The Da Capo Chamber Players: Patricia Spencer, flute/piccolo; Jo-Ann Sternberg, clarinet/bass clarinet; Eva Gruesser, violin; André Emelianoff, cello; and guest artists Stephen Gosling, piano; Pablo Rieppi, percussion; Andre Solomon-Glover, baritone; Louis Karchin, conductor / Cheryl Marshall, soprano; James Winn, Margaret Kampmeier, piano; Curtis Macomber, Deborah Wong, violin; Jean Kopperud, clarinet; Jayn Rosenfeld, flute; Christopher Finckel, cello; Lois Martin, viola; Dominic Donato, marimba
The music of Louis Karchin (b. 1951) comprises a deep, ongoing dialogue with the great works of the core repertoire. Modernism is, for him, a way of establishing contact with tradition, not a means of eradicating it. Gradually and naturally, with the pacing of a life focused securely on his personal vision, Karchin has developed a language that is rich, consistent, and, happily, difficult to pigeonhole.
Rustic Dances (1995), for violin, clarinet, and marimba, makes a fitting opening for this collection in that it bustles with energy and asserts its presence in fanfare-like fashion. American Visions (1998) is a setting of two Yevtushenko poems dealing with distinctly American subjects—the Grand Canyon and the Challenger space shuttle disaster, in which the composer utilizes a broad range of techniques and gestures to create a compact dramatic work, something akin to a mini-opera. Cascades (1997), for solo piano, comes perhaps closest of all the works heard here to an overtly Impressionist aesthetic.
The Sonata da Camera (1995), for violin and piano, is an intensely wrought work of great poignancy which was written in the wake of the death of the composer's father. The disc's second vocal work, A Way Separate (1992), projects a sustained dramatic monologue and, like American Visions, demonstrates Karchin's mastery of the expressive possibilities of the human voice. String Quartet No. 2 (1994), a ten-minute, densely packed single-movement work, closes out the program.
Consistent but varied, traditional yet also progressive, harmonically complex but audibly clear, structurally inventive but architecturally soundthese are but a few virtues of Karchin's music, which bode well for its endurance.