Author Topic: The Asian Invasion  (Read 37238 times)

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Offline Todd

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Re: The Asian Invasion
« Reply #200 on: December 22, 2019, 06:07:48 AM »

The second appearance of the Novus in this thread, going back to their debut.  (I also picked up their pairing with Michel Dalberto in the Franck Piano Quintet and did not cover that here.  Nutshell description: Superb.)  The disc is a mixed rep affair with Austro-Germanic stalwarts Webern and Beethoven the anchors, with Korean composer Isang Yun something new. 

The disc opens with Webern's Langsamer Satz, and it's nine and half minutes of late romantic opulence exquisitely performed.  The Novus nailed Berg's Lyric Suite, holding their own with some big names, and they replicate that feat here.  The accessibility and gorgeousness of the music may make it atypical for the composer, but so what?  Clearly, the Novus need to record Schoenberg.  And hopefully Zemlinksy.

Beethoven's Op 95 follows.  More spaciously recorded, it offers a jarring musical contrast.  The ensemble do not soft-pedal, instead presenting the music with speed, precision, and in a tightly coiled, explosive manner that outdoes the mighty Prazak at times in the opener.  They do lighten up in the Allegretto ma non troppo, but the playing still stays firm, exact.  The Allegro assai finds the Novus back in their maximum comfort zone, and it is here where some more experienced ensembles make more of the musical contrasts.  The final movement has plenty of gusto, and some sweet viola playing, but here one can almost detect the corporate excellence morphing into something of a liability; it sounds so easy that it starts to fall short in ultimate expression.  It comes close to being more about execution than anything else, though it never quite gets there.  While I have no idea what the ensemble might record next, a bit more Beethoven for the imminent Beethoven year would be most welcome.

The disc closes with a couple works from Isang Yun, from whom I've previously heard only one disc's worth of small-scale orchestral music.  This is fairly early Yun, so it doesn't succumb to harsh modernism.  Rather, it's infused with Asian influences while blending western traditions.  As is sometimes the case, the result, to western ears seems infused by Dvorak's style and Bartok's incorporation of folk music.  There's also some fin de si├Ęcle feel in there, some Zemlinksy, or some French music.  It's quite effective, and it's good enough such that one might me tempted to drop it in some imagined parlor game where music aficionados attempt to "name that composer".  The folk tune component is played up in the final piece, an arrangement of the Korean folk tune Arirang, which is predictably well done.

Sound for the hi res download is, alas, not SOTA, with some glare and harshness in spots.  It's more than adequate, though.
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