Stuart Saunders Smith

Wind in the Channel

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American composer Stuart Saunders Smith is an enigma among late-20th century composers in that he has forsaken the notion of interiority in his music. This gorgeous sampling of his work, which is finally becoming known throughout the United States and in Europe, reveals the same kind of centrality of the external as that of Ralph Vaughan Williams. Truthfully, there is no similarity to Williams other than the tenderness he imbues his compositions with. For example, in a solo for the oboist called "Hawk," the performer is made keenly aware of the shimmering glissandi, which float through the piece as if they were written as a gift to him. Intonation, pitch, and timbre are somewhat dictated by the performer to give the piece its circling, swooping life. Elsewhere, on "Family Portraits: Brenda," a sonata played by author and psychologist Thomas Moore (one of Smith's neighbors), the juxtapositions of upper and lower register with defined trills and single notes are bridged by the pianist with various forces and pedal points in a few lush chords in the middle. It should also be stated that Smith writes here for tenor recorder, voice, and a flute/piano/vibraphone trio, all with the same reach for the external movement toward relationship and community. And unlike Morton Feldman, Smith isn't concerned with the relationship of one note or sound to another, but in the relationship from the composer to the performer to the score. What violently tender music appears here, so exquisitely played, meticulously recorded, and eternally resonant.

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