Gerald Cohen, Sea of Reeds, Works for Clarinet and Chamber Ensemble
by Grego Applegate Edwards
Something that is easy to like is not necessarily facile. I would say that of composer Gerald Cohen’s recent album of compositions for one or more clarinets and chamber ensemble, Sea of Reeds (Navona 5979).Quite the opposite applies in this case. Cohen’s music is filled with vibrant melody, rhythmic clarity, drive and compositional construction that show a mastery of and a real sympathy towards the clarinet.
That is coupled with instrumentalists who clearly love this music and match the notes with execution that brings the music vividly to life. The Grneta Ensemble of two clarinets and piano with and without the viola of Maria Lambros or the violin of Jennifer Choi (and that includes Vasko Dukovski and Ismail Lumanovski on clarinets and Alexandra Joan on piano) bring out the Baltic-Jewish-Jazzish charm of the music rather brilliantly.
What we have are four works/suites written between 2007 and 2010 and they work together to bring you a big picture of a Gerald Cohen inspired by the instrumentation and filled with things for the artists to play/say. The music speaks naturally, unforced yet with a classic balance.
“Variously Blue,” “Sea of Reeds,” “Yedid Nefesh” and “Grneta Variations” overflow the disk with expressive music that revels in tonality yet of a more folksy eastern than academically classical sort. You may hear a touch of Stravinsky or Prokofiev in the driving lucidity, but that can just as much have to do with the rootedness of the music as any direct connection or influence.
This is a sheer delight to hear, a chocolate-fudge sundae of excellently intertwining musical syntax.
Three cheers for this one.