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Album Review: Through an Open Window
Lucy Wenger
Cover image of the album Through an Open Window by Lucy Wenger
Through an Open Window
Lucy Wenger
2004 / Innova
64 minutes
Review by Kathy Parsons
Through An Open Window” is a fascinating collection of suites of piano solos by four contemporary American composers and performed to perfection by Lucy Wenger. The music varies from melodic and rhythmic to atonal and abstract, and yet the CD holds together well as a cohesive listening experience. Most of the thirty-three pieces are relatively short, providing a sampler of each composer’s work and showcasing Wenger’s extraordinary playing. This CD is very definitely contemporary classical music, so if you are looking for “ear candy” or massage music, this will probably not be a good fit. Some of the music could be challenging for the casual listener, but more serious music lovers will have much to savor and enjoy.

The CD opens with Paul Schoenfield’s delightful “Six Improvisations on Hassidic Melodies.” Hassidism regarded the expression of exuberant joy and union with God as primary religious duties, and this is clearly reflected in the music. “Ufaratsta” is a joyous dance that spins, twirls, and kicks up its heals. “Achat Sha’alti” is more of a prayer, with a darkly gorgeous melody and simple structure. “Vay’hi Vishrun Melech” has a bit of a military feeling about it - or perhaps a royal procession of sorts. “Kozatske” and “Rikud” are euphoric dances - these are really great and make my fingers itch! “Nigun” is a quiet, meditative melody. I like this suite so much that I’m looking for the sheet music.

The second suite is Janice Giteck’s “Tara’s Love Will Melt the Sword,” which is dedicated to and addresses two female manifestations of Buddha. I am also looking for the sheet music for this suite because of the emotional power of the music. “Light suspended” is dark, bittersweet, and searching. “Tear’ drops’” is my favorite track of the album. It is very dark and mournful, but not without hope. “Rocking, blue interior” picks up the pace a little and is very intense and passionate. “Affectionately outward” brings a bit of resolution to the suite - it’s not bright sunshine, but does feel a bit more optimistic.

Bill Rea’s “A Dissimulation of Birds” is a group of six pieces composed around the names of the birds found in the Book of Saint Albans. I especially like “An Ostentation of Peacocks,” which really struts its finery until it becomes a grotesque caricature of itself. This is really a fun piece to listen to when you know what Rea was describing. “A Watch of Nightingales” is much quieter and more peaceful, as is “An Exalting of Larks.”

Alan Hovhaness’ “Sonata: Fred the Cat” is a commissioned work for a beloved pet. Comprised of four short movements that range from playful to reverent, this is also a very interesting work.

The final thirteen tracks are Bill Rea’s “Variations on a Irish Song (Down by the Salley Gardens).” Most of these tracks are shorter than two minutes and several are just under or just over a minute. The original theme weaves in and out - sometimes recognizable and sometimes not; sometimes simple, sometimes complex. Fascinating!

Through An Open Window is available from innova.mu, amazon.com, and bn.com. Highly recommended to those who enjoy and appreciate contemporary classical piano.
June 13, 2006