Henry Brant

The Henry Brant Collection, Vol. 3

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The third installment in Innova's The Henry Brant Collection, The Henry Brant Collection, Vol. 3, is the finest in the series thus far. Wind, Water, Clouds & Fire is described as an "extraplanetary, environmental oratorio" for three totally independent women's choruses, a children's chorus, and various instruments that are spatially "attached" to each chorus. This is performed by the Milwaukee-based ensemble Present Music under the direction of Kevin Stalheim. It is a very good performance and not a bad recording, and Brant's music is not solely interesting due to its skewed spatial arrangement, but to its modularity within the ears of the hearer. One person who heard it commented that it was reminiscent of Louis Andriessen, another Gustav Holst -- what, or who, ever it sounds like, Wind, Water, Clouds & Fire is very appealing, at times eccentric and rather cranky, but it also has a diaphanous element in the writing for the women and children's voices that's also quite pleasant.

Litany of Tides is a sort of concerto for violinist Daniel Kobialka, although the ripieno is scattered all over the place; the strings, low brass, and two pianos are located on-stage and conducted by George Cleve. Most of the others, conducted by Brant, are scattered throughout the balcony, and that includes many of the winds -- the percussionists were underneath the balcony, and four singers performed from "behind grilled openings in the walls 30 feet up from the floor." It is an excellent performance, but just an okay recording, as soloist Kobialka is one of the hardest instruments to hear in its early parts; once he moves down to the stage from his perch up in a corner of the balcony he becomes easier to hear. Trinity of Spheres is a tri-orchestral work from 1979 that starts off like a big angry monster and, as it goes on, sounds more and more like you running away!

Indeed, when Brant comes a-calling, the blue hairs on the symphony boards start running. The slightly flippant tone of this review is in accord with the disc under consideration -- a more mannered and academic tone would not do The Henry Brant Collection, Vol. 3 justice, as it is it's wildness and humor that sets it apart. In America, we traditionally value the lone individualist who pulls him/herself up by their bootstraps and builds an institution, or industry, from scratch. Brant has done that here, and he has held his sail against his own "litany of tides" in order to follow his requisite course. For that alone, The Henry Brant Collection, Vol. 3 is praiseworthy. Nevertheless, a fellow who pitches the Johann Sebastian Bach Gavotte from the Orchestral Suite No. 3 into the jaws of a noisy mariachi band can't be all-bad.

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