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Beth ANDERSON (b.1950)
Quilt Music (1983) [24:49]
Joseph Kubera (piano)
Cat Songs: Lazy Pussy [1:48]; Kilkenny Cats [0:41]; Tyger Tyger [3:34]; Hey Diddle Diddle [0:36]; She Sights a Bird [1:10]; The Widow and Her Cat [1:34]
Dreaming Fields: The Sugarplum Tree [4:19]; The Gingham Dog and the Calico Cat [2:08]; Wynken, Blynken, & Nod [3:45]
Harlem Songs*: Song [3:10]; Southern Roads [3:45]; Tableau [1:24]; While You Love Me [2:15]
Keith Boardman (baritone), Johannes Wallmann (piano), *Darren Campbell (string bass)
Belgian Tango [3:11]; Dr. Blood’s Mermaid Lullaby [3:06] Tale No 1 (2000) [2:47]; Tale No 2 (2000) [2:24]
Ana Milosavljevic (violin), Terezija Cukrov (piano)
Cleveland Swale (2001) [9:15]
Darren Campbell (string bass), Kirsty Matheson (string bass), Johannes Wallmann (piano)
No Recording information DDD
ALBANY TROY 709 [76:05]


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This disc is a potpourri of works by the American composer of “new romantic” music Beth Anderson. Last year a disc of her music called Swales and Angels received positive reviews in these pages (see links below) and this new offering is also tuneful and worth while listening. Anderson’s music is modern in feeling, original and, according to Kyle Gann in the booklet, is “simulating normalcy”.

The opener, Quilt Music, gives the disc its title and is an extended work for solo piano. Presumably a musical version of the artwork you can see on the front cover, it was commissioned for a group of dancers. Anderson suggests that there were no rules or inhibitions, and that only things that seem beautiful to the maker were included. Obviously one couldn’t dispute the latter part of this contention but I am a little sceptical about the lack of the rules; is that a recapitulation I hear towards the end? The influence of minimalism is fairly clear here - although Kyle Gann assures us in no uncertain terms it is not minimalist music - but not in any of the other works on the disc. Quilt Music is attractive and easy listening which seemed to me to have some similarity with a set of variations. There is perhaps not quite enough material or variation -  particularly in pace which is static and moderate throughout - to justify its 24 minutes. Nevertheless Joseph Kubera makes the most of the phrasing and dynamics, and is clearly convinced by the work.

There follow three sets of songs with an emphasis on cats that spills over from the Cat Songs into Dreaming Fields. The booklet includes a picture of one - a fearsome looking beast - belonging to the composer. The idiom here seems familiar – perhaps more Rorem than Copland though possibly influenced by both. Anderson finds humour, drama and even pathos amongst these settings and receives strong advocacy from Keith Borden. He has a slightly unusual high baritone voice but it suits the music well. Much as I enjoyed the cats, the Harlem songs are of most interest with Darren Campbell’s string bass adding “je ne sais quoi”.

Next up is a series of short pieces for violin and piano - attractive and well-played. Some of the titles (e.g. Dr. Blood’s Mermaid Lullaby) are possibly as memorable as the music. Anderson here is at her least modern and innovative. Cleveland Swale, however, is remarkable. The booklet suggests that it may be the only piece ever written for piano and two double basses, and the combination works surprisingly well. The need for two basses is most obvious when one is playing arco, the other pizzicato. This work describes life in Cleveland, Ohio in a “mild” collage of styles. A tango, hymn tune and fanfare are admitted origins and the hymn tune sounds to me remarkably like the slow movement of Haydn’s Emperor Quartet.

Anderson’s inspiration seems to be greatest in the various Swales but her other music is worth exploring. The performances are all committed and the recorded sound is natural. There is detailed documentation courtesy of Kyle Gann - who is also a composer - that is often thought-provoking. I am still getting my head round the concept of “simulating normalcy” but it has not impaired my enjoyment of this disc.

Patrick C Waller

Links to reviews of Swales and Angels:

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