An exquisite cabinet of curiosities: Roadshow by Carl Schimmel

The latest release from the always fascinating stables of New Focus Recordings is a survey of American composer Carl Schimmel's chamber music written between 2006 and 2015, and unfolds like a cabinet of wondrous curiosities for the ear.

 

The textural writing is imaginative, lush and expressive in the String Quartet no 2, frail yet agile in the set of Psimirist Congeries, or dancingly ethereal in the Roadshow for Thora. Aesthetically, Schimmel's music seems to occupy the same world as that of Erik Satie - writing on the small-scale, finely crafted, yet with terrific wit and deft, comic touches, and ranging from a robust pleasure in the charm of nursery-rhyme melody to the more brooding implications of Surrealist poetry setting.

 

The song-cycle Four Noctures from the Oblivion Ha-Ha, setting words by poet James Tate, is the dark heart of the disc. Again, Schimmel's inventive textural conjuring is in evident through the cycle. The lurching surrealism of 'Jim's All Night Diner,' the first of the suite , clothes an expressive solo soprano in dark colours.

 

The collection concludes with the exquisite miniatures of the Psimirist Congeries (a psimirist, the liner notes inform us, is 'a collector small or insignificant things')  with intricate, crisp textures. The survey on this disc shows that Schimmel's creativity is neither small nor insignificant; whilst it appears his music has been performed often in America, hopefully the disc will inspire more scheduling of his music here in the UK.

 

The disc rewards repeated listening, yielding new treasures with each visit to this 21st century cabinet of curiosities; find out more here.

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