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Thomas Buckner, baritone; Joseph Kubera, piano; FLUX Quartet
Michael Byron (b. 1953) has long been committed to writing virtuosic instrumental music of contrapuntal complexity and perpetual variation, but with The Celebration, a song cycle for baritone and piano quintet, he ventured into unfamiliar territory: He had not previously composed for voice, the primary vehicle for articulating the wonder of the human condition. Consisting of four songs (words by Anne Tardos) and two instrumental interludes, The Celebration explores the ambiguity, the disorientation, and ultimately the joyful paradox of formulating an identity in a world of constant change. Like most of Byron's work, the composition is built on a carefully designed structure that ensures the constant and measured transformation of musical elements.
Just as Byron creates a new context for Tardos's poetry, so does the presence of the poetic voice transform Byron's music. The instrumental lines, for example, assume an intensely lyrical guise as they anticipate, echo, mirror, and contrast the vocal line. Also, the contrapuntal and rhythmic complexity - a hallmark of Byron's style - seems here to have emerged from a fragmented chorale of simple melodies that have been enriched by increasingly rhapsodic ornamentation, all of which has been meticulously notated. The unexpected divergence and convergence of the vocal and instrumental lines produce what Byron calls "inevitable synchronicities," that mysterious circumstance of individual voices immersed in eternal dialogue. With The Celebration, Byron and Tardos provide a rich opportunity for us to acknowledge and celebrate the divine counterpoint between voice and instruments, poetry and music, individual and humanity.