Daniel Carr, Works Volume 3, High Voice and Piano Trio

The hustle and bustle of everyday life can mean that one is continually prioritizing and evaluating the time every day. When and what absolutely must be done? What after that? There are times when I am sent so much music that it is all I can do to open and listen, and beyond that it must involve a backlog, And so recently I found myself combing through and hearing the recent offerings as best I could willy nilly, including Daniel Carr’s Works Volume 3, High Voice and Piano Trio (MSR Classics MS 1761). 

I try of course to listen to all I am sent and take it all seriously, so when I put on this CD for the first time recently the name of the composer seemed familiar to me but I had no idea what I’d hear. As I listened I was impressed with the inventive nature of it all, its melodic-harmonic individuality, tonal without especially sounding like  Neoclassical or Neoromantic, Minimalist, Post- or Premodern or Non-Serialist fare, etc. It all suggested the sort of elaborate song brilliance of some of the best singer-songwriters in the Rock High Modern period, and the instrumental work carried that inventiveness into pure instrumentality.  It all seemed very musical and very well wrought and not at all predictable. The emphasis was more or less on a through composed lyrical flow that moved away from repetition but instead made for a beautiful sonance of piano trio and piano trio with a high vocal part.

You will listen if you play this one, first, to the Piano Trio, op. 19, and what a memorably expressive work that is, a nice example of how Carr rolls in the trio chamber mode.

Then as a logical extension we hear “Nine Bethany Swann Songs” for high voice (Mindy Ella Chu, mezzosoprano, very effectively and ravishingly so) and violin, cello and piano (as throughout the Benefic Piano Trio does a fabulous job with the music). Finally there are the same vocal and instrumental forces doing more wonders with the final work “Vocalise.”

I can’t help at times hearing these vocal songs to be very happily reminded of Joni Mitchell and the sort of lyricism she so personally and musically forged. Not that there is imitation but there is high invention and a touching reflectiveness like the best of Joni, only more through-composed, maybe a little more flowing-river-like to its inevitable end.

This is another one of those composers who refuses to be easily classified. So that means you simply must hear repeatedly the music before you feel yourself completely inside it, or it was the way for me at least. And so I do recommend these works and their considerably committed performances here. Go forth and listen up, then see how it makes you feel. Bravo.


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