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Sharon RUCHMAN (b.1950s)
Chamber Music
Piece for cello and piano [7:05]
Sea Glass, for cello and piano [4:54]
Awakening, for string quartet [14:16]
@Day at Play, Days End, for woodwind quartet [8:50]
Promise, for piano [11:46]
Acceptance, for cello and piano [5:12]
+Three Pieces, for string quartet [8:16]
Translucence, for cello and piano [10:16]
 
Sharon RUCHMAN (b.1950s)
*Arrival of Spring
++String Quartet in F sharp minor, op.1 [11:02]
#Arrival of Spring, for flute, violin and cello [5:46]
Memoria Dolce, for violin and piano [12:33]
Solemnity, for cello and piano [5:32]
Trio in F minor, for violin, cello and piano, op.2 [11:18]
Twilight, for violin and piano [5:54]
Exultation, for cello and piano [12:51]
 
Mary Costanza (cello) (duos and op.2)
Janet Boughton (violin) (duos and trio)
Sharon Ruchman (piano)
@Kim Collins (flute), Janet Rosen (oboe), Thomas Labadorf (clarinet), Kirsten Peterson (bassoon)
#Kim Collins (flute), Alyce Cognetta Bertz (violin), Rebecca Babic (cello)
string quartet: Alyce Cognetta Bertz (violin I), Katie Hyun/+Momoko Matsumura/++Igor Kalnin (violin II), Ah Young Sung (viola), Mihai Marica/++Arnold Choi (cello)
rec. Hebert House, Washington CT; Kent School Chapel, Kent CT; The Dome, Southbury CT. No dates given. DDD
PRIVATE ISSUES [70:35] and [64:56]*
 
Sharon Ruchman's own website describes her as "an original classical music composer who embraces different styles and instrumentation. She writes pieces that are strikingly expressive, creates soothing music for those quiet evenings, and constructs lyrical movements to surprise and delight her listeners." She did not start composing until 2007 in fact, her musical training as a pianist and singer, at Yale and elsewhere, leading her eventually to the decision to study composition formally. These discs are her first two releases, published privately, and dating from 2009 and 2010.
 
Both CDs are collections of chamber music, Ruchman preferring to concentrate on small-scale music to further her stated aims to create works of lyrical intimacy. Unfortunately, neither disc comes with any accompanying notes or biographical information - the 'booklets' are no more than single sheets, cover art on one side, a detailed track-listing - rather needlessly an exact repetition of the back inlay - on the other. For further information the reader/listener must visit Ruchman's website, although even here there is a good deal of duplication.
 
On the other hand, Ruchman's is music that speaks for itself. Making no grand intellectual or philosophical claims, she is content to write in a style, or styles, from a bygone age. Why not - she has an unfailing ear for melody and an obvious ability to communicate in a very listener-friendly way that focuses on elegance of form, tunefulness and lyrical warmth. Though straightforward, largely gentle and in some regards 'simple' music, it should be stressed that there is no resemblance to 'crossover': these thoughtful, unpretentious works have an emotional depth reminiscent at their best of early 20th-century late-Romanticism. That said, a few works, like Day at Play, Days End, are decidedly neo-Classical in their orientation, and the Three Pieces for string quartet hint at a darker side to Ruchman's imagination.
 
Her music is inspired in part by the local musicians who have helped her make these recordings. Individual performances, stylish and assured - particularly Mary Costanza's cello - justify her confidence. Both discs have been professionally recorded at accommodating venues and resultant sound quality is mostly high, typically dry acoustically with perhaps a slight bias of prominence towards the piano in the duos. Unfortunately, the three recording locations have produced certain qualitative inconsistencies. So it is that Awakening and the String Quartet op.1 have more of a 'lossy' or 'mono' feel to them, whilst there is a marked recessing of one or two of the quartet members in Day at Play, Days End and especially of the flautist in Arrival of Spring. Promise, on the other hand, is the only item that really disappoints technically, the stereophonics suddenly switching to mono early on in the first movement, returning to stereo in the second, before alternating back and forth in the third! All these audio issues are a pity, but on the whole the differences are not likely to detract from any but an audiophile's enjoyment, and the faults as such are to be found mainly on the earlier 'Chamber Music' album.
 
Since these first discs, Ruchman has published a further two, indicatively entitled 'Remembrance' and 'Textures', the latter containing her opp.7-11. A "wedding music" CD, "in response to many requests", is due out very soon. All CDs can be obtained from Ruchman's site or through the usual main online outlets.
 
Byzantion
Collected reviews and contact at artmusicreviews.co.uk
 

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