Louis Karchin – Five Compositions

The five compositions by Louis Karchin featured in this release include his chamber symphony, and four smaller chamber works.

In the liner notes Karchin says, “While writing the Chamber Symphony, I realized why the genre is such an appealing one for composers working today. Contemporary music revels in the discovery of new sounds and instrumental combinations, and seems to prioritize the virtuosic and flexible nature of solo lines.”

And that pretty much sums up the effect of Karchin’s Chamber Symphony. The stripped-down ensemble (only 14 players) combines and recombines in extraordinary and interesting ways.

With the exception of violins and percussion, there’s only one player per instrument. So virtuosic and flexible solo lines are in abundance.

The Washington Square Ensemble, under the direction of the composer, fully realizes the potential of the score. While the shifting tonal colors beguile, the music has a clear sense of direction and purpose.

Rochester Celebration is a pianistic homage pianist Barry Snyder. Snyder’s interest in 19th Century thematic transformation suggested the path the piece should take. Former Snyder student Margaret Kampmeier performs the work with sensitivity and feeling.

The other standout work for me was the Baracole Variations for flute and harp. The commissioning artists, Renée Jolles (violin), and Susan Jolles (harp) perform. The variations are not merely ornamented versions of the theme.

Rather, they seem to be deconstructions of the theme. Each variation reassembles the elements in new and interesting ways, complemented by the innovative interplays between the two instruments.

If you’re not familiar with Louis Karchin, this disc can provide a good introduction to his chamber music.

Louis Karchin: Five Compositions (2009-2017)
Chamber Symphony  – The Washington Square Ensemble; Louis Karchin, conductor
Rochester Celebration – Margaret Kampmeier, piano
Postlude – Sam Jones, trumpet; Han Chen, piano
Quest – Alice Teyssier, flute; Ashley Jackson, harp
Barcarole Variations –  Renée Jolles, violin; Susan Jolles, harp

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