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“The Cave of Wondrous Voice”
Mark Abel: Intuition’s Dance [1] – Four Poems of Marina Tsvetaeva [2] – The Elastic Hours [2] – Clarinet Trio [1]

Hila Plitmann (soprano), Sabrina-Vivian Höpcker (violin), Fred Sherry (cello), David Shifrin (clarinet), Carol Rosenberger, Dominic Cheli (piano), Sarah Beck (English horn)
Recording: Oktaven Audio, Mount Vernon, New York [1], Capitol Recording Studios, Hollywood, California [2] (September 11 and 13, 2019 [1], October 7 and 23, 2019 [2]) – 67’33
Delos Productions DE 3570 (Distributed by Naxos of America) – Booklet in English

Mark Abel is a moving target...his mind having a boatload of ideas. Taking in life as a journalist, a rock band composer and producer has given him exposure to a myriad of concepts. It wasn’t until 2012 when The Dream Gallery, a seven-movement cycle, was released that pianist Carol Rosenberger perked up her ears, finding something uniquely absorbent. Now comes Delos Productions’ fifth Abel release, "The Cave of Wondrous Voice", which jumps back to chamber music, and in a certain way, pays homage to the Connecticut native's father, an admirer of such a genre.

Borrowing from Marina Tsvetaeva’s The Sybil, the CD’s title is a wonderment of powerful words and musical footprints that has a ubiquitous outreach. Merely reading the poetic text by the Russian is emotionally crushing. While merely flatlined at times (and most certainly in “O sorrow floods my eyes!”), Marina Tsvetaeva takes ever so small steps of abrogation, repealing hurt and replacing it with slivers of hope [though paltry at best after she wrote a letter indicating "God punished me" when she felt responsiblity for the death of her daughter, Alya, leading her to commit suicide]. M. Abel’s lines require an extremely high tessitura, music that's well-suited for Israeli Hila Plitmann. It speaks directly to the writer's sorrowful life. In a propulsion of unsettledness and like a mighty javelin, Hila Plitmann's voice pierces the heart: remarkable candor and starkness. Sybil, the proverbial soothsayer, has the power to retract and regain. Mlle Plitmann cuts into our soul with a timbre that’s omniscient and omnipresent. What a scope!

If a comical interlude “tickles your toes”, then the opening Intuition’s Dance is the one to visit. This spiky dialogue between Rosenberger and David Shifrin’s clarinet dances on a whim and a fancy, caked with options by two strong-headed characters. The piece is bubbly.

Sabrina-Vivian Höpcker uses some of the most inventive violin techniques to build her ideas inside The Elastic Hours. Her notes are sharply poised and, occasionally, ambiguous in thought. Focusing on two days of the week, Friday and Saturday, they abound in universality. Friday’s the end of a long work week (“What Friday Brought”)...too much; Saturday (“Saturday Circumference”) simply moves along with a “kick back and relax” mentality...but does it, really? Dominic Cheli’s introspections have a broader narration on the weekend. The music isn’t imagined as “anticipating”, rather they’re randomized events and nonrecurring, having unique meaning to each and every one of us. The spat with a nightmarish tumult must be stifled by a shift into some placid moments by M. Cheli. Saturday should be a respite, but, maybe anxiety has already set in, thinking ahead about the coming week. Can't we all relate?

Due to paternal persuasions, M. Abel’s affinity towards Brahms’s Clarinet Trio, opus 114 made an indelible impression. Inside the composer’s own Clarinet Trio, the tripartite consortium has more introspection and a deeper grain...Fred Sherry “slices away at the dense matter of resolve, as if in a perfecting array”. Tempering the tensions, Carol Rosenberger is never far away from the freedom to conduct her own “opinion” upon the piece. Patience upon “The Unfolding” unveils, retracts, unveils, then, more broadly-speaking, channels a more poignant conversation. To that extent, M. Sherry has the last draw to the movement. The ensuing “In Good Time” is drenched in large a cloth of sobriety...steep and dank. The cello gives a flickering "pat on the back" to Ralph Vaughan Williams while col legno battuto is exercised (4’05) to anxious effect. As if to close out the piece in a ray of sunshine, performers resort to placidity (5’23) in a quasi-Copland ode to The Tender Land.

Mark Abel’s new album is an invigorating trek. When all is said and done, "The Cave of Wondrous Voice" speaks to every individual. After all, life is one big circumference...it keeps on repeating itself. Beguiling.

Christie Grimstad




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