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Classical Music Review

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Mezzanine Seat


Composer: Michael G. Cunningham
Conductor: Petr Vronský
Performed by: Moravian Philharmonic Orchestra and Croatian Chamber Orchestra
Label: Navona Records
RRP: £13.99
Release Date: 12 October 2018

In his latest release for Navona Records, Mezzanine Seat, Michael G. Cunningham uses each aspects of the orchestra, filling out every bit of space with breathtaking melody and harmony. The arrangements emote a sophistication that echoes J.S. Bach, one of Cunningham’s greatest inspirations. Under the conductorship of Petr Vronský, the Moravian Philharmonic Orchestra and the Croatian Chamber Orchestra bring Cunningham's compositions to life...

After not really enjoying Michael G. Cunningham's 2017 release, An Arc of Quartets, I was unsure as what to expect here. I'm not a lover of experimental classical music that doesn't evoke some sort of deep emotional feeling, as in his previous release. It was a pleasant surprise to discover that his new recording, Mezzanine Seat, is poles apart from An Arc of Quartets, being full of spirit, emotional themes and beautiful, melancholic moments.

In the three-part composition 'Bach Diadem', Cunningham pays tribute to J.S. Bach and incorporates 18th-century orchestral influence in his compositions. On this release he maps out stories, through his compositions, that pick out instruments to take centre stage, acting as characters in an opera. This is perfectly illustrated in 'Clarinet Concerto', where the clarinet is seen as the protagonist in the narrative, carried by the orchestra.

If I was to attempt to try to extol the merits of this beautiful recording to someone that wasn't overly au fait with classical music, I'd entice them to buy it by describing it as having a hint of John Williams. I caught little bits littering this recording that sounded like they could have been in Star Wars: Episode IV or Raiders of the Lost Ark. In addition, the opening of 'Clarinet Concerto Op. 186 - Charivari' briefly reminded me of Alan Silvestri's score for Back to the Future.

For those more classically minded, there are segments that bring to mind Prokofiev's Romeo and Juliet.

It's not that Cunningham is paying homage, as there are no real similar themes. It's more in the use of instruments and how they play off one another. As modern classical music goes, it doesn't come much interesting than this.

It's a beautifully diverse and emotionally rich album.


Darren Rea

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