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Randall Woolf: Righteous Babe; Steven Mackey: Crystal Shadows; John Halle: Gaze; Laura Kaminsky: Duo; Richard Festinger: The Way Things Go, et al. / Tara Helen OÆConnor, flute; Margaret Kampmeier, piano

Notes & Reviews:

One of the great flute players on today's musical scene, Tara Helen O'Connor is well known for her brilliant technique and musicianship. Winner of an Avery Fisher Career Grant and a two-time Grammy nominee, she is currently a season artist of the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center. Five of the seven works on Ms. O'Connor's new CD were composed specifically for her and long time collaborator, pianist Margaret Kampmeier. They perform this program with a combination of commitment and virtuosity that is truly compelling.


Great contemporary performances
For flutist Tara Helen O'Connor, "The Way Things Go" is a labor of love. As she explains in the liner notes, she and pianist Margaret Kampmeier have taken several years to record the selections on this release.

Five of the works were commissioned by O'Connor,the rest were compositions by the duo's favorite composers. Perhaps because of its origins, "The Way Things Go" is an extraordinary release.

The works vary greatly in style, reflecting the many different directions contemporary music is taking. The oldest work on the disc, "Crystal Shadows" by Steven Mackay dates from 1985. While the duo gives the work an assured, authoritative performance, the disjointed nature of the music sound a little dated to me. I'd describe it as a variety of academic atonality.

Much more interesting are the composers who've incorporated popular idioms into their music. Randall Woolf's "Righteous Babe" from 2000 just flat out rocks, and makes a terrific opening for the program. "Gaze" (an O'Connor commission) by John Halle has some jazz-infused gestures and a great modern rag that O'Connor delivers with a smokey, sinuous sound.

Other standouts on the release include "Share" by Belinda Reynolds, whose subtly-crafted themes develop over a repeating ground. I also enjoyed the title track, "The Way Things Go" by Richard Festinger, another O'Connor commission. This ultra-chromatic modernist work has a series of dramatic starts and stops, yet always moves inexorably towards its climaxes. The piece is a technical challenge for both performers, and O'Connor and Kampmeier own it.

To my ears, the most technically challenging work is the one that ends the program: Laura Kaminsky's "Duo for Flute and Piano." The work is somewhat conservative in structure, but don't be fooled. "Duo" was commissioned by and dedicated to the duo, and the music seems to fit them like a glove.

I was surprised to read that album took years to record. The sound and the playing is so consistent I would have guess sessions spanning a few days rather than years. O'Connor and Kampmeier make a great team, and their long association gives these works a dynamic and chemistry that just makes them all the more effective musically.
Submitted on 09/14/16 by RGraves321 
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