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Review | Eric Nathan: Missing Words

Excerpted from article by Kurt Gottschalk, Stereophile

The Boston Modern Orchestra Project, American Brass Quintet, International Contemporary Ensemble, Neave Trio, Hub New Music, cellist Parry Karp and pianist Christopher Karp

New Focus Recordings FCR314 (2 CDs, download). 2022. Shauna Barravecchio, Andrew Bove, et al., prods.; Mario Correa, Joel Gordon, et al., engs.

Performance ****

Sonics ****

Ben Schott's 2013 book Schottenfreude is a glossary of German words invented by its author to describe contemporary life. Such notions as "tiny triumphs of nimble-fingered dexterity" and "the exhausting trudge up a stationary escalator" inspired chamber pieces by composer Eric Nathan, performed here by several ensembles.

Nathan's writing calls to mind Second Viennese School composers in merging beauty with subtle dissonance—a backhanded way of saying that it doesn't sound exactly new, nor does it need to. He cuts a line through the Brahms-Schoenberg continuum that is nostalgic, romantic, and post-Romantic. The recording adheres to tradition: bright and crisp, a full stereo picture with nothing pushed to the periphery.

Missing Words IV is the standout, thanks to the presence of International Contemporary Ensemble members Josh Modney (violin), Cory Smythe (piano), and Clara Warnaar (percussion). At 19 minutes, it's also the longest, and the titles of its three sections sample the lexicon roots Nathan is dealing with: "Erkenntnisspaziergang" (cognition-stroll), "Dreiecksungleichung" (triangle-reorganization), and "Tageslichtspielschock" (daylight-show-shock). The fictive vocabulary can be used for context, like Debussy's faun, or set aside in favor of simple listening.

Other pieces draw from the sounds of trains and accidental cell phone recordings, and there are allusions to Beethoven. The set is thought-provoking, ripe with cues to put the mind apace, as if these made-up words, full of meaning, were ripening fruit, with Nathan the baker collecting them all. When the pie was opened, the words began to sing.—Kurt Gottschalk

Read original here.


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