Composer: Lee Hyla.
Personnel: Thomas Guldborg (hammer dulcimer); Carolin Widmann (violin); Katherine Vincent (viola); Margaret Steen (cello); Tim Smith (clarinet, bass clarinet); Mia Chung, Sarah Bob, Stephen Drury, Judith Gordon (piano).
Riff & Transfiguration presents four pieces of truly excellent modern classical music of the strong, dramatic vein. The earliest of Hyla's compositions on this release is "Amnesia Variance," from 1989. It is performed by a small ensemble of strings, clarinet, piano, and hammered dulcimer. Based around the idea of musical memory, or the loss of such, it often leaves out the usual transitions between the active, strongly dramatic sections and the quiet, spacious moments that are led briefly by alternating single instrument solos. The other three compositions -- all composed during the '90s -- are solo piano works, each performed by a different pianist. All of them are extremely accomplished virtuosos, lacking in neither technique nor passion. Judith Gordon and Stephen Drury perform the first two pieces, respectively. It bears repeating that the virtuosic work here is head-turning, not to mention the works' compositional strength. The title piece is a suite for solo piano, and is performed by Mia Chung. The suite's movements range from "very fast, eruptive" (the first movement) to "quietly, con rubato" (the sixth movement), and all are carried off beautifully. ~ Joslyn Layne