New Year, New Recording Project

New Year, New Recording ProjectL-R Alan Wonneberger, Adam Silverman, NW, Audrey Andrist, Amy Barston, Phillip O'Banion

Happy New Year! For whatever reasons, I was even more excited about the holidays this year than I usually am, which is to say that I was fully engaged with my inner child and had an amazing time! It was a wonderful season shared with special friends, neighbors, and family, and I began the new year as it ended, full of love and gratitude.

Bright and early on the morning of January 1st found me at the airport on the way to rehearse and record a quartet by Adam Silverman, That Radiant Outburst, for clarinet, cello, marimba, and piano. The other musicians included Amy Barston (cello), Phillip O’Banion (marimba) and Audrey Andrist (piano). Amy and I first met when were performed the Mozart Quintet for clarinet and strings together in Washington, D.C. back in 2002, and I met her husband, Adam Silverman, shortly thereafter. The following year, Adam wrote a piece for my trio, Strata, entitled Ricochet for clarinet, viola, and piano which we premiered that summer at the Piccolo Spoleto Festival in Charleston, SC. A few years later, we recorded Ricochet for inclusion on a CD of Adam’s music, Sturm, which was released in 2009 on New Focus Recordings. Adam and Amy have been great friends to my trio and I have wanted to make music with Amy again and play more of Adam’s music for quite some time. Of course, Audrey is one of my dearest life-long friends and we’ve been playing together for decades, so I always love every minute of our time together. In addition, I was able to meet Phillip O’Banion for whom this particular quartet was composed. He is a wonderful musician and it was a treat to work with him.

We had two days of rehearsals at Adam’s and Amy’s home in Swarthmore, PA which also included multiple opportunities to check in with the composer since he was always nearby and ready to answer questions and offer feedback. The rehearsals were an absolute pleasure from start to finish. Everyone was beautifully prepared, good natured, flexible, attentive, constructive—–just incredibly easy to work with in every way. And the piece is terrific—beautifully written and so much fun to play. The third day found us at the beautiful Performing Arts Center at the University of Maryland-Baltimore County for our day of recording, which couldn’t have gone more smoothly. And it’s always special to be in the capable hands of Alan Wonneberger, a gifted recording engineer and all-around great guy. I can’t wait to hear the finished product!

Here’s what Adam has to say about That Radiant Outburst:

This composition was commissioned by Phillip O’Banion, a percussionist with whom I had worked very closely on my marimba concerto Carbon Paper and Nitrogen Ink and from whom I have learned a tremendous amount about composing for mallet percussion. O’Banion’s request for the new work was that it be a substantial and earnest piece of chamber music in which the percussionist plays an integral role rather than that of side-man or colorist, and for the performance he enlisted an extremely distinguished group of musical collaborators, all playing instruments that are traditionally “leaders” in chamber compositions.

With that in mind, I attempted to create a work in which the marimba is engaged in the musical texture as a sort of “second piano,” constantly moving between roles as leader and accompanist. To create special blends that work well with the marimba, the pianist is frequently called upon to sustain accented chords and the cellist plays strong pizzicati throughout much of the work. The clarinet, as well, is paired with the marimba on long unison passages, though for much of the music it is used in a traditional role as melodic soloist.

The overall spirit of the music, as its title suggests, is one of surging motion and colorful flashes of sound. The piece is entirely in a single, propulsive tempo, with moments of respite coming through two gentle passages, one in which the marimba and cello join in an expansive melody over gentle piano chords, and another parallel section in which the clarinet melody soars above strummed chords in the cello. Before long, however, the incessant propulsion resumes and the energy of the music seems almost unstoppable.

“You must play for the love of music. Perfect technique is not as important as making music from the heart.” —Mstislav Rostropovich