This is a pleasant surprise: an intriguing, entertaining CD by a relative unknown. Its first piece, Hidden Heritage, a Dance Symphony, is inspired by eight paintings by African-American artists. Right away it grabs our attention with its clanging bells, hot and cool woodwinds, and Bartókian percussion. Its first movement ends with a snappy, sharply-defined coda, priming the listener for more. A smoky saxophone opens the fantasia and soon the woodwinds and the piano erupt, sly as seduction and just as frenetic (with finger-snapping!), before ending in a reposeful mood. More startling events occur in this piece: a nicely orchestrated, swinging Street Scene with dissonant rhythms and a hotel bell tuned to F#; an unpredictable movement called Symbols, Fetishes punctuated by ticking clocks. Sometimes the piece is restless, filled with clanging, pounding drums and woodwinds careening on the edge of chaos. Other times, it flaunts its tight structure and jazziness like a neo-classical piece by Jacques Ibert.
Sky Curtains paints a musical portrait of the two polar Auroras (Borealis and Australis). It is an impressionist tone poem, depicting these natural phenomena with shimmering lines that shift in and out of focus, à la Mer for the atmosphere. Close your eyes and you will see it. In Borealis a trilling flute throws in wavering lines around the edges while flutes and clarinets cross lines with the cello. In Australis, the woodwinds clash in a fugato with the strings, the notes ascending the scale like a whoosh of arrant wind. As in Hidden Heritage, both movements are fascinating renditions of visual images. Yet in Sky Curtains, the images are more tangible: the auroras suddenly appear as frenetic woodwinds, show their razzle-dazzle, flutter about with no particular direction, then fade away.
Doubles (an oboe sonatina) and Dance/Inner Dance (a woodwind trio) don't lend themselves so easily to visual metaphors. Their sonorities are more palpable: rhythmic, witty, sprightly, sometimes even warm, wet, and scratchy as a cat's tongue.
Conductor Doris Kosloff deftly leads her competent ensembles in Hidden Heritage and Sky Curtains. However, I would have preferred more variety in the instrumentation on this CD, perhaps a string quartet or a piano solo instead of all these woodwinds. But if Neon Rhythm is as auspicious as I think it will be, there will be more inventions from Ms. Zaimont.
Copyright © 1996, Peter Bates