February 23, 2023


Nancy Wins at Friendship. By “Olivia Jaimes.” Andrews McMeel. $12.99.

Heart of the City Collection #2: Lost and Found. By Steenz (Christina Stewart). Andrews McMeel. $12.99.

     The near-death of newspapers and specifically of their comic-strip pages, which have recently dwindled to almost nothing, have combined to accelerate a trend in which comics done on paper or in book form have metamorphosed into, in effect, screen captures of Internet work. The art has become increasingly simplistic, the characters created in line with whatever memes-of-the-moment are out there online, and the artists themselves, when it comes to continuations or revivals of longstanding strips, are pulled from the Internet world – with which they presumably are best able to communicate. It is easy to ask whether there is any point to all this: the newer versions of classic strips are generally less clever, less amusing, and altogether less engaging than the originals. But the fans of the originals have aged beyond the point of being a target audience for the purveyors of comics, and the targeting of younger readers who know only what they see online and whose expectations are formed by the meme world is sensible from a business perspective. And so we have ever-so-up-to-date versions of Ernie Bushmiller’s Nancy and Mark Tatulli’s Heart of the City, each of them rethought to contain all the elements that are now de rigueur in visual communication: multiethnic, multiracial character groups, households headed by two women or two men, the preteen stirrings of same-gender sexuality, and so forth.

     So now – specifically since 2018 – Nancy is under the aegis of the pseudonymous “Olivia Jaimes,” a Web cartoonist who for no apparent reason chooses to remain anonymous. “Jaimes” has reimagined the deliberately bland appearance of Nancy for the Internet age, keeping the precocious eight-year-old as super-simple as always in drawing style but having her interact on a regular basis with modern technology. Jaimes is not a particularly good artist – she has difficulty drawing feet and even greater trouble with shoes, most of which look like cushy bedroom slippers; and her decision to give Aunt Fritzi tiny nostrils without a nose makes the character seem like a close relative of Lord Voldemort. Also in Nancy Wins at Friendship, there is a panel in which Nancy throws up her arms – which turn out to be disproportionately long – and one in which Fritzi rescues Nancy from a puddle and turns out to have decidedly nonhuman proportions. None of this matters, of course, since good art is not the point of the new Nancy. “Jaimes” sometimes tries a slightly clever approach to a panel, and this works about half the time: a “feedback” one with multiple panel overlays is not particularly well-done, but a four-panel sequence showing Nancy and Fritzi doing a jigsaw puzzle – with all four panels themselves looking like assembled puzzles – is clever and effective. The dialogue in this version of Nancy is updated for contemporary tastes but still kept very simple, although errors do creep in (“smell of a campire” on page 164). The occasional “meta” strip, which actually reflects an element introduced by Bushmiller (1905-1982), is fun, as in one where Fritzi examines the rings of a tree trunk “from when the artist was bad at drawing circles” and “from when she got better at circles.” And there are other reflections of the original Nancy, most of them mild and at least some likely unintentional: Nancy cleverly cutting a diagonal slice from a cake before reassembling it, promising to spend more time chewing a bite of her food and then piling a huge amount on her fork for the next bite, making cupcake mix in a colander so it will flow through the holes directly into the baking pan, setting up corners of the house with lots of creature comforts when she knows she is about to be made to sit in a corner, and so on. These strips are the best elements of the “Jaimes” version of Nancy. In contrast, strips that try to ring changes on the original Nancy characters tend to fall flat, such as one in which Sluggo, asked about all the patches on his jacket, says nothing about being desperately poor (which would be a no-no today), but comments, “I don’t question the holes. They just appear on their own.” The underlying harmless mischief of the original Nancy seems almost quaint in some of its reflections in the “Jaimes” version, as in a strip where Nancy, told not to move the sprinkler so it will reach her in the shade, sets up a trampoline so the spray hits it and then bounces off onto her shady spot. “Jaimes” is not the first artist to have taken up Nancy after Bushmiller’s death, but she is the first to try to remake the strip to fit an entirely new audience and new, electronically focused world. The result is fine, really, if scarcely very distinctive and not particularly tuned into the history of the characters – but who needs history in the Internet age, anyway?

