Black Cedar is a San Francisco Bay area chamber ensemble whose raison d'être is the exploration of music for the unusual combination of flute, guitar, and cello. Since works in that category aren't abundant, the group has commissioned new works, and the program on A Path Less Trod includes two of them. The first, Miscellaneous Music, by Bay Area composer Durwynne Hsieh, makes the whole package worth the price of admission with its way of thinking through the possibilities of the ensemble and with its sheer high spirits generally. The flute does not always take the melody line, but often skitters along ornamentally above the guitar, and throughout his humorously titled movements ("Möbius Movement," "Introverted Interlude," "Five Fun Facts" -- sample the last of these for the unique programmatic element of a turkey sliding down the front of a cello) Hsieh defines boundaries between the roles of the three disparate instruments, and then crosses them gleefully. The rest of the music is also enjoyable. Garrett Shatzer's Of Emblems, also a commission, makes a more formal conclusion, and the two central works are also idiomatic: Nathan Kolosko's Hungarian Trio evokes the diverse café ensembles of Austria-Hungary, and Klaus Hinrich Stahmer's "Debussyana," from a 1983 set called Acht Nachtstücke, is a witty reworking of material from Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun. In general, the music is light but well-wrought, and you can easily see why this unique group has become a chamber music draw in the musically rich Bay Area.
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AllMusic Review by James Manheim