Although the two composers featured on this album were widely separated by time, place, nationality, and artistic heritage, a natural affinity may be detected in their music; whether it was through Claude Debussy's refined harmonies and timbres, inspired in part by late nineteenth century orientalism, or through Toru Takemitsu's rarefied tonal palette, plainly inspired by French Impressionism, both specialized in music that is remarkably light and transparent, and several of their chamber works fit uncommonly well together. Thus, Telarc's 2008 CD Air brings harpist Yolanda Kondonassis, flutist Joshua Smith, violist Cynthia Phelps, conductor Bridget-Michaele Reischl, and the chamber ensemble Oberlin 21 together in a program that is remarkably unified through the alternation of atmospheric pieces by Debussy and Takemitsu. The lightest of these are the flute solos, the chromatic Syrinx by Debussy, and the similarly structured Air by Takemitsu, which Smith delivers with taste, delicacy, and intimacy. The two trios for flute, viola, and harp, Takemitsu's haunting essay And Then I Knew 'Twas Wind and Debussy's Sonate, invite comparisons through their common textures, effects, and sonorities and make a gorgeous pairing that future groups with this unusual instrumentation should note. The richest works, Debussy's Danses sacrée et profane and Takemitsu's Toward the Sea II, give opportunities for Oberlin 21 to perform, and while the orchestral lushness of these concerto-like pieces seems a bit out of balance with the sparer chamber works, they are suitably attuned in their quiet moods and poetic sublimity. Telarc's DSD sound covers a wide dynamic range and picks up every detail, from the softest pitches in Air to the swelling climaxes of Danses sacrée et profane.
AllMusic Review by Blair Sanderson
|Toward the Sea II, for alto flute, harp & strings|
|Sonate en trio, for flute, viola & harp, L. 137|