Robert Carl

Music for Strings Adaskin String Trio and others (New World)

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Robert Carl

Robert Carl

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New World Records has been on a measured but steady winning streak lately, and once again, expectations are met and even raised with this new collection of works by Robert Carl. It’s curious that this composer has not garnered more popular attention. Although he has been ensconced in academia most of his life, his writing is free of predictable trappings and dogma, conveying an intelligence that doesn’t need to bury itself in theory in order to express something serious and compelling.

Music for Strings collects three of Carl’s chamber works, each performed by the players for whom it was written. The composer acknowledges that with these pieces, he sought to create an open space for rumination, and an existential climate pervades the disc. By mining established string techniques—notably glissandi—rather than more experimental sounds, Carl couches these musings in the familiar, organic and lovely, even when the music scratches and bites.

There’s a glassy fragility to much of Carl’s Violin Sonata No. 2, “Angel-Skating.” The String Quartet No. 2, “Fear of Death/Love of Life,” manages to chronicle a searching hunger without any attendant melodrama. But the real standout on this disc is Open, for string trio. Carl fashions this piece as something of a musical mandala. Following his line around and around as it develops, we don’t reach a grand, sweeping philosophical conclusion, but rather sense a common bond formed by our need to ask the big questions.—Molly Sheridan

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