Dan Visconti: Lonesome Roads / Horszowski Trio, Berlin PO members


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.