I got this CD because of the piece by Carter Pann, a composer who is a particular favorite of mine. It is from Chicago's Cedille label and features music by Chicago musicians and (mostly) Chicago composers, and it includes four world premiere recordings. The Pann is a set, 'Differences', for cello and piano that contains his typical eclectic style (if you don't know his music, perhaps its likeness to some of Bill Bolcom's music will orient you; they have a lot in common). It contains elements of country music, blues and popular song refracted through the prism of Pann's extraordinarily clever and sophisticated style. It is the most tonal of the works presented here and I loved it. David Ying, cello, and Elinor Freer, piano, play the devil out of it.
John David Yeh, Chicago's distinguished clarinet doyen, is featured in Vivan Fung's four 'Miniatures', which have elements of the music of Western China's Uighur people. Ricardo Lorenz's 'Bachangó', played by pianist Marta Aznavoorian, is flat-out Afro-Cuban, an evocative foot-tapper.
The toughest pieces, harmonically, on the CD are Stacy Garrop's String Quartet No. 2, 'Demons and Angels'. It reputedly traces a descent into madness and murder. For me, although it was interesting to hear once, it tested my tolerance for dissonance. It is played with real fire in the belly by the up-and-coming Biava Quartet. Even more difficult, for me, was Pierre Jalbert's String Trio, played by the excellent Lincoln Trio. There probably wasn't as much straight-out dissonance as in the Garrop, but the construction left me puzzled; it often sounded like quasi-atonal noodling. Perhaps I need to hear it several more times, but frankly I'm not willing to give it that. I'm sure, though, that there are others that will admire it much more than I.
Cedille, always enterprising, has come up with a fascinating peek at Chicago's new music scene and deserves a hats off for that.