Lior Navok's first CD, called Hidden Reflections, after the lead chamber work on it for piano and alto saxophone, was promising. This one carries through on that promise quite handsomely. Navok is an Israeli composer living in the United States and absorbing many styles and methods. The Spanish Songs (1998) are finely-crafted compositions using texts by Antonio Machado. Both of the songs – I dream of evening roads and Has my heart fallen asleep – are deep compositions in whose style many critics will hear various influences. So what? I never fear influences, as long as the composer does not become imitative. Navok doesn't, and he manages to establish his own voice, his own style, without concern that his conservative idiom might seem out of fashion in certain musical circles. These two songs are excellent and ought to receive greater attention, and soprano Monica Garcia-Albea delivers splendid renditions of them.
The V5 Quintet for Vibraphone and Strings may be the most attractive work on this CD. It is mesmerizing in its colorful darkness, its subdued beauties, its stop-and-start anxiety and its brilliant and imaginative instrumentation. Cast in five movements, this piece will appeal to those with an interest in a sort of updated Debussyan style. Not that it is evocative of Debussy in sound – merely, it is related to his music in spirit, using delicate textures, subtle means of expression, grace and a sense of floating above the clouds.
The Sea of Sunset, for soprano, trombone, double bass and piano, is an effective piece, but the Emily Dickenson texts become mired in a start-and-stop manner that undermines the proceedings, refusing to give way to a more natural flow to the music. You may like this work if you have patience, but I'll take the others instead.
Remembrances of Jerusalem is a fine composition, featuring the insightful playing of William Riley on guitar. The music is soothing, provocative and profound by turns, and can be played by good amateur guitarists. This isn't Spanish guitar music or anything like it, but it is powerfully effective in its dark atmosphere and skilled writing. Meditations Over Shore is a choral work, whose ethereal character gives the music attractive, dark atmosphere at the outset. As it progresses, it becomes eerie and otherworldly in its subdued, high choral writing, eventually reaching a climactic episode whose morbid beauty is unforgettable.
In sum, Navok is a talented composer whose music deserves far wider recognition. Will he get it? I hope so, but I'm not holding my breath. The sound on this disc is excellent and the performances are generally compelling.
Copyright © 2001, Robert Cummings