As severe environmental threats have arisen, so too has the number of classical albums with environmental themes. Harpist Yolanda Kondonassis has a novel take on the idea; all of the music here was commissioned for this project, and any performance of any of the works beyond this release will result in a contribution to an environmental nonprofit. The album title refers to the fact that Kondonassis commissioned five-minute works; they came in from less than two to about eight. The theme is a resonant one, and Kondonassis' composers take it up in fascinatingly varied ways. Beyond the specifics, this album is exemplary in terms of putting together an album of contemporary music. Each work exploits the virtuoso possibilities of Kondonassis' playing in a different way, and they are written in various idioms, but the whole thing holds together convincingly. Chen Yi's Dark Mountains draws on Chinese zither music, Maximo Diego Pujol's Milonga para mi Tierra on tango, and Takuma Itoh's Kohola Sings on whale song. It's a testament to the high regard in which Kondonassis is held that she signed on some heavyweights for the project in addition to rising young composers. Fans of Michael Daugherty will be intrigued by his Hear the Dust Blow, an evocation of the Dust Bowl in a language far from his usual motoric pop-Stravinskianism. Kondonassis came to the Azica label after the breakup of the audiophile Telarc, and the new label, working here in an auditorium at Indiana's Goshen College, has sweated the details, realizing how important top-flight engineering is to what she does. A standout release from Kondonassis, whose standards are always high and strongly recommended even to those who don't normally care for harp music.
Five Minutes for Earth Review
by James Manheim