John Carollo has released “Starry Night for String Orchestra” on Navona Records. The series of abstract and edgy contemporary pieces feature Carollo’s writing within a variety of settings including the BRNO Saxophone Quartet.

On the opening track we can hear thickly textured string voicings lending way to piccicati, which provides the listener with some wonderful music. The writing reflects 20th century, modern values yet remains very listenable for the casual “classical” listener such as myself.

As the title aptly indicates, many of the works on this recording feature the string orchestra conducted by Petr Vronsky. There are however two compositions of particular interest here in this forum. The first is Quartet for violin, cello, clarinet & piano No. 1 and the second being Moravian Sax in the Afternoon featuring the BRNO Sax Quartet.

Ales Janacek has a wonderfully rich sound on clarinet on Quartet for violin, cello, clarinet & piano No. 1. As  you would expect, his technique and intonation are near flawless. His excursions into the altissimo are pristine in both sound and quality. The entire ensemble plays with passion and conviction. They include Marian Pavlik (Cello), Vit Muzik (Violin), Lice Kaucka (Piano) and Janacek (Clarinet). Janacek plays a prominent roll in each of the movements, often given the opening statement.

Moravian Sax in the Afternoon, featuring the BRNO Saxophone Quartet is another well-executed piece. The writing seems of similar style to the other compositions on “Starry Night” however the saxophone quartet setting offers a markedly different color and quality for Carollo’s writing. The BRNO Quartet is precise in timing and intonation and clearly plays with passion. That being said, I prefer Carollo’s works within the other settings. Transcendence in the Age of War, for Concert Band by comparison offers a much broader palette for Corolla’s colors and textures.

Fans of well-performed, abstract compositions within a variety of settings should check this recording out if you are looking for something far from ordinary.

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