Joseph Brent

Point of Departure

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Mandolinist Joseph Brent, a recent graduate of the Berklee College of Music in Boston, exemplifes the fresh approaches encouraged by that institution on this little disc, whose idea seems so simple that you wonder why nobody has apparently thought of it before. The mandolin and harp make a delightful team. They share a general texture and dynamic range, and the tessiture inhabited by the two instruments are complementary. The result is a very subtle accentuation of the timbral differences between them, which are, as Brent points out in his brief notes, amplified by the differing social connotations of the mandolin and harp. The harp, he says, is pillowy and ethereal; the mandolin, the instrument of the romantic serenade over much of the planet, is "Earth-bound." The whole idea of the program is elegant, and Brent and harpist Bridget Kibbey have developed an effortless-seeming coordination. This said, some of the pieces work better than others. The least successful is the transcription of the Violin Concerto in E major, BWV 1042, of Bach, where the timbre contrast somehow works at cross purposes with the structure of the music. By contrast, Antwerp Harbour, by composer Victor Kioulaphides, makes ideal use of the two instruments, and it might have been good to learn a bit about the history of this piece in the notes. Two Latin American pieces, both excerpted, also work well; Piazzolla's Histoire du tango, originally for flute and guitar, reduces well to this format. Anyone could enjoy this disc as background music, which is what the harp suggests for many buyers, but some percentage of those hearing it in that way will prick up their ears and listen more closely.

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