JWR Articles: CD - Causal Dualism (Conductor: Vit Micka) - September 17, 2008

Causal Dualism

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Both Sides Now

Keith Kramer’s journey into the mysteries of inner and outer self finds is blessed with extremely talented performers for these two challenging works.

Over the course of its nearly 33 minutes, Duality seems to ask more questions than are answered.

The edgy, angular landscape of “Divergence”—featuring the thin-reed soprano saxophone expertise of Gottfried Stoger and the blustering, at times brutal, low-brass skills of bass trombonist David Taylor—is aurally held together by the Jade Strings who fearlessly snap, pluck and bow in the constantly shifting measures. From whence do they all diverge?

Keigna’s mythical peace and wisdom (the later more abundant than the former) are decried with only the two winds. Stoger and Taylor have an extensive conversation, filled with many long vowels, muted replies and near-tribal outbursts even as the strings can only watch. Still, will the closing reconciliation last?

“Glimpse” is bathed in many instances of chorale-like colours—a fleeting dance-with-the-devil brings much-needed structural relief; a buzzing “rudisimo” reveals underlying distemper served up in a compositional soup laden with dollops of Xenakis, Stravinsky and Bartók. A few cadential whiffs can’t secure a toehold or launch a protracted tune before an astonishingly ugly finish painfully shuts everything down. Did you see what I saw?

The greater freedom allowed the musicians, the more delectable the result. A rare triplet and moments approaching joy were tempered by some thoughtful insertions of flowing legato, easily lifting the finale far above the rest. Stoger’s generous solo was a marvel to behold and “behear.” Some bumpy jazz and primal screams finally pushed the underused talents of the strings into the limelight but, alas, the music had run its course. Was this “Clarity” of thought or purpose?

Causality, most certainly “not intended to be a programmatic composition” suffers from string effect untidiness (conductor Vit Micka is frequently unable to rein in the many pizzicati and col legno accompaniments) and an over-abundance of vertical declamation (both in the writing and the delivery). With so much repeated material (whether for thematic or mood purposes) the notion of action/reaction more often stutters than moves forward. The pianist is a marvel of free-flying “craziness” that delights when allowed to lead; the brief side-trip into a truly emotional world in the second movement is particularly effective—unfortunately, little more of this style of writing was offered: more, please.

“Golliwog’s Cakewalk” is the unintended earlier-time echo in “III” (the heady syncopation from Mozart’s “little” G-Minor Symphony flits in and out of “IV”) and Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring informs the opening of the finale, whose overall instrumentation was famously used in Bartók’s Music for Strings Percussion and Celeste (here, the “celeste” is produced by the pianist venturing to the far side of the keyboard and bringing the strings to life like a harpist).

With too many wee thoughts being pummelled relentlessly at the listener, the music can’t find enough fabric upon which to lay the multi-coloured swatches. JWR

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Conductor - Vit Micka
Composer - Keith Kramer
Soprano saxophone - Gottfried Stoger
Trombone - David Taylor
Violin - Lisa Lee, Wei Tan
Viola - Ching Chen Juhl
Cello - Clara Lee
Causality I. II. III. IV.
Further information, future screening/performance/exhibition dates,
purchase information, production sponsors:
MMC Recordings Moravian Philharmonic Orchestra
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