Finding a voice in the twenty-first century is no easy matter. With hundreds of years already “in the books” ranging from monophonic chants to complex combinations of traditional instruments, electronic generation and all manner of vocal styles, how does today’s composer manage to say anything new? Some don’t, borrowing generously from their predecessors. Others seek a different point of view. In the case of Florencio Asenjo, the label of maximalism (in stark contrast to minimalism where repetition is the norm) can be applied.
This CD provides three glimpses into Asenjo’s thinking and conductor Kirk Trevor’s ability to interpret the ideas and sculpt the sound. In many ways, Angels Dancing on a Pin is the most successful complete work. Clearly sectioned, it features light woodwinds (a tad shorter would add even more contrast), legato string lines, a mid-work waltzer (with an ideal tempo) and a couple of “just-in-time” harmonic surprises that signal to the cherubs that their presence is still required. Truly marvellous, succinct writing.
Ubiquities: A Symphony of Transitions covers vast terrain over its three movements. From the gruff and austere opening—with occasional hints of Prokoviev-like orchestration and a penchant for melodic writing that feasts on partial scales for inspiration—to the last hurrah (itself somewhat heralded by all-too-rare counterpoint and equally rationed triplets), the final destination provides a sense of security and confidence that “pays off” the uneasy, occasionally inner-child tone of the middle segment.
In Images for Clarinet and Orchestra, Asenjo has a superb proponent for his exclusively-legato, truly “solo” clarinet part in the person of Aleš Pavlorek. His liquid, impassioned phrasing (making “The Great Cemeteries Under the Moon” a particular pleasure) and near-perfect finger control—defying the microphone to add any “slaps” to the well-balanced mix—combine with the composer’s especially adept foray into the realm of dreamland (“Children’s Dreams”). The magic doesn’t surface often enough in the other movements where Trevor keeps the patchwork of ever-changing colours largely under control. But the composition as a whole deserves a wide audience who will savour its directness. And with such clear rhythm and far-reaching palette of sound, perhaps a choreographer will recognize the possibilities, then add supple bodies and bring these Images onto another stage of artistic endeavour. JWR