DAVID LIPTEN - Best Served Cold

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DAVID LIPTEN - Best Served Cold - Various Works - Various Artists - 884501692632 - Released: April 2012 - Ablaze Records AR00006

1} Ictus (Quartet)
2} Show of Hands (Piano)
3} Whorl (Clarinet-Piano-Violin)
4} Time's Dream (Choir)
5} Gyre (Small ensemble)

David Lipten's music has been described as possessing "a strength and integrity…along with a deep [and]…rigorous musical lyricism." {Ablaze Records}

It is also very cerebral and at times uncommunicative and, as the title of the CD suggests, leaves me cold. Like so many other contemporary composers, it seems the music tries to copy everyone else while trying very hard to be unique and innovative. Because of that, most of the instrumental works on offer here simply don't work for me.

But, having said that, I must also admit that I find the one and only choral work on this CD, Time's Dream, to be a thing of rare and unusual beauty to stem from a 21st century composer's pen. It seems David Lipten manages to combine pitch, interval and harmony in perfect balance with the human voice to create a deeply layered, oddly emotive and expressive sound world. Mind you, it is still cerebral, but of an intellect touched by the profundity of the written text. The work is divided into six (unfortunately way too short) songs set to the poetry of E. E. Cummings, performed here by Volti, a 20-voice chamber choir based in San Francisco, conducted by Robert Geary. This choir performs "only" contemporary music, and in doing so, have been the recipients of many awards for their efforts to discover and share with us brand new choral music. Their expressive delivery and impeccable intonation play a big part in the beautiful layered effects of this inventive work.

If it wasn't for Time's Dream, I would have dismissed this new recording as just another failed attempt at innovation amongst the countless others, and wouldn't have listened to it anymore. But because of Time's Dream, I find myself drawn to it over and over again. If you enjoy choral music and are always looking to hear something new, you should hear this. And who knows, unlike me, you may find what I'm missing in the other pieces.

Jean-Yves Duperron - October 2012