Various Artists

Paul Chihara: Ain't No Sunshine; Piano Quintet; Minidoka; An Afternoon on the Perfume River

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The cover of this album of chamber and orchestral music by Paul Chihara features a collage with a crowd of people, all of whom are Paul Chihara. The image is an apt metaphor for the multiplicity of styles Chihara incorporates in his music. Ain't No Sunshine, for string trio, is loosely based on the Bill Withers ballad "Ain't No Sunshine When She's Gone," even though the tune is never straightforwardly presented. The piece could be taken for a lively and friendly work by an American academic composer of the late twentieth century. Minidoka, for clarinet, viola, harp, percussion, and tape, also has those elements, as well as a strain of overt Romanticism, a suggestion of Japanese music, some spookily ear-bending experimental techniques, and direct quotes from American popular music of the 1940s, and it ends on a gleaming major chord. The orchestral tone poem An Afternoon on the Perfume River is the most striking piece on the album. It's lushly impressionistic, somewhat reminiscent of Takemitsu, with allusions to Vietnamese folk song. (The piece was inspired by a poem by a Vietnamese writer.) The composer's Piano Quintet also summons memories of Takemitsu, but there are moments when it sounds positively Debussian, and the whimsical second movement is unabashedly klezmer inspired. The various soloists, ensembles, and orchestras play Chihara's music with energy, commitment, and polish. Bridge's sound is warm and atmospheric, but a little on the loud side. The collection makes a fine introduction to the diversity of Chihara's music.

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