Echoes of our time
One of my primary goals in writing the quintet was that it be clear and self-explanatory. Given this goal, detailed notes could be considered a distraction or even a failing, so please forgive the brevity of these. The piece is in four movements. The first is a cross between theme and variations on a ground bass. The second movement is moderate with some sense of humour. The third is slow and devoid of humour. The fourth is fast (and difficult). If this leaves you wondering what to expect, all the better.In the age of the not so innocent ear and the lost art of listening this sleeve note says it all. It was penned by Edgar Meyer for the 1998 recording of his Quintet for double-bass and string quartet which he made with the Emersons. The Quintet was released with a coupling of Ned Rorem's Fourth String Quartet, both premiere recordings, on Deutsche Grammophon's Echo 20/21 series. Edgar Meyer's credits include working with Garth Brooks and The Chieftains, the latter are also acknowledged by Jordi Savall as an influence on his recent Celtic Viol CD. The 1995 Quintet further blurs the boundaries between folk, country and jazz and its continuing neglect is a mystery.
Deutsche Grammophon's Echo 20/21 series marked a final flourish of creativity by the label in the late 1990s before it was purchased by Vivendi and sucked into the all consuming vortex of Universal Music. Echo 20/21, with the strapline Echoes of our time, was clearly an attempt to mimic the success of Manfred Eicher's European Contemporary Music label. ECM's influence can clearly be seen in the thumbnail of the Sofia Gubaidalina album above.
The artwork for the digipaks may have been derivative but Echo 20/21 released some very interesting and important music including Cornelius Cardew's The Great Learning, Takemitsu played by the music department of the Japanese imperial household and Boulez directing Ligeti. In an echo of our time, all the discs have been deleted in their original CD formats, to make room presumably for Sting's If On A Winter's Night. But they live on thanks to the download and you can buy Edgar Meyer's enchanting Quintet here. Thank goodness digital formats can keep great recordings from the past available. What a pity technology cannot do the same for the visionary thinking that created them.
I bought the Meyer/Rorem CD when it was first released. Any copyrighted material on these pages is included as "fair use", for the purpose of study, review or critical analysis only, and will be removed at the request of copyright owner(s). Report broken links, missing images and errors to - overgrownpath at hotmail dot co dot uk
I don't know what makes me more upset... that such labels will never again undertake such ambitious recording projects, that the CD formats are deleted so quickly, or that these labels have been reduced to merely endlessly repackaging their back catalogue (oh, sorry, let's not forget new recordings such as the Sting album!)?
We really do have to be thankful for labels like ECM, Kairos and Neos or even some of the US labels popping up recently for continuing to release stuff that would otherwise not see the light of day...though I wish those labels would be more inclusive. They're usually have a singular focus--such as continental modernist, or in the case of NMC, mostly UK composers.
There's a disconnect; in such difficult times, it would be nice to have more dialogue and mutual support rather than more niche labels that don't have anything to do with each other. I love the diversity, but lament the fragmentation.