MOSAICNew Interpretations of Early Music for Horn
Nikolaus Ammerbach, Conon De Béthune, Adam De La Halle, Giovanni: Consonanze Stravaganti Macque, Hildegarde Von Bingen
JEFFREY AGRELL, horn
Jeffrey Agrell, Horn
Gil Selinger, Cello
Evan Mazunik, Piano
"Well, now. Here's a horse of an entirely different color: nine pieces of very early music...updated in form and harmony by an incredibly talented trio. Hornist Jeffrey Agrell and cellist Gill Selinger are exceptionally talented and rhythmically fluid classical players, but it is particularly in the playing of Evan Mazunik...that one hears a true jazz spirit. The result is a fascinating collection of what Charles Mingus called "jazzical moods". What delighted me was that these performances...combined structure and freedom; no matter how far the trio extended itself, the basic thread of the original theme was always present. Agrell's horn is incredibly fleet technically."
Fanfare [May/June 2008]
"Mosaic: New Interpretations of Early Music for horn, cello & piano is a genre-bending crossover album that crosses not one but three boundaries. Duende's very modern instrumentation is an unusual choice for covering these early music selections, which come from the eleventh to the sixteenth century -- a serious breach of authentic performance practice protocol. Second, the players don't deliver straightforward interpretations of the music on modern instruments; they treat the pieces as raw material for jazz-influenced improvisation. Third, a classical group that embraces improvisation is nothing new, but it's safe to say that this is the first instance of an ensemble consisting of horn, cello and piano giving it a try. Hornist Jeffrey Agrell and cellist Gill Selinger have strong backgrounds in both classical and jazz, and pianist Evan Mazunik has had a distinguished jazz career, but one influence all three have in common is work with Walter Thompson, the composer and conductor who developed Soundpainting, a system of leading (mostly classically trained) musicians in controlled improvisatory experiences geared to unlock their aural imaginations and free them from dependence on notated music. The trio here explicitly reclaims the tradition of the improvising musician, which once included virtually all musicians, but which in the nineteenth century essentially became the exclusive domain of pianists. The results are loads of fun and full of charm. There is real spontaneity, a sense of gleeful freedom... The players are scrupulous in avoiding clichés, and their takes on this repertoire have plenty of variety; this is very definitely not the one-size-fits-all approach that can deaden the efforts of classical groups that are only dilettantes in the realm of improvisation. For fans of jazz-classical crossover, there is more musical substance and inventiveness here than in many comparable efforts, and the album could have strong appeal for fans of just plain chamber music and just plain jazz. The choice of early music is inspired; its quirky rhythms, modalities, and melodic turns are a fresh alternative to the popular classics that have been the standard source material for so much improvisation over the last century. The ensemble pieces here have been carefully coordinated and developed, probably through countless group sessions, but the album is also punctuated by free solo improvisations on the same material. MSR's sound is clean, present, and lively. "
All Music Guide [October 2007]
"Once in a while something new shows up. Once in a while something old shows up in a new way. Once in a while something shows up that is so new, so old, and so refreshing that it will change how you feel and think about both “old” music and improvisation. Jeffrey Agrell has again played a major role in creating something that is refreshingly new from old sources. The trio heard on this CD, Duende, comprises horn, cello, and piano, with the occasional accordion (Mazunik), guitar (Agrell), and percussion (guest performer Jim Dreier). They use as their starting point numerous selections dating from the 12th to the 16th centuries. From these they improvise freely to create music of charm, substance, and character. Bits of memory from your college music history class will be jogged when you hear L’Homme Armé and Sumer is Icumen In. So many insluences are heard here: a pinch of jazz, a dash of “new age,” and other “spices” make this CD a treat. I thoroughly enjoyed it and I am sure you will too!"
The Horn Call, XXXVIII:1, [October 2007]
"Modern arrangements of early music are nothing new, but this fresh new collection of improvisatory interpretations puts a different face on the practice. Especially unusual is such an approach within the standard classical performance arena...Some of these composers - such as Hildegarde von Bingen - go back as far as the 12th century. Instead of researching the musicological details of the music and its accurate performance according to the norms of the period, Duende takes the melodies and wails on them much as a jazz pianist would do with a tune from the Great American Songbook. The three skilled musicians of Duende are discovering the future thru the past. They are bringing back the element of improvisation which was a central part of classical performance up until the Romantic era. Their idea is that if they can create music on the spot, so to speak, why not create completely fresh interpretations of existing old music? The idea behind using Mosaic for the CD title is perfect. I’m a fan of mosaics, and they mostly have some rough edges but come together in a glorious work of art. The same could be said of these 13 short improvisations. Some are of dance music, such as a saltarello, and really swing in some spots. The lengthiest is a very imaginative 8 1/2 minute improvisation on the popular medieval theme The Armed Man (which Karl Jenkins used for his famous recent Mass). The two Sephardic tunes add a sparkle and oriental twist to the program and are among those making use of some additional percussion sounds. The transparent-quality sound was recorded at the University of Iowa School of Music, my old alma mater."
Audiophile Audition [September 2007]
PROGRAM NOTESDuende is a Spanish word that translates badly into a variety of English equivalents: goblin, dark spirit, inspiration, charm, magic, charisma, personal magnetism. The great Spanish poet Frederico Garcia Lorca wrote of duende, describing it as a dark, earthy, creative force, visceral rather than intellectual.
The three contemporary musicians who make up the trio known as Duende have set out to discover the future through the past. Classical musicians until the advent of the Romantic Era were trained in improvisation along with note reading. Bach, Mozart, Beethoven, Chopin – all superb improvisers. But the huge musical canvasses of the Romantic composers had no room for improvisation, and the ability to create spontaneous died out among classical musicians. The musicians of Duende are part of the vanguard of classical players who are reviving the lost art, treating audiences to fresh interpretations of old music as well as music that is created on the spot.
This recording takes a wide variety of early music pieces as sources for improvisation. There is no attempt to be ‘authentic’ by using original instruments or in strictly following written manuscripts, but what is absolutely authentic is the spirit of improvisation that imbues each performance. In the present day, classical performers are taught to be highly consistent – to produce exactly the same performance every time. In improvisation, the challenge is the opposite – to produce a rendition that is both different and imaginative every time. Duende takes the various pieces and plays them with new delight and imagination as contemporary musicians. The result is early music like you’ve never heard it before, fresh as morning, contemporary in sound, authentic in spirit.
It’s time for classical musicians to take a new look and what they play and how they play it. It’s time for classical musicians to reclaim their birthright of creation – in addition to re-creation. Performers, audiences, and tradition will be the richer for it. If this be the future, play on…
Jeffrey Agrell joined The University of Iowa School of Music faculty as Assistant Professor of Horn in 2000 after a 25-year career as Associate Principal Horn with the Lucerne (Switzerland) Symphony Orchestra. He has won awards as both a composer and a writer, with some 80 published articles to his credit and many compositions published, recorded, and performed worldwide on concert stages, at festivals and competitions. Mr. Agrell champions creativity in music and improvisation for classical musicians, frequently giving concerts and workshops around the country on the subject. Besides teaching horn, Mr. Agrell teaches a unique course at the university entitled Improvisation for Classical Musicians, and recently authored Improvisation Games for Classical Musicians. He performs and records improvised chamber music and has trained as a Soundpainting conductor with its inventor, Walter Thompson.
Evan Mazunik, pianist, improviser, composer and Soundpainter, explores the sonic realm with passion and imagination. Currently based in New York City, the scope of his performances and collaborations extend across geographical and stylistic boundaries. As an improviser, Mr. Mazunik has performed with such distinguished musicians as Carla Bley, Dick Oatts, Bobby Shew, Robert Paredes and Steve Swallow. As a composer, he scored the soundtrack to the award-winning documentary The Checker King, which was screened at the 2002 DOCtoberTM Film Fest in Santa Monica, California. His commissions have included works for jazz band, chorus, flute, marimba, and alto saxophone. Mr. Mazunik is a Soundpainting conductor, and currently serves as assistant conductor to the New York Soundpainting ensemble and as artistic director of the Gamut Soundpainting Ensemble.
New York cellist Gil Selinger specializes in improvisation within classical music. He has appeared in concert as a soloist with orchestra, and in chamber music and improvisational settings throughout the United States, Europe, Australia and New Zealand. He has served as principal cellist of several New York City orchestras, and has performed in many of the major concert halls including Carnegie Hall and Lincoln Center. He recently released a CD together with Walter Thompson and the Modern Chamber Orchestra entitled Deconstructing Haydn, and has worked with such esteemed artists as Walter Thompson, Archie Shepp, Richard Davis, Sonny Murray, Marilyn Crispell, Assif Tashar and Mark Feldman. Mr. Selinger studied at Ithaca College with post graduate studies at Moscow Conservatory (USSR), and plays a cello made by Richard Tobin (London, c.1810) with a bow by Eugene Sartory (Paris, 1924).
PROGRAMADAM DE LA HALLE (1245-1288)
Anonymous (13th c.)
GIOVANNI MACQUE (1584-1613)
Mosaic: Consonanze Stravaganti
Anonymous (13th c.)
Santa Maria Sempr Os Seus Ajuda
Traditional Sephardic (16th c.)
Esta Montaña D'Enfrente
HILDEGARDE VON BINGEN (1098-1179)
Mosaic: O Euchari
CONON DE BÉTHUNE (c.1160- 1220)
Tant Ai Ame Or Me Convient Haïr
NIKOLAUS AMMERBACH (c.1530-1597)
Anonymous (c. 1260)
Sumer Is Icumen In
HILDEGARDE VON BINGEN
Traditional Sephardic (16th c.)
Mosaic: Esta Montaña D’Enfrente
GIOVANNI MACQUE (1584-1613)
NIKOLAUS AMMERBACH (c.1530-1597)