Chicago Chamber Musicians

High Wire Acts: Chamber Music by Laura Elise Schwendinger

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High Wire Acts is a 2013 collection of five brilliant chamber works by Laura Elise Schwendinger, professor of composition at the University of Wisconsin and director of the school's Contemporary Chamber Ensemble. Her hands-on experience with musicians and their instruments clearly influences her idiomatic and skillful writing and informs her acute sense of what sonorities work well in combinations. The two ensemble pieces, High Wire Act (2005) and the Nonet (2003), display a lively mix of timbres and extended effects, and the interplay of contrasting instrumentation in counterpoint gives the music an intensely dramatic character. The smaller pieces are just as carefully calculated for their tone colors, and Schwendinger is quite resourceful with such seemingly limited pairings as flute and cello in Rumor (2004) and violin and guitar in Two Little Whos (2006). Perhaps her most impressive music is found in her Sonata for solo violin (1992), where the possibilities are limited by the instrument and the writing is fully exposed. Yet Schwendinger exploits the violin's tessitura and dynamic range and creates a kaleidoscopic impression by using all possible coloristic and technical devices, while maintaining a serious artistic expression throughout. Although various groups recorded these performances at different dates and locations, the overall sound quality of the CD is excellent, and the bright sonorities Schwendinger prizes are reproduced with clarity, especially in the Nonet.

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