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Mark Abel's 'The Cave of Wondrous Voice' is a very worthwhile hour of contemporary music for traditional instruments / ALL MUSIC

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Composer Mark Abel has been known for his distinctive vocal music idiom, late Romantic in its aesthetic but often shading off into dissonance. Soprano Hila Plitmann knows his style well, and she is present here in Abel's Four Poems of Marina Tsvetaeva, with difficult but evocative texts translated into English here for the first time. Tsvetaeva was set by Shostakovich at the end of his life, and by Sofia Gubaidulina at the beginning of her international career. That will be enough for many art song devotees, but most of the album is devoted to new instrumental music, more tonal and interestingly divergent from the style of Abel's songs. The three-movement Trio for clarinet, cello, and piano is a representative example of the mixture of the programmatic and the abstract in these chamber works. The first movement, "The Unfolding," begins with an open interval on the cello and develops various relationships of the other instruments to it; it's unconventional and absorbing. The other two works, Intuition's Dance and The Elastic Hours, have the same mixture of abstract and evocative, and offer a humorous tone that plays nicely off the serious Tsvetaeva songs. A very worthwhile hour of contemporary music for traditional instruments.

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