August 11, 2017

McGill/McHale Trio Makes Recording Debut With 'Portraits' on Cedille Records

Flutist Demarre McGill, Clarinetist Anthony McGill, and Pianist Michael McHale Create World-Premiere Recordings of Works by Valerie Coleman, Chris Rogerson, and Paul Schoenfield
Oscar-winning 'Moonlight' actor Mahershala Ali narrates on Coleman’s "Portraits of Langston"

The McGill/McHale Trio, whose members are Demarre McGill, principal flute of the SeattleSymphony Orchestra; his brother Anthony McGill, principal clarinet of the New York Philharmonic; and Irish pianist Michael McHale, makes its recording debut with Portraits — Works for Flute, Clarinet & Piano on Cedille Records.

Portraits, available August 11, features world-premiere recordings of 20th and 21st centuryworks for the trio’s uncommon instrumentation. These include Valerie Coleman’s Portraits of Langston, which gives the album its title; Chris Rogerson’s A Fish Will Rise; and Paul Schoenfield’s Sonatina for Flute, Clarinet and Piano (Cedille Records CDRF 90000 172).

Other recorded firsts include Philip Hammond’s trio version of his The Lamentation of Owen O’Neil and McHale’s own arrangements of Sergei Rachmaninov’s Vocalise and the Irish traditional song The Lark in the Clear Air. While not a premiere, Guillaume Connesson’s Techno-Parade for flute, clarinet, and piano is a rarity on recordings.

Rogerson’s A Fish Will Rise evokes rippling water and sparkling sunlight. The work’s titlecomes from Norman Maclean’s Montana fly-fishing memoir, A River Runs Through It. Flute, clarinet, and piano seamlessly intertwine and frequently swap roles amid recurring cycles of tranquility and surging energy. Rogerson originally scored A Fish Will Rise for piano trio as part of his River Songs (2014). He re-orchestrated it expressly for the McGill/McHale Trio.

Coleman’s Portraits of Langston (2007) is a six-movement suite inspired by AfricanAmerican poet Langston Hughes’s verses mirroring the sights and sounds of the Harlem Renaissance and jazz-age Paris of the 1920s. Oscar-winning actor Mahershala Ali (Moonlight) reads the corresponding Hughes poem before each movement.

In the suite’s first movement, “Prelude: Helen Keller,” the clarinet emerges to find light within the darkness. “Danse Africaine” traces the enigmatic gestures of a dancer who is “like a wisp of smoke around the fire.” “Le Grand Duc Mambo” depicts a spirited bar fight in Paris’s red-light district through a flute and clarinet duet. Hughes dedicated “In Time of Silver Rain” to African American Broadway playwright Lorraine Hansberry as encouragement during her battle with cancer. The corresponding movement begins as a noble, calm chorale and develops an optimistic, confident outlook. The score of “Parisian Cabaret” instructs performers to play “with a brisk stride piano feel.” The sixth and final movement, “Harlem’s Summer Night,” offers the fullest and richest textures of the entire work as each instrument stakes out its own independent yet compatible path.

Schoenfield’s spirited Sonatina, from 1994, springs surprises on the Charleston, rag, and jig dance forms. Intricate rhythms, unexpected harmonic patterns, and virtuosic technical demands contribute to a “subversion of expectations,” writes Elinor Olin in the album’s liner notes.

McHale’s arrangement of Rachmaninov’s Vocalise splits the original vocal line between flute and clarinet, supported by Rachmaninov’s original piano accompaniment. Hammond’s TheLamentation of Owen O’Neil (2011/2016), based on an 18th-century air about an early hero of Irish nationalism, and McHale’s arrangement of The Lark in the Clear Air (2016) are serenely beautiful treatments of irresistible Irish folk tunes. Connesson’s Techno – Parade (2002) channels the spirit and energy of electronic pop music.

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