Garth Baxter Resistance Review
By: Elberton Cisnero
Composer Garth Baxter is best known for his modern traditionalist style of writing. Baxter was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, in 1946 and moved to California when he was nine years old. He earned music degrees from Pepperdine University and California State University at Northridge. He studied composition with Robert Hall Lewis, Joseph Wagner, and William Thornton. His compositions for chorus, orchestra, symphonic band, piano, organ, flute, voice, and guitar, as well as other instrumental combinations, have been performed throughout the world. His works are published by Columbia Music Company, ALRY Publications, Les Productions D.OZ, Voices of Training, Guitar Chamber Music Press and Mel Bay Publications. He has received numerous awards, commissions and honors for his music. His latest recording Resistance is a beautifully conceived recording that evokes beauty and complexity is a gorgeous soundscape.
The opening track is “The Silver Run,” Baxter calls upon the sonic colors of piano and flute to deliver his composition inspired by The Silver Run area in Maryland, as told by the voices of flute and piano. Commencing with a haunting pick-up phrase from the flute that is joined by cascading chords from the piano, Baxter instantly establishes his harmonic colors as modern, but still based in the Classical tradition. Flutist Melissa Wertheimer’s tone and articulation match the style and shapes of the melodies. Providing a warm, yet focused, tone that is clear in its projection of the moving harmonic structures of the piano. Pianist Andrew Stewart is both sensitive as an accompanist and direct in his conveying of the melody when it is passed to the piano. Baxter’s composition gives space to both instrumental colors and his form is clear as he develops the themes. There is a beautiful interplay between the flute and the upper melody of the piano’s right-hand part in the middle section. This is classical music that represents the history of the tradition while moving it forward.
Baxter’s compositions are not only ones of substance of form and melodies, but he also finds emotion and inspiration in subjects that have depth of emotion. “MacPherson’s Lament” is a composition for string quartet that is inspired by Scottish fiddler James MacPherson and his last composition, written just before his hanging. The intriguing part of the composition is how Baxter is able to bring the sounds of modern string quartet sonorities and marry them with a Scottish fiddle overtone. That alone is worth a down load, hearing the singing qualities of the main theme that has elements of the lyrical Scottish fiddler tradition is excellent. The composition is expertly performed by the Azimuth String Quartet, which is comprised of Nicholas Currie: violin, James Tung: violin, Alice Tung: viola and Adam Gonzalez: cello. Again, Baxter displays a mastery of form and balance in the combining of old and new in a manner that is beautiful and enriching.
Following the success of Baxter’s 2018 release Ask the Moon, he has come out with a strong follow up recording that allies 19th-century Romanticism with the musical developments of the 20th and 21st Century in the form of Resistance.
Release Date: February 8, 2019