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Vermont Virtuosi | The Third Highway

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Classical: Chamber Music Classical: Chamber Music Moods: Instrumental
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The Third Highway

by Vermont Virtuosi

Six musical journeys of lyricism, counterpoint, and elegantly syncopated rhythms.
Genre: Classical: Chamber Music
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  Song Share Time Download
1. The Conchoid of Nicomedes
10:12 $0.99
2. In the Forest, 400 Owls Discover a Giant Badger; It’s Raining
10:36 $0.99
3. Les visions de Bellimar
12:02 $0.99
4. Euphonicum Tangenturis
12:54 $0.99
5. The Third Highway
13:17 $0.99
6. Forbidden Flute
12:31 $0.99
Downloads are available as MP3-320 files.


Album Notes
Vermont Virtuosi, the state’s premiere chamber music ensemble, has released a new recording of music by Vermont composer David Gunn. “The Third Highway” includes six compositions that the composer describes as “lyrical journeys.” The recording is Gunn’s first release since “Somewhere East of Topeka” in 2001 (Albany Records).

In its concerts around the state, Vermont Virtuosi employs the region’s most respected musicians, six of whom perform on this recording: Claire Black, piano; Arturo Delmoni, violin; Karen Luttik, clarinet; Julian Partridge, bassoon; Tatiana Trono, viola; and Laurel Ann Maurer, concert and alto flutes. Maurer is also the director of Vermont Virtuosi, which she co-founded with Gunn in 2013.

Gunn, who lives in Barre, is one of Vermont’s most acclaimed composers. He has written for orchestra, chamber ensembles, vocal groups, soloists, Theremin, Ray Bradbury’s Pandemonium Theatre Company, and more recently for ensembles that feature the flute. His first piece for flute choir won the National Flute Association’s Flute Choir Composition Competition in 2012.

Gunn’s typically wry titles belie the extended, coloristic variations for multiple instruments. Some titles guide the listener. The Conchoid of Nicomedes, for flute, clarinet, bassoon, and piano, has melodic lines based on the exotic sounds of the whole-tone scale and informed by Greek mathematician Nicomedes, whose treatise “On Conchoid Lines” reveals the curve he used to solve mathematical problems. The composition proceeds from a whole-tone scale universe to one firmly rooted in A minor, moving through jazzy motifs to a return to the whole-tone realm.

In the forest, 400 owls discover a giant badger; it’s raining is the disc’s most programmatic piece. The multi-themed jazz fantasy for clarinet and piano features recurring motifs for the rain, the forest, the badger, the owls, and others. Black’s performance is eloquent, matching Luttik’s sinuous clarinet.

Les visions de Bellimar is a lyrical work for flute, viola, and piano whose title harks back to a stream-of-consciousness poem by Gunn that contains the line “Chilling shock crystals lodged themselves in Bellimar’s garbled brain as hundreds of sinister soup croutons sucked away reality and gelatin.” The decidedly unsinister music wends a melodic path from D minor to C minor, during which Trono’s viola is a warm counterpoint to Maurer’s moody, dark flute.

Euphonicum Tangenturis—or “agreeable sounds going every which way”—for flute, clarinet, and piano, is filled with melodies that begin in a simple “white key” tonality before moving through quirky, coloristic chromaticism. Following a slowly introspective section, the trio rolls to a conclusion bristling with energy.

The recording’s title composition, The Third Highway, for concert and alto flutes, violin, and piano, is an intertwining musical journey during which the players encounter fugato pathways, harmonic detours, and syncopated tonalities that change color as the mile measures pass. Delmoni’s violin easily transitions from delicate to spiky along the way.

Forbidden Flute is surely destined to become a classic work for flute and piano. With a tempo marking of “Trending Sultrily,” it begins with a slowly descending four-note phrase played by the flute, continues with a piano ostinato supporting variations on the theme, and ends with driving rhythms that turn the initial, simple phrase into a technically challenging tour de force.

Of “The Third Highway,” Vermont composer and colleague Dennis Bathory-Kitsz says, “It is beautiful, coherent, and respectful of tradition—if in its own unique ways. Conchoid is harmonically reminiscent of Darius Milhaud’s Creation of the World, while 400 Owls pays tribute to Gunn’s own work of decades past, The Troll’s Awful Curse. What Gunn has accomplished is nothing less than a stylistic summary of his compositional career.”

Jim Lowe of the Times-Argus writes of “The Third Highway,” “The deeply lyrical, tonal but not mundane work moves from beautiful lyricism to an accelerating jauntiness. It’s quite charming and beautiful. The language is tonal, the rhythms complex, the clarinet line lyrical—a journey that … tells its story with rich harmonic colors and ever-changing rhythm.”

“It is so incredibly refreshing to hear David move in this direction,” writes Dylan Waller, an American composer and poet living in Armenia. “It’s after the last crest of Debussy’s La Mer has broken; it’s a logical and poetic answer to tintinnabulation/minimalism; it’s a language all his own, the clear fruit of a lifetime’s vocation, akin in a parallel sense to Beethoven’s late quartets. The Green Mountains are done justice through such compositions.”

In evaluating the entire recording, New York composer Noah Creshevsky wrote, “It’s a wonderful disc. I loved hearing it. There are moments that move me directly—the way so little music does these days—moments of very great beauty, melodically and harmonically, compositionally and emotionally, which is best of all. I am proud of the dedicated and accomplished performances by the Vermont Virtuosi. Bravo, many times over.”



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