Even after listening many times to this Bridge Records CD of music by the young American composer Dan Visconti, it's still difficult to describe. He certainly doesn't write in any one particular style, and you can't apply a label such as minimalist, modernist or bluesman to him, even for a single work. He writes in all of these styles and more. There are no rules; anything can be done. In fact, much if it sounds improvisatory.
Bridge Records is the first to dedicate an entire CD to Visconti's music. Written between 2000 and 2012, they are all chamber works for anywhere from one musician (a solo bassoonist performs on our sample track) to a small chamber orchestra. The medium sized ensembles are typically traditional in make-up - a piano trio and string quintet, for example - but not typical in any other way.
The opening track, Black Bend for string quintet, starts with what sounds like distant train whistles and buzzing insects. Then we hear a train on its tracks and a simple tune from a single violin. More string players are added, and the music grows subtly bluesy. Suddenly, it breaks, and all five players wailing the blues! This was when, my first time through, I picked up the booklet to see who these fabulous players were and was completely stunned to see that they are all members of the Berlin Philharmonic!
I've included all three of our little tonality icons, indicating that the music ranges from "tonal and consonant" to "highly atonal or dissonant", often within one work. There is frequently an evocation of nature, and what sounds like machine noises. Sometimes, the music shines with a radiant beauty. Visconti can transition effortlessly from one style to another so you can't recall how or when you got to such a vastly different place from where you were. Other times he'll throw you a jarring right angle turn into a highly contrasting section.
Do listen to the solo bassoon track provided to get a feeling for what the music can sound like, and hear BPO Bassoonist Markus Weidmann bring this completely original piece to a foot-stomping, key-fluttering, reed-blasting conclusion.
"Lonesome Roads" is the first full-length CD of music by the 30-year old American, Dan Visconti (b. 1982). Annotator Daniel Felsenfeld writes: "Lonesome Roads is a nod to the American century. The grit and vernacular of the Minimalists. Can be found in the bassoon solo called Ramble and Groove, and the blues-soaked string quartet Black Bend; the raw, unfettered beauty of the Neo-Romantics is in the plainspun prettiness of Lawless Airs; and the compositional rigor and adherence to lofty notions of the High Modernists is in the opening movements of Fractured Jams. And there are pieces, like Low Country Haze or Lonesome Roads that either meld or ignore these mostly obsolete distinctions for music that is just plain rapturous to hear." Performances are by members of the Berlin Philharmonic and the Horszowski Trio.
Dan Visconti (b. 1982) composes concert music infused with the directness of expression and maverick spirit of the American vernacular. His compositions often explore the rough timbres, propulsive rhythms, and improvisational energy characteristic of jazz, bluegrass, and rock—elements that tend to collide in unexpected ways with Visconti’s experience as a classically-trained violinist…
Two-time Grammy-nominated violinist Jesse Mills first performed with Raman Ramakrishnan, founding cellist of the prize-winning Daedalus Quartet, at the Kinhaven Music School over twenty years ago, when they were children. In New York City, they met pianist Rieko Aizawa, who, upon being discovered by the late violinist and conductor Alexander Schneider, had made her U.S. concerto debuts at the Kennedy Center and Carnegie Hall.
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Dan Visconti: Ramble and Groove (work for solo bassoon)