Cover Photo: Joe Abaldo
Available at your favorite digital etailers
including iTunes, Rhapsody and eMusic
Catalog Number: CPS-8608
Audio Format: Stereo, DDD
Playing Time: 55:54
Release Date: 1991
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Cadenza I (6:49)
Quintet No. 1
not too slow (5:51)
too fast, with humor (5:28)
for Piano and Winds
Available on Capstone
American Record Guide
- November/December, 1991 - Volume 54, Number 6 - by Lehman
Schoenberg, Ive always believed theres a lot of good music yet to
be written in C Major, so I was eager to hear Robert Baksas avowedly
tonal music on this Capstone CD, which offers three of this American
composers works from the 1970s. Though the performances and recording
(once on MHS) are fine, Im somewhat ambivalent about what I hear.
Let me try to describe the music objectively.
Baksas strengths are transparent textures, ingratiating melodies,
and a certain artistic sincerity theres nothing gimmicky or self-conscious
about his stuff. His weaknesses: relentlessly cheerful, have-a-nice-day
major harmony so restricted and conventional it would soon drive Bach
or Mozart up the wall; predictably four-square rhythms and phrases;
and repetitive, overextended forms almost invariably too long by a
third or so. These weaknesses seem exacerbated in the Flute Sonata,
while the first two movements of both the Wind Quintet and the Piano
Quartet display his melodic gifts to better advantage. Perhaps its
not surprising that Baksas inspiration is uneven, since he is a very
prolific composer though this unevenness may be disguised by his stylistic
consistency. But all his music is untroubled, shallow, pale, mildly
charming and charmingly mild; it is clearly an escape from the passion
and doubt of both romanticism and her stepchild Modernism. The inescapable
question: why listen to Baksas classical era recreations when the
real item is so easily available?
Im not sure about the answer. Baksas music does have some lovely moments,
and almost convinces me to follow him into never-never land."
Gazette - November 2, 1991 - by Richard Cantor *
Robert Baksa is rather disturbing.
Heres a composer with more than 500 compositions to his name, a
cum laude graduate of the University of Arizona, and hes actually
unknown to the recording microphones, and to us.
Born in New York in 1938 and raised in Tucson, Baksa has written
all manner of music, including scores and two operas. Several of
his printed scores have sold more than 100,000 copies. Yet the compact
disc cupboard is almost empty.
Are the recording companies telling us something? Perhaps.
Listening to Baksa for the first time certainly is a ride through
a musical time warp. Here is music so transparent, so melodious,
so structurally uncomplicated its almost shocking to think the works
recorded are mostly from the 70s, when Boulez, Xenakis, Stockhausen
and Penderecki captured our hearts.
Although he started out as one of the crowd, Baksa decided early
that the stylistic innovations of the 20th century were totally
at odds with his own artistic ideals, Frederick Roffman tells us
in his informative program notes.
So Baksa did it his way: Innocent melodies, surprisingly memorable.
The line classically clear, a hyperactive counterpoint thats fresh
but not predictable. An inventor, not an innovator.
If there is a down side to all this, it is his unflinching pleasantness.
No profundities here. Everything is in its place, and sometimes
brilliantly stated. And with great humor, too. But its over-dough-nuts
jolly, not over-cocktails witty.
Generalizations are dangerous. But judging from Baksas Flute Sonata
(1976), Woodwind Quintet No. 1 (1974/88) and Quartet for Piano and
Winds (1972) on this ably recorded and superbly performed Capstone
CD, Baksa will blaze no new paths in modern music. Hell give us
But simply by doing things his way, he puts our musical past in
fresh perspective. And allows us to again appreciate its glories."
Daily Star - July 26, 1991 - by James Reel *
"Judging from record
catalogs, interest is booming in secondary composers of the Romantic
era. Thats good new for contemporary composer Robert Baksa, because
anyone who enjoys music by the likes of Spohr and Reinecke should
find much of interest is Baksas works.
This is not a put-down. The fact is that Baksa draws his inspiration
from Classical and early Romantic models. His music is stubbornly
tonal, his forms textbook clear. And it has been that way for more
than 30 years. Only now is tonality in again, so in this respect
Baksa is not reactionary but ahead of his times.
Baksa has been a former Tucsonan so long its almost not worth mentioning
that he grew up here, graduated from the University of Arizona school
of music in 1959 and was the program director of then-classical
radio station KFMM.
In 1962 he moved to New York City, where hed been born in 1936.
He has composed prolifically for his own pleasure and for many commissions,
but he has never managed to rub shoulders with the people responsible
for the big-money commissions that keep composers like Joseph Schwantner
and Milton Babbitt in the green.
So Baksa has made his steady income as a music copyist, transforming
other composers messy manuscripts into clean, elegant full scores
and parts. Ironically, he often finds himself copying the music
of avant-garde composers whose award-winning work he detests.
But there is no anger in the Baksa chamber music collected on a
new Capstone CD. The pieces are as clean and elegant as Baksas copy
work, courageously and attractively retrograde.
In the 1976 flute sonata, theres an . . . reