Personnel: Mark Menzies (violin); Vicki Ray (piano).
Liner Note Author: Barry Schrader.
Recording information: Architecture, Los Angeles, CA; California Institute of the Arts, Studio B308.
Director: Philip Blackburn.
Photographers: Steven A. Gunther; Johnny Yu.
Fallen Sparrow presents four of Barry Schrader's works composed between 1989 and 2005. The common thread: they are all mixed works for electronics and live performers. Up first is the triptych "Love, In Memoriam," by and large the most interesting piece on this album. A short song cycle, it features tenor Frank Royon Le Mée interpreting three poems by Michaël Glück (in French, with an English translation provided in the booklet). The first and last of the songs are simply wonderful, especially "L'Oreille Coupée," in which the plaintive melody is accompanied by two rushed-up piano parts, creating a gripping sense of madness. In comparison, the 20-minute title piece simply sounds too dry. This seven-part suite offers a rather uninvolving electronic part for violinist Mark Menzies to duet with. Despite good passages, it fails to leave a lasting impression. "Five Arabesques," with clarinetist William Powell, is bolder and better, thanks to musical figures that are both clever and catchy. Vicki Ray is at the piano for the concluding "Ravel," which features the highest level of electronics/instrumentalist integration of the set. In the course of its 15 minutes, the piece goes through several mood swings, from cyclical motives to brooding chords and quirky clusters, all closely intertwined with the computer part, which remains very tonal throughout. Past the first few minutes, the intensity hits a peak and stays there, stealing the listener's attention and not letting go. But it does not have the emotional charge of "Love, In Memoriam," the main reason to buy Fallen Sparrow to be sure. ~ François Couture