly on acoustic space and flurries of pondering improvisation. Personally I desire more of that dramatic and startling string action featured on the thrilling 'Material in a Handsome Stack'; these wistful trails and collisions of piano are all very well and good but I yearn and ache for the full impact of what is suggested here.
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