The Azure Ensemble: Susan Glaser, flute; Pitnarry Shin, cello; Christopher Oldfather, piano; Pavel Vinnitsky, clarinet; Marc Goldberg, bassoon; Esther Lamneck, clarinet; Ingrid Gordon, percussion; Airi Yoshioka, violin; Conrad Harris, violin; Pitnarry Shin, cello; Karen Ritscher, viola; Gail Kruvand-Moye, contrabass; Jessica Zhou, harp; Michael Lipsey, percussion; Matthew Gold, percussion; Gerald Steichen, William Purvis, conductors
The sound worlds of Chen Yi (b 1953) and Karen Tanaka (b 1961) are very different places, but they are linked by some important elements. Both composers show fastidious craftsmanship: The timbres, textures, and harmonies are chosen with such care that each piece feels like a three-dimensional sculpture. Both were born in the Far East and show an approach to composition that is organic rather than reliant on imposed forms.
A prolific composer of chamber, orchestral, and vocal pieces, Chen Yi tries to distill from Chinese and Western traditional music the essential character and spirit and to develop materials abstractly in accordance with new concepts. During her youth she absorbed the folk music and culture of the Chinese countryside, and it has become a key inspiration for her compositions.
Karen Tanaka has composed extensively for both instrumental and electronic media, including several major orchestral works. Major influences on Tanaka's music are French composers such as Debussy, Ravel, and Messiaen, as well as the scientific musical research at IRCAM. Tanaka's recent works develop new directions in her musical language, using the latest technology and reflecting different aspects of contemporary culture. Her love of nature and concern for the environment has influenced many of her works, including these three chamber pieces.