American music in the early 21st C. is a musical circus. Anderson and Fader offer a disc that traverses a broad range, outlined by two Pulitzer Prize winners – the brilliant maverick David Lang on one extreme, and the unrepentant modernist Charles Wuorinen on another. This disc includes many works commissioned by the duo, and most of them are recorded here for the first time.
Soprano Elizabeth Farnum is featured on Sidney Corbett's poignant masque, Archipel Chagall II: Le Cirque and acclaimed soprano Haleh Abghari joins the duo in Anderson's setting of Gillian Welch's My Morphine (a pristine example of Southern decadence). My Morphine sets the tone for Scott Johnson's psychedelic Bowery Haunt, a latter-day prog-rock tour de force. Wuorinen's Dodecadactyl likens the duo's 12 strings to poetic units or ‘dactyls’, here paired with Martin Rokeach's vastly contrasting Fantasy on 12 Strings, the work which won the Cygnus Ensemble's composition award in 1996. Composer, virtuoso pianist and Maui resident Robert Pollock is represented here with his highly virtuosic and ‘entertwining’ Entertwined. Chester Biscardi's work never fails to garner extraordinary critical praise, most recently for Anderson-Fader's performance at the Library of Congress, where the Washington Post cited the "delicate and beautiful Resisting Stillness for two guitars".
It was comforting to be part of a project that we all understood. The Cold War was an era of shared values to a great extent, subject to rebellion from those who felt those values as a tyranny. "There is no name yet for this kind of music," wrote Los Angeles Times music critic Mark Swed of David Lang's work. We are now in the simultaneously wonderful and terrifying position where none of the music that matters to us fits neatly into any existing category (including the late great works of the aging and dying modernists), so it's exhilarating and exciting but unpredictable and anxiety-provoking as well.