New CD Sometimes the City is Silent by Meerenai Shim is Delightfully Simple, yet Incredibly Complex
The opening track “Hamburger” Flute Sonata in G major was written by CPE Bach in 1786. The music is florid and ornate, yet with a sense of regular structure typical of the early classical period. Meerenai captures the mood of the music on her modern Boehm-system flute with a sense of ease. While there are moments the performance doesn't quite flow naturally, we do get a sense of the playful nature of the music. Accompanied by Lori Lack, the clean recording displays a charming duet between the piano and flute, highlighting the "soloist" while gliding gracefully along.
Noah Luna was commissioned to write the next piece, Entrometido, for flute & Cello. With a thorough sense of 21st century music, Entrometido is amazing and lyric, quarrelsome and constantly interrupted, playful and diverse in scope of tonal color. Meerenai really gets a chance to show off her vast array of technical skill on the flute. The lyric passages are flowing and lovely, while the jagged sections are punctuated and percussive. Rachel Turner Houk commands the cello with the same precision, creating a kaleidoscope of colors from drums and guitar to cello and harp (all from one instrument). The music of Noah Luna is fascinating, exciting and exquisitely well played.
Sérénade aux étoiles by Cécile Chaminade is a lovely, lush romantic piece. Written in 1911, it captures the delightful lyricism of the late Romantic era while preluding to the sentimental melodies of early film scores. Meerenai never over-plays the extreme rubato in this style of music yet still captures the emotional roller-coaster of the genre. Lori Lack accompanies on the piano.
The title track Sometimes the City is Silent was commissioned by the National Flute Association for the 2003 High School Soloist Competition, written by Janice Misurell-Mitchell. Similar to Entrometido, Sometimes is a modern piece complete with a wide range of flute effects and extended techniques: singing while playing, tongue pizzicato, tongue stops, whisper tones and flutter tonguing. None of these are easy to accomplish, and to shift so rapidly from one to another with breaking the flow of the piece shows real finesse. This solo work is intense and yet incredibly intimate. We hear every breath, every punctuation, practically every thought, as Meerenai moves through the music.
A collection of arrangements of Romantic Folk Dances by Bela Bartók written in 1915 and Carl Reinecke's “Undine” Sonata for piano and flute written in 1882 follow. These lovely pieces provide a nice collection of more traditional sounding flute music. While the performances are clean, these tracks are not what makes this CD so engaging.
Zooming ahead to the final track Zoom Tube Meerenai displays the intense control required by jazz flute. Written by Ian Clarke in 1999, it captures the sounds of the London Tube. The music is all at once so very cool, crazily complex and overwhelmingly interesting -- a great way to close out an engaging album of flute pieces.
Overall the album displays both a broad range of musical styles and highlights the diverse arsenal of techniques at Meerenai's disposal. The music is intelligent and engaging, without needing any post performance effects. What we get with Sometimes the City is Silent is pure flute, with all the color and complexity imaginable. The recording is clean, the performances sharp; there is no need to add to the sound. Instead we hear all the nuances Meerenai brings to her music. For a debut album this displays remarkable poise; Meerenai is destined to bring many more alluring pieces to life with purity and command of her instrument.