AMN Reviews: David Starobin – New Music with Guitar, Volume 9 [Bridge 9444]

9444_cover_largeThree substantial new works for nylon string guitar make up this the ninth installment of Bridge Records’ series of releases dedicated to new music for guitar, featuring the distinguished guitarist David Starobin. The settings vary from a guitar and violin duo on Poul Ruder’s Schroedinger’s Cat (2012) to a guitar concerto with full orchestra for Paul Lansky’s 2009 With the Grain, with a chamber work for guitar and eleven piece orchestra–Richard Wernick’s 2002 The Name of the Game–lying in between. Both the Wernick and Ruder compositions take long established forms and either update them or permute them to their limits. In the tradition of Bach’s building compositions around the German note names B-A-C-H (Bb, A, C and B natural), The Name of the Game takes as its basic material a pitch class set spelling out the guitarist’s name and arranges it into a fragmentary modernist polyphony. Starobin and the International Chamber Ensemble give a clear, engaging reading of this angular yet accessible work, with Starobin’s chords and single note lines providing the harmonic and melodic fulcrum. Also alluding to Baroque form is Ruder’s composition, a set of twelve canons seemingly in every conceivable form and notable for its subtly nuanced play of string timbres. The austere instrumentation of the piece contrasts dramatically with the lushly orchestrated With the Grain. On all three works Starobin’s performances are as pristine and compelling as they are beautiful.