- Tempest Fantasy, for clarinet, violin, cello & piano
- Mood Swings, for piano trio
- B.A.S.S. Variations, for piano trio
- Scherzo for piano trio
From the evidence of the music on this disc, some of which brought its composer the 2004 Pulitzer Prize for Music, Paul Moravec has managed the neat trick of writing music that is conservative in style without affiliating itself with any specific style of the past. Although lyrical, it is too carefully controlled to be called Romantic in spirit. Except for the "B.A.S.S. Variations" on track 7, it largely avoids the referential tendencies of the neo-Classic school, and even in that work the sequence of textures grafted onto a basic variation structure is extraordinarily unexpected. It is not minimalist in the least but quite dense and demanding of the listener even as its basic language is accessible. Moravec's music is suffused with triads and with tunes based on triads, but there are a lot of each, placed into constantly evolving relationships and defining individual tonal realms in each work. The closest analogue from the past is the music of Ravel, who was also slippery when it came to categories; another comparison can be drawn to Brahms in the way the music invests craft and complexity into an essentially lyrical idiom. Moravec is demanding of performers in the same way as Ravel was, but the Trio Solisti, for whom these works were mostly written, is in tune with the challenges he sets. The technical opening "Tempest Fantasy" -- the musical depiction of Shakespearean characters -- is as familiar as can be, yet there is a freshness of spirit to each of its five movements. Among the four works on the album (originally released by Arabesque and now finding a good home as part of Naxos' American Classics series), "Mood Swings," track 6, has received the most publicity. The title refers both to the work's stated aim of tracing the workings of the human nervous system (an unsupportable scientific conceit of a type that's still too common in contemporary composition) and to the swing rhythms that progressively develop over the course of the work. The illuminating booklet notes are by critic Terry Teachout, who has frequently praised Moravec's work, but the listener is apt to become absorbed in the music even without them.