It's not often that you hear the words "jazz" and "violin" used in the same sentence. But over the past few years, violinist Christian Howes has become one of the artists to masterfully bring these words together.
Kile's review including music from Francis Pott: In the Heart of Things
Whether communication is too easy, or articulation is too difficult, our time is not a time of counterpoint. Instead of corresponding, we post or tweet; instead of reasoning, we shout and repeat, louder and louder. Music is often an event or a stepping-up of rungs of events: hooks and ladders, clanging past, looking for a fire.
In the Heart of Things: Choral Music of Francis Pott Commotio. Matthew Berry, conductor Naxos 8.572739
The choral music of Francis Pott, however, flows by, refreshingly contrapuntal. That joy in the working of voices is particularly evident in his 2012 CD, In the Heart of Things. If counterpoint seems anti-modern, he admits it, and points to Thomas Tallis, William Byrd, and other past masters of the polyphonic Mass as models. That’s appropriate, because In the Heart of Things is a collection of his choral music revolving around the most substantial work on the recording, his Mass for Eight Parts.
From the Kyrie through the Agnus Dei, this Mass is a triumph of intricate beauty. Upper, middle, and lower streams of voices glide by and mingle, their complexity unnoticed because they shimmer. Sometimes they sneak in, as the “Hosanna” does at first in the Sanctus, or roll in waves, gathering strength as at the end of that movement.
Sometimes the power is overwhelming, as at the end of the Gloria, the final “Amen” surging, unexpected, rank upon rank. Pott composed the Agnus Dei in memory of someone he didn’t know, a past singer of the choir that commissioned this. His gentle, pointed lyricism melts the voices into a sea of comfort.
Francis Pott was raised in the English chorister tradition, and knows this repertoire from the inside. His setting of a familiar text, such as Balulalow (known by many from Benjamin Britten’s A Ceremony of Carols), or the new Mary’s Carol (Pott wrote this in memory of his father-in-law), always balances freshness of expression with aptness to the language.
His Lament honors a soldier killed in Afghanistan. Using the poem of Wilfrid Wilson Gibson, “But we, how shall we turn to little things / And listen to the birds… nor feel the heart-break in the heart of things,” we know the composer feels deeply what we also feel. This fellow-feeling is at the heart of artistry.
Francis Pott weaves a living counterpoint of music and emotion because he himself has sung it. His music breathes the life of tradition, but it is ever fresh, ever modern.
Review including examples from David Bennett Thomas, Paths.
Listeners look for categories, but artists freely create, and David Bennett Thomas is, first of all, an artist. Neo-this, post-that, or fusion-with-something-else may be of interest to others, but the artist is interested only in creating.
David Bennett Thomas works in jazz and classical music, but he doesn’t put one foot in one and one in the other. He’s a professional, so he commits to either, depending on his purpose. He’s an artist, so he’s true, regardless of what he’s composing. He laughs and loves life, so his music is filled with humor and, perhaps what is most revolutionary in our earnest age, happiness.
Let me make one thing clear: I am not a gamer. I am, however, an admirer of the recordings of La Pieta, the Canadian all-female string orchestra, and their leader, violinist Angele Dubeau. In particular, I appreciate their impeccable musicianship and the good taste of the arrangements that are composed for the ensemble. In recent recordings, they've championed the music of notable contemporary composers Philip Glass, John Adams, and Arvo Part, all favorites of mine.