Fall Music Preview: Modern Composition

Fall is an introspective season, filled with nostalgia, loss and the sense that something is ending.  The timbres of modern composition are a perfect fit for such thoughts.  Pianos abound in our fall slate, but there’s still plenty of room for the orchestras small and large, as heard on many of the season’s top entries.  There’s even a boxed set so large that it includes nearly a disc a day!

Our cover image is taken from David Litchfield’s gorgeous children’s book, The Bear and the Piano.  For more on the artist and the book, visit Litchfield’s website here.

Rich’s Pick:  Dmitry Evgrafov, Comprehension of Light (Fatcat/130701, 13 October)
We’ve been following this young (perhaps now not so young) Moscow pianist since his first modest EP, recorded back when he was a teenager.  With Comprehension of Light, Evgrafov has stepped up to the big leagues, receiving contributions from the Iskra String Quartet and Benoit Pioulard, among others.  The result is a lush suite of vast emotional power, reflecting the composer’s journey from darkness to light.  Fatcat has given him their vote of confidence, and now we have as well.


On the heels of Constellation’s GY!BE announcement comes word of a new Esmerine album, Mechanics of Dominion.  While the band is known for recording stunning post-rock albums with elements of modern composition, this one flips the script, balancing horns and strings with a host of mallet instruments.  Check out the first video below and the cover to the right (20 October).  Rachel’s pianist Rachel Grimes returns with Astrïd on the expansive Through the Sparkle, which combines elements of desert rock with modern composition.  The listening experience is intricate and nuanced, just what we’ve come to expect from each (Gizeh, 1 September).  Following a short hiatus, Austin’s Balmorhea re-emerges as a duo, drawing comparison to its roots.  The release of Clear Language may have been unexpected, but the band’s familiar warmth is not (Western Vinyl, 22 September).

Lost Tribe Sound’s subscription series continues with Hymn Binding, the latest string-drenched effort from From the Mouth of the Sun (Aaron Martin and Dag Rosenqvist).  The lovely presentation will make the album look great alongside the recent pair of releases from Alder & Ash (22 September).  This will be followed by a vocal album from William Ryan Fritch, whose music has frequently graced our pages; Behind the Pale is set for release 20 October, and as an extra bonus, an instrumental version will be made available exclusively through the Bandcamp site.


The popularity of Piano Day is a two-edged sword.  On the one hand, piano artists have seen renewed appreciation of and attention to their efforts.  On the other, so many piano artists have been releasing albums that they seem to be cannibalizing each other’s chance at coverage.  The toughest road seems to be that of the solo pianist, who must rely on a single instrument to make an impact.  Yet for those who break through, the rewards are even greater, as the competition has a honing effect.  Sternlumen takes this route with the romantic Nørrebro Nights, a swift-fingered tribute to his local neighborhood (23 September), as does Matti Bye with the tender This Forgotten Land (Tona Serenad, 3 November).  Francesco Tristano offers a team up with Chilly Gonzales on Piano Circle Songs (Sony Classical, 8 September).  And while it’s highly unlikely our site will review it (simply because everyone else will), it’s fair to mention that Abba’s Benny Anderson is about to release a solo piano album as well.  The boldly titled Piano is out 29 September on Deutsche Grammofon.

Matt Emery makes his debut with Empire (pictured right), combining piano and strings in cinematic fashion (Injazero, 15 September), while Ed Carlsen follows suit on Elusive Frames (Moderna, 8 September).  Former post-rocker Aija Alsiņa splashes onto the scene with Domum, which contains an endearing track meant to accompany a favorite book (13 September). Michael Vincent Waller presents piano and cello duets on the intelligent, sedate Trajectories (Recital, 8 September).  Leah Kardos calls on marimba, mellotron and a host of other instruments for her latest cheerful collection.  Rococochet is out 5 September on Bigo & Twigetti, and will be followed by a fall compilation three weeks later.  Enrico Coniglio’s instrumental/vocal project My Home, Sinking returns with King of Corns, welcoming guest stars James Murray, Chantal Acda and more (Infraction, 16 September), while Electric Youth rustles up some scares with supernatural female vox on their original score for Breathing (Milan, 22 September).


1631 Recordings continues its remarkable release schedule with a slew of releases, as follows: Sophie Hutchings’ Byways and Library Tapes’ Komorebi (1 September), Matt Stewart-Evans’ Three, Tristan Eckerson‘s Disarm and Akira Kosemura‘s In the Dark Woods (15 September, the latter a joint release with Schole), and Jacob Lindhagen‘s Places (22 September).  Denovali continues to make inroads into modern composition with Philipp Rumsch‘s A Forward-Facing Review, a 20-minute EP of piano and light drone, and Mario Diaz de Leon‘s full-length electro-acoustic Sanctuary, featuring TAK Ensemble (both released 29 September).

Innova has a host of worthy releases set for fall.  Jesse Jones makes his debut with Ephemera, working with the Argento Chamber Ensemble and the works of Poe (22 September).  Molly Gebrian (violin) & Danny Holt piano and percussion) team up on Trios for Two (22 September).  Conrad Winslow works with Cadillac Moon Ensemble on The Perfect Nothing Catalog, an eclectic, percussive set with electronic undertones (17 November).  Grand Valley State University New Music Ensemble tackles the work of three modern composers on Return, while Stanley Grill works with four new string quartets on At the Center of All Things (both 27 October).  The label is also home to many artists who feature classical vocalists, some of whom also have releases slated for fall.


Double bass player Otto Lindholm is in good company at Gizeh, a label known for its diverse roster.  Alter calls on the timbres of post-rock while remaining a work of modern composition (13 October).  Village Green continues its hot streak with the sophomore album from Piano Magic veteran Angèle David-Guillou.  The elegant touches of En Mouvement are evidence of wisdom and experience (13 October).


More traditional fare can be found at Navona Records, whose September release schedule includes the six-composer Fleeting Realms, the ensemble production Tomorrow’s Air, clarinetist Christopher Nichols‘ Elegia and Carl Vollrath‘s clarinet and trumpet-based Warrior Monks.  Ravello Records is preparing two releases for 8 September:  Steve Rouse‘s modern chamber Morphic Resonance and Ken Walicki‘s electro-acoustic Cyberistan.  The Verve Music Group (which includes Decca and Deutsche Grammofon) has a big bundle of albums slated for fall, addressing classical artists from across the centuries and including some huge boxed sets (a 39-disc Daniel Barenboim set dwarfed by a 57-disc Boston Symphony Orchestra set, a 108-disc Solti set and a 356 disc Karajan set.  Of the most interest to our readers will be Mari Samuelsen‘s Nordic Noir, which includes a rendition of ‘Olafur Arnalds’ “Near Light” (Decca, 15 September).  Only one disc though.

Svarte Greiner‘s Apart is a collection of cello improvisations, stark and at times atonal, released concurrently with a new edition of Knive (Miasmah, 6 October).  Avant cellist raven returns with the night is dark, the night is silent, the night is bright, the night is loud ~ and if that long title reminds readers of post-rock, it’s no coincidence.  Many influences appear on the album, due 12 October on Art As Catharsis.  Laura Cannell recorded her latest violin album in a crumbling church, which gives Hunter Huntress Hawker a raw, cavernous feel (Brawl, 20 October).  If you’ve never heard a solo harmonica album before, now here’s your chance: David First‘s Same Animal, Different Cages, Vol. 3: Civil War Songs (for Solo Harmonica) is said to be “a reinvention” of the instrument and follows two prior volumes of acoustic guitar and analogue synthesizer (Fabrica, 17 November).  And Gabriel Saloman concludes his Movement Building trilogy on Shelter Press with his most expansive vision yet, the score to a dance performance inspired by Maslow’s hierarchy of needs (15 September).

Richard Allen


  1. Jack

    You guys are amazing. Keep it up, checking your site makes my day.

  2. Pingback: A Closer Listen’s Fall Modern Composition Preview – Avant Music News

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