Mark Abel’s music writing is beholden to no school or discernible influence. Even if his music sits comfortably within an ongoing continuum in the classical tradition, Abel is his own man, a composer who brings his sensibility and highly developed command of craft to a particular idea and then illuminates it in a strikingly imaginative way.
Abel’s versatility of works is fully apparent on his sixth recording for Delos Music. ‘Spectrum,’ a generous two-disc set of song-cycles, chamber pieces, and excerpts from an opera still roaming around his brain and features: 2 time GRAMMY® Award winning soprano: Hila Plitmann, 4 time Juno Award winner: Isabel Bayrakdarian, celebrated mezzo-soprano: Kindra Scharich, pianists Carol Rosenberger, Dominic Cheli, Sean Kennard and Jeffrey LaDeur; as well as Alexander String Quartet violist David Samuel; Pacific Symphony concertmaster Dennis Kim; and the superb cellist: Jonah Kim.
Mark Abel is here with us along with Hila Plitmann to discuss ‘Spectrum.’ Listen to the podcast
Spectrum is both an expansion of Abel’s compositional horizons as well as a decade long recap of his time with the Delos label. The recording features 3 instrumental gems: ‘Reconciliation Day,’ ‘Out the Other Side’ and ‘The Long March’ along withy 3 captivating song cycles: ‘Trois Femmes du Cinema,’ ‘1966’ and ‘Two Scenes from The Book of Esther.’ ‘
Trois Femmes du Cinema’ features the powerful vocal artistry of soprano Isabel Bayrakdarian who is joined by the superb pianist: Carol Rosenberger. The piece is rooted in Abel’s love for art films, particularly from the ‘1950s, ’60s and ’70s, and the texts that he’s written are centered around 3 important women: French actress; Anne Wiazemsky, Mexican actress: Pina Pellicer, and the Ukrainian Soviet film director: Larisa Shepitko. These songs replicate their emotional trajectory, as well as their courage in standing up against the power of patriarchal misogyny in the film industry. These heroines are still largely unknown to the general public and each song in the cycle has a unique compositional approach.
‘Reconciliation Day’ is the first chamber piece on ‘Spectrum’ and is a moody, enigmatic duet beautifully played by violist: David Samuel and pianist Dominic Cheli. The rhythmic feel on this piece has a dance-like quality with bursts of sound and forward motion interspersed with calmer sections almost evoking an impressionistic quality.
‘Out the Other Side’ is played with immense integrity and authority by Trio Barclay, the ensemble-in-residence at the University of California, Irvine. This trio consisting of Pacific Symphony violinist and concertmaster: Dennis Kim along with one of today’s most highly regarded young cellists: Jonah Kim, and the superb pianist: Sean Kennard play together with a unique and rare chemistry.
Abel’s thirteen-minute trio excursion titled: The Long March’ which features pianist: Dominic Cheli, hornist: Jeff Garza and flutist: Christy Kim is an unusual piece and somewhat of a rarity in chamber music. As the title suggests, this musical journey explores the unique timbres of the horn and flute against an exhilarating piano and includes stops to regroup, reflect, celebrate, and endure.
Hila Plitmann joins the conversation to discuss Two Scenes from “The Book of Esther,” a slice of an opera Abel has had in development for a while. This version features: Hila Plitmann in the role of ‘Esther,’ and Mezzo-Soprano Kindra Scharich in the role of ‘Vashti.’ They are joined by violinist Adam Millstein, clarinetist Max Opferkuch, and pianist Dominic Cheli. The instrumentation at times seems to have a bit of a folky rhythmic feel giving the piece a sense of forward motion.
1966 is the final piece and the 3rd song cycle on the album. Mark Abel wrote the text which features Mezzo-Soprano: Kindra Scharich and her close colleague: pianist Jeffrey LaDeur. This wistful, nostalgic, lyrical piece reflects on the time when Abel turned eighteen years of age and was affected by 3 life-changing events, a romance, a hike, and San Francisco visit.
Produced by Max Horowitz — Crossover Media, This content, as well as the related podcast, are licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0) for redistribution and adaptation.