"…immaculately produced, full of verve and flair…"
Angles of Angeles
The Debussy Trio: Marcia Dickstein, harp; David Walther, viola; Angela Wiegand, flute. Self-released, 2017.
The Debussy Trio does it again with a new recording immaculately produced, full of verve and flair, showcasing some of their best work to date. Angles of Angeles is a tight playlist of five recording premieres that captures the paradox that is the City of Angels.
Grammy-winner Lucas Richman has worked with harpist Marcia Dickstein from the very nascent days of his hugely successful compositional career. He has a sixth sense for the many qualities available on the harp—from percussive rhythmic to lullaby lyrical to colorful rippling surface—upon which the violist David Walther and flutist Angela Wiegand can sing and dance. His work Apertif opens the album. It alludes to the very utilitarian needs of the trio for a new work that can slip gently between main courses, much like a palette cleanser, and can, quite frankly, find its way into any program in about any setting. The trio is not always solid with the ensemble, but makes up for it in character and bounce.
I first heard Paul Gibson’s music when his new work for chorus and cello was premiered here in Minnesota. He was a winner in 2005 of the VocalEssence/American Composers Forum yearly carol contest. There is a vocal quality to his Ternion Sonata no. 1, which the Debussy Trio commissioned. The first movement is titled “Forgetting Words,” each instrument chiming in, like Tintinnabuli, trying to stutter out phrases, but seemingly losing their train of thought. The effect is mesmerizing and mystical, the harp repeating a low ostinato almost like incense permeating the space. Gibson’s words, “So sad, so strange the times that are no more” is deeply emotional and searing. The trio negotiates the build to a climax with care, never giving it all away. The final movement, “DT Variations in a Tasty Rondo Shell” opens with an offbeat rhythm knocked on the harp, unwinding into a funky drive punctuated by moments of introspection as though the trio had the Santa Monica freeway all to themselves.
Water Walker by Emmy-nominated composer J.A.C. Redford brings to mind a woman of that title in my neck of the woods, an Ojibway who draws our attention to the preciousness that is water as she walks along its banks. “Water has to move to be healthy” she says, and while Redford says the music is more impressionistic than programmatic, there were images of walking aimlessly on the beaches in Northern California. The trio generously dips and slides, then plays on the fried edge of their sound lending the work a folk-tinged, in-the-moment feel. This is one of the most effective performances of the disc—subtle, yet captivating.
Violist David Walther puts on another hat, that of composer for One Triplet, a playful skip in Southern California’s winter sun, bright and welcome, but with the tiniest bit of nostalgia for beach weather. He gives himself plenty of space to show off his gorgeous tone, perfectly complemented by the lush, multi-hued depth of the flute.
I have always been fascinated with Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco, an artist who fled fascist Italy and ended up working in Hollywood. It’s reported he wrote for over 200 films, though most without receiving credit. The CD finishes with an absolute gem from 1967 from a collection he called Greeting Cards. For just viola and harp, “The Persian Prince on the name of David Blumberg” is a delicious closer.