     The Internet-based homogenization of comic strips is such that the art in one tends to look remarkably like the art in the next one. Christina Stewart’s oh-so-with-it version of Heart of the City has an appearance very much like that of Nancy by “Jaimes,” although Stewart is more capable when portraying footwear. Originally, Heart of the City (the city being Philadelphia) was a family-and-friends-focused strip in which elementary-school-age Heart lived in her own world through her obsessions with Hollywood and celebrity culture. Stewart turns the strip into a middle-school one – making Heart 11 years old – and includes the typical fashionable gender, ethnic, racial and social/family mixes for Heart’s friend group. Heart is not much of a protagonist, not being interesting enough to be the center of the strip except in name: the comings and goings of her friends are more important than those of Heart herself. In the second Stewart-created Heart of the City collection, there is an awkwardly managed attempt to establish a relationship between Heart and her father, Antonio: of course, her parents are divorced. At one point, Antonio visits and brings Heart tickets she wants to a Broadway show – because Heart’s mom, Addy, has gotten him to bring them. At another point, Heart, who has been given the understudy role in a school play and resents not getting the lead, turns to Antonio for advice. Neither of these sequences is particularly affecting (much less, umm, “Heartwarming”). The strip is far more focused on various friends created by Stewart than on any carryovers from the earlier version of the strip, although some characters from the earlier strip have been retained and given a different orientation. Among the middle-schoolers here is student-theater technician Charlotte, who has two mothers. Also here is Kat, nominally Heart’s best friend, who is attracted to other girls and has an ongoing flirtation with a newly introduced girl named Lee in Lost and Found. And so on. Heart’s best male friend, Dean, is less important in the Stewart strip, but is used in the new collection to bring about some specific sequences, such as one in which his cousin Sean shows up and turns out to be an unreconstructed “macho” type (“In my school, you get beat up for being girly”). Stewart likes to show the characters on the verge of adolescence – one series is about Heart, Kat and Charlotte all growing armpit hair. And she likes to create mini-stories that seem to have some promise – a detective sequence, a “Friendship Matchmakers” idea – but has little patience for carrying the ideas through, with the result that they peter out before fully establishing themselves. In the Internet era, none of this really seems to matter, since attention spans can be minuscule online and there is always something new to see or do or try out: continuity is an unneeded luxury (not a luxury at all, in fact). So Stewart, like “Jaimes,” is producing a comic with blocky-style characters, minimal backgrounds, little continuity, and characters differentiated not by personality but by surface-level differences such as skin color. All this is in line with the rapidly changing nature of comic strips themselves, and it is likely that in the not-too-distant future, the earlier versions of strips such as Nancy and Heart of the City will be relegated to the same old-fashioned museums where the fossil remnants of the newspapers for which they were created will also be found.


Franck: Six pieces d’orgue—Grande Pièce Symphonique; Vierne: Symphony No. 6 for Organ; 24 Pièces en style libre—No. 19 (Berceuse). Christopher Houlihan, organ. Azica. $16.99.

Fauré: Impromptus Nos. 1-6; Improvisation, Op. 84, No. 5; Chopin: Impromptus Nos. 1-3; Étude, Op. 25, No. 2; Fantaisie-Impromptu, Op. 66; Berceuse, Op. 57; Ismaël Margain: Improvisation. Ismaël Margain, piano. Naïve. $16.99.

     The organ will always be strongly associated with the German school of composition, because of the transcendent works of Bach (and, to a lesser but significant extent, those of Liszt). But there is a considerable and impressive French component to the organ repertoire as well, neatly encapsulated by Christopher Houlihan on a new Azica CD devoted to music by César Franck and Louis Vierne. Franck’s Grande Pièce Symphonique is a symphony in all but name, being (in effect) a three-movement work and, at some 26 minutes in length, the largest-scale piece from Six pieces d’orgue, Op. 17. Some sense of the work’s breadth and its virtuosity, as well as its symphonic character, may be gleaned from the fact that Franck dedicated it to the brilliant pianist/composer Charles-Valentin Alkan (who had earlier written a Symphony for Solo Piano). Houlihan’s performance fully invokes the symphonic elements of Franck’s work and is also careful to underline the way in which Franck recalls Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9 by reintroducing earlier themes from the work at the start of the final section and then rejecting them. Houlihan’s footwork is as impressive in this conclusion as his keyboard performance: the virtuosity he shows in the pedals complements the keyboard material very well. Franck – who was actually Belgian by birth – brought French organ music a level of expressiveness and dynamism that it had not had before, abetted by the famous organs of Aristide Cavaillé-Coll. It is wholly fitting that Houlihan performs this Franck symphony-in-all-but-name on a French-built organ, albeit a modern one (in New York City). The large scale and intensity of Franck’s work give way on this disc to a lovely little Berceuse by Vierne: simple and pretty, dedicated to Vierne’s daughter Colette, the lullaby becomes a kind of palate cleanser between the large-scale piece by Franck and Vierne’s own Symphony No. 6 for Organ. This is Vierne’s last completed organ symphony, built on a very grand scale indeed, and taken by Houlihan at generally broad tempos that produce a 40-minute immersion in a style that clearly derives from that of Franck while just as clearly partaking of much later rhythmic and harmonic sensibilities: Vierne’s symphony dates to 1930, some 70 years later than Franck’s Grande Pièce Symphonique. Vierne more than matches the emotional intensity for which Franck reaches, and the tying-together of the thematic material in Vierne is even tighter than in Franck: two themes presented in Vierne’s first movement reappear in various guises through all five movements. Houlihan takes the music seriously but not ponderously, his fairly slow tempos notwithstanding: the third-movement Scherzo, for example, has real bounce and a kind of sly wit about it. Although the music on this CD is somewhat rarefied – organ music in general has fanatical devotees amid a sea of indifference – it is played with such élan and enthusiasm that listeners who enjoy the great French organ works will actively hope that Houlihan will record more of them.

     As keyboards go, the piano (essentially a percussion instrument) is heard far more frequently than the organ (essentially a wind instrument), and that is as true in French music as in works from other areas. And it is because of the well-known nature of so much piano music that musicians try so often to find new ways to present pieces – ways that are reflective of the performers’ own thinking and predilections and that, as a result, reach out in an effective way only to audiences predisposed to hear the material in much the same way as the performers do. Thus, French pianist Ismaël Margain, on a new Naïve CD, offers impromptus and other short pieces by Fauré and Chopin – but in an interlocking sequence that is clearly carefully thought out but nevertheless comes across as rather strange. Fauré’s six impromptus and Chopin’s four (including the Fantaisie-Impromptu, Op. 66) are all included here, along with other works by both composers, but Margain alternates the two composers’ works instead of presenting those by one creator and then those by the other. The disc starts with Fauré, then offers Chopin, then more Fauré, then more Chopin, and so on from start to (almost) finish. There is certainly emotional overlap between some of the Fauré pieces and some of those by Chopin; and even though Chopin was not French (despite his fondness for evocative titles such as étude and berceuse), his piano pieces influenced French composers along with many others. Fauré was only four years old when Chopin died, and the Fauré works here date to as late as 1905; the latest one by Chopin is from 1844. It is interesting to hear how much changed and how much did not change in small pieces like these during a time span of six decades. And in that sense, Margain’s sequence is an interesting one that is well worth following. The interest, however, is largely intellectual, while these pieces themselves are anything but that: all of them, by both composers, are intended to convey emotions and to engage listeners through their lyricism and self-contained tone painting (not in the Impressionist sense but in that of presenting small encapsulations of feelings). So there is a disconnect here between the intent of the composers and that of the performer. But there is no denying that Margain plays all the music with considerable sensitivity, a strong sense of flow, a solid understanding of the judicious use of rubato, and clear affection for the material. Just how strongly the pianist “feels” the music is clear from the final track on the disc, an Improvisation by Margain himself that starts with a rhythmic alteration of the theme of Chopin’s Berceuse, Op. 57 (heard a few minutes earlier) and then presents snippets of other works from the CD – all joined into a satisfying whole that neatly encapsulates the program, does not overstay its welcome at its three-and-a-half-minute length, and in its prettiness lies somewhere between an imitation of and a tribute to the rest of the repertoire on the disc. It is hard to fault anything in Margain’s playing, which is limpid, lyrical and nuanced; and certainly his own Improvisation shows clearly just how well he “channels” the feelings and approaches of both Fauré and Chopin. Yet there remains something curiously unsatisfying in this recital, because of the back-and-forth nature of the presentation – which essentially forces listeners to look for strong parallels or strong contrasts between juxtaposed pieces, even when those are not present. There is considerable enjoyment to be had here, but it is more for listeners unfamiliar with the music than for those who already have their own ideas about how these pieces should be grouped, performed and heard.

February 16, 2023


Doodleville. By Chad Sell. Random House Graphic. $12.99.

Doodleville #2: Art Attacks! Random House Graphic. $12.99.

     A visual celebration of visual art, and a paean specifically to the Art Institute of Chicago, Chad Sell’s Doodleville graphic novels are multi-ethnic, multicultural preteen adventures that subsume the usual notions of friendship and teamwork within a world that straddles the border between real-world art and kid-imagined creations. The realistic backdrop of the Art Institute of Chicago, and the use within the books of actual art from the museum and actual characters from within the art, combine to produce effects that are reminiscent of the “moving and participating paintings and statues” scenes from the Harry Potter books and films. Art is very much a two-way street in these books – but when you think about it, art is always a two-way street, with the artist presenting a concept to an audience and the audience in turn reacting to what the artist has done (possibly in ways very different from those the artist expected or wanted).

     The basic concept here is that art lives – really­ lives. Primary protagonist Drew (a perfect name for someone around whose drawings the story is centered) draws good-natured, amusing doodles that meander around the page and off it, having small adventures and interacting with the world at large on their own terms (which tend to be mischievous ones). The small magic of these doodles is known to Drew’s parents and other adults – this is a world where the self-awareness and animation of art are just the way things are – and Drew’s folks are accepting of the occasional misfiring of doodle activities, since the small creatures have minds of their own (despite being derived from Drew’s mind, which is part of the foundation here). The doodles need a place of their own to call home, so Drew creates Doodleville, and Drew’s creations also interact with those of the four other members of the Art Club and those kids’ own creations. The club is run by Mr. Schneider, who challenges the kids to “think big.” Drew interprets that to mean creating a really large, powerful doodle, so she comes up with Leviathan, a snakelike creature with a big, toothy head and, like all her doodles, a mind of its own. Things quickly go awry when Drew takes her doodles to the Art Institute, knowing she should not do so, and they get into trouble by interacting with well-known paintings, in one case removing and keeping a baby’s hat. There is additional difficulty when Leviathan (now simply called Levi) chows down on part of a city doodle drawn by another Art Club member, leading to a fight that quickly gets out of hand – and causes Drew to cross out Levi altogether by drawing in black all over him. But that simply turns Levi to the, well, dark side, and much of the first Doodleville book involves figuring out how to control or stop Levi while also dealing with a highly unpleasant museum patron who objects to “entitled little girls who think their scribbles have any place in the halls of this institute.” The introduction of a painting of Oscar Wilde’s Dorian Gray starts to pull Doodleville in another direction, and when the book ends, an attempt to return the baby’s hat to the appropriate painting has misfired and…well, cue Art Attacks!

     The second book rings a series of changes on the events of the first, pulls the focus away from Levi, has the nasty museum lady turn out to be just fine and a big help to the Art Club, and becomes more of a magic-vs.-science story. The primary elements here are two actual paintings found at the Art Institute of Chicago, Charles Willson Peale’s portrait of Hannah Duncan and her baby and Ivan Albright’s Dorian Gray portrait that was created for the 1945 film adaptation of Wilde’s book. With the baby and its hat at the center of things, Hannah and Dorian get into a major conflict, in which each recruits suitable characters from other art works and engages in full-scale hostility – Hannah believing Dorian is responsible for her baby being missing, and Dorian being furious because his cat statue (as seen in Albright’s actual painting) has been destroyed. The Art Club kids try to help, but they manage only to make things worse when they take Hannah’s side (since Dorian’s appearance means he must be the bad guy). A misfiring magic spell turns Dorian into a truly amazing-looking monster whose head has a single eye and huge teeth on one half and four eyes on the other, a kind of mixture of Dali and surrealism with a touch of horror films thrown in. The Art Club kids and the now-helpful Cornelia Krong, for whom the Krong Wing of American Art is named, have a lot to unravel here, and Sell tries to give the kids themselves some additional personality as they seek a satisfactory way out: minor art-based conflicts (the whole magic-vs.-science element, with Sell more on the “magic” side since, after all, art is a kind of magic) are made to reflect the kids’ different personalities and concerns – “Some things can’t be explained. Some things are weird. And wonderful. They’re strange and creepy and more incredible than you could ever imagine.” (But of course both magic and science turn out to be necessary.)

     It is worth mentioning that Sell determinedly makes sociopolitical points in the Doodleville books in addition to telling a fascinatingly intricate story. The Art Club kids are perfectly balanced by skin color, ethnicity and personal predilections. There is a boy who insists on female pronouns; there are “magical butterfly boyfriends” who go on dates and are only strong when they are together (perhaps based on Sell and his husband); and so forth. Clearly the only real enemies come from a single group: “Anything’s better than these old white guys in wigs.” In fact, Drew becomes quite determined not to harm the now-monstrous Dorian, deciding that he has suffered more than enough and, as it turns out, was not responsible for Hannah’s missing baby after all. It is through cooperation and teamwork – among the Art Club kids and between the humans and the characters from paintings – that the Doodleville books come to a solid, satisfactory conclusion. Sell’s ability to interweave graphic-novel-style versions of characters from real art at the Art Institute of Chicago with the Art Club kids and the kids’ own artistic creations results in a multilayered story that proceeds at a breakneck pace while absorbing readers in a world that almost exists. The books are very clever, despite their sometimes heavy-handed societal point-scoring. And even though the Art Club kids (aside from Drew) are less interesting than the escapees from Art Institute paintings, the sheer sweep of the story and the excellent graphic-novel art with which Sell tells it make Doodleville a place worth visiting repeatedly – although a trip to the actual Art Institute of Chicago would be even more enlightening (if less frenetic).


A Byzantine Emperor at King Henry’s Court: Christmas 1400, London. Cappella Romana conducted by Alexander Lingas. Cappella Records. $19.99 (SACD).

Richard Beaudoin: Reproducció (after Casals/Bach); Unikat (after Argerich/Chopin); Bacchante (after Debussy/Debussy); Nachzeichnen/Tracing (after Gould/Schoenberg); You Know I’m Yours (after Monk); Les deux lauriers (after Teyte/Cortot/Debussy); “La chevelure” from Trois Chanson di Bilitis. Neil Heyde and Rohan de Saram, cellos; Maggie Teyte, soprano; Alfred Cortot, piano. New Focus Recordings. $16.99.

David Post: Concertino á Cinque for Clarinet and String Quartet; Piano Quintet for Piano and String Quartet. Martinů Quartet (Lubomír Havlák and Adéla Štajnochrová, violins; Zbyněk Paďourek, viola; Jitka Vlašánková, cello); Jan Dušek, piano; Ludmila Peterková, clarinet. Bridge Records. $15.99.

     Although virtually all musical performances reach into the past – assuming what is performed was created prior to the performance itself – some take longer, deeper and more-distant trips than others. The latest recording from the always-excellent Cappella Romana delves into a very-far-away time indeed, presenting world première recordings of medieval Byzantine and Sarum chants for Christmas, some in Latin and others in Greek. Conductor Alexander Lingas unearthed these works and leads them in historically informed performances – no small feat from a temporal distance of more than 600 years. The overriding concept here involves a journey to the court of England’s King Henry IV, who ruled from 1399 until his death in 1413. He was visited during the Christmas season of 1400-1401 by Byzantine Emperor Manuel II Palaiológos, who reigned from 1391 until his death in 1425, and who was seeking foreign aid in defense of Constantinople, which was under siege by the Ottoman Turks. The political outcome of the visit was mixed: Henry provided substantial funds but no official military assistance. But the musical riches unearthed by Lingas remain. Like all music of this time period, these works require a re-setting of one’s usual way of listening: their sound is quite different from that of later music, and the inclusion of Greek chants such as Pentekostaria and a portion of Kalophonic Megalynarion by Saint John Koukouzelis requires a perception shift from the comparatively familiar cadences of medieval Latin to the far-less-often-heard ones of Greek. There is more than an hour of material on this Cappella Records CD, and the music’s sound is certainly an acquired taste. The performances are first-rate throughout, with the full choir and multiple soloists within it (soprano, alto, tenor and baritone) declaiming the material with sensitivity and a firm understanding of accentuation: the words are entirely clear throughout, which was one of the points of chants of this kind. Among the most affecting elements are one in which a sustained choral note in Prologue of the Kontakion for the Nativity of Christ floats behind a subset of the choir’s voices, and one in which there is an especially clear contrast between higher and lower voices in the traditional Magnificat. Listeners interested in a trip far back in music will find this recording to be a splendid time machine – not one all travelers will wish to enter, to be sure, but one that will handsomely repay those interested in this time period and its music.

     Visits to yesteryear take on distinctly modern tones in a series of works for cello by Richard Beaudoin (born 1975) on a New Focus Recordings CD. The approach here is a thoroughly contemporary one: Beaudoin builds new compositions around elements of specific previous recordings, thereby reaching back to performers of earlier times who in turn reached back to composers of still-earlier eras for works to interpret. Thus, for Reproducció, Beaudoin starts with the Sarabande from Bach’s Cello Suite No. 2, as played and recorded by Pablo Casals, and uses the exact pitches, durations and rubato of the Casals performance to create a work in which Neil Heyde essentially ends up playing Casals playing Bach. All the works on this disc reach back in essentially this way. Unikat is based on a Martha Argerich recording of Chopin’s Prelude, Op. 28, No. 4, mapping pianistic elements onto the cello for Heyde to reproduce. Bacchante is based on Debussy’s own 1913 recording of his Danseuses de Delphes, a piece that itself reached back to a distant time through being inspired by the composer seeing a replica of the Acanthus Column in the Louvre. There are layers upon layers here, with elements of piano performance again mapped onto the cello to produce a very different sound and feeling even while paying tribute to the original music, the composer’s performance of it, and the inspiration that led the composer to create the work. Nachzeichnen/Tracing is based on Glenn Gould’s 1965 recording of Sechs kleine Klavierstücke by Schoenberg, and is interesting for being played without a bow: Heyde’s cello becomes a percussion instrument, not one akin to the piano but one reflecting Gould’s interpretation of Schoenberg’s pianistic creation – another case of layers within layers. Looking back to the same time period, the 1960s, in a very different musical way, Beaudoin bases You Know I’m Yours on a 1962 recording of Body and Soul by Thelonius Monk. Here the cello essentially deconstructs Monk’s original by forming a single melodic line from two largely independent piano ones. And then comes a two-cello piece, Les deux lauriers from Debussy’s Trois Chanson de Bilitis, the original here being a 1936 performance by Maggie Teyte and Alfred Cortot, with Beaudoin having Heyde joined by Rohan de Saram so that one cello can essentially reproduce the vocal line and the other the piano’s. This is scarcely straightforward transcription, though: like all the works on the disc, it takes the art of transcribing into new realms by employing precise measurement techniques not only of prior performers’ handling of pitches and rhythms but also of such extraneous sounds as records’ surface noise and the creaking of pianists’ chairs. The actual 1936 Teyte/Cortot recording of the Debussy is included to close the disc and highlight the ways in which Beaudoin has remade and reinterpreted earlier music and earlier recordings. Interestingly, for all the now-obsolete sound quality of this now-ancient recording, it has power, sensitivity and engagement that Beaudoin’s remake lacks – indeed, it calls into question the entire notion of reinterpreting interpretations that were, in their time, highly sensitive to composers’ music – even though the technical ability to transmit that sensitivity was, by modern standards, far from adequate. Beaudoin’s pieces are interesting curiosities, but the Teyte/Cortot performance shows how much is lost when today’s composers and performers use modern technical capabilities as a substitute for deeply felt and thoroughly committed readings that genuinely understand the music that is being performed.

     David Post’s Piano Quintet for Piano and String Quartet (2007) revives the past in a different way and for different purposes. Each of its three movements is in effect an in memoriam for a musician who was murdered in the Holocaust. The first movement remembers Gideon Klein (1919-1945), a fine Czech pianist and composer. Post (born 1949) proffers carefully managed dissonance for a movement in which the piano has concerto-like flourishes while still functioning as an ensemble member. The second movement is for Pavel Haas (1899-1944), a Czech composer who followed Janáček’s style while incorporating jazz and folk elements into his music. Post here creates a delicate movement that flows gently and mostly quietly. The finale is in memory of Viktor Ullmann (1898-1944), an Austrian composer, conductor and pianist who composed 20 works while imprisoned at the Theresienstadt concentration camp. For him, Post creates an oddly disconnected, almost dissociative work of uncertain rhythm and harmony, with Jan Dušek’s piano sometimes leading the strings, sometimes being submerged in them. As a whole, this quintet reaches into a specific past time and memorializes specific individuals while using the musical language of the 21st century to produce well-structured, musically coherent movements that collectively address and remember a tragedy both overwhelming and intensely personal. However, it is less effective as music in its own right than as a piece whose reason for being is already known to the audience: listeners familiar with the lives of the three musicians named in the quartet’s movements will feel the music’s effect more strongly than will an audience coming to the work without prior knowledge of its antecedents. This Bridge Records CD also includes a Concertino á Cinque from 2010 that features Ludmila Peterková on clarinet. A lighter work than the Piano Quintet, this piece uses the clarinet’s playful and singing capabilities in equal measure, its central Adagio ma non troppo focusing on the instrument’s warm lower register while the opening Allegro giocoso and concluding Allegro giusto utilize a wider range and include some leaps and bounds that make the wind instrument  primus inter pares and keep the strings generally in a supportive role. The Martinů Quartet rises to the occasion whenever required in both these works, and holds in the background when that is what Post wishes. Both the pieces show a fine compositional command of contemporary chamber-music style, and both are well-crafted and convincing on their own somewhat different terms.