Terry Plumeri


The Fanfare Magazine Review of the Romance for Clarinet, Strings and Harp by Robert Schulslaper

 Composer/conductor Johnterryl Plumeriís Bassoon Concerto has been praised and insightfully analyzed by Paul Snook and James Reel had very positive things to say about his conducting of three Tchaikovsky symphonies (see the feature/review in Fanfare 30:6). His chamber music is exotic, in the sense that Debussyís Syrinx (for solo flute) could be labeled exotic, and also for the Japanese leanings I hear in Reflections On a Twilight Sky and Evening Light. The other works, while hauntingly captivating, stem from another lyrical or motivic source altogether. The Debussy analogy is merely intended to be suggestive of a mysterious quality in Sand Without Water, which features the flute. Plumeri uses short, hypnotic figures to support the flute part, which in turn evolves a longer narrative through the accretions of small units into longer phrases. At times I felt an Eastern European influence in Plumeriís music, at others a distant Russian presence and there were even a few moments in Night Forest that put me in mind of the beginning of Stravinskyís Rite.

By contrast, the Romance for Clarinet, Strings, and Harp recalled Vaughn Williams and other English composers of that time. Still, these were transitory associations and donít really encapsulate Plumeriís style, which is very much his own. Itís interesting, however, that he does work closely with a Russian orchestra and certainly loves Tchaikovsky, so maybe Iím not too far off on that score. In any case, whatever technique he employs, and whatever influences he melds together, the end result is highly listenable and absorbing. Although sometimes meditative, the music is far from static and in some cases can be quite dynamic and riveting: Iím thinking of a moment in Reflections on a Twilight Sky when a vigorously bowed cello and rapid harp figures unite to increase tension. Earlier in that piece the use of the harp brought to mind a koto, another touch reinforcing the Japanese connection. The piano substitutes for the harp in Evening Light, which would probably make it more accessible to musicians wishing to play it: harps arenít nearly so thick on the ground as pianos. Although I think the harp functions better in evoking the Japanese aura, the piano works well enough, especially when so well played as here.

In summing up my overall response to Plumeriís music I can do no better that to quote Paul Snook, who rightly feels that ďthe emotional curve of this music has a kind of dramatic inevitability that just carries the listener along without questioning and leaves him fully gratified.Ē Plumeri conducts his music with a beautiful sensitivity to atmosphere and pace, giving his soloists plenty of room to shape their parts, yet never fragmenting the well-planned narrative flow. The musicians are recorded with a warm yet clear sound and a natural perspective that facilitates complete immersion in Plumeriís distinctive creations. Recommended.

Robert Schulslaper - Fanfare Magazine


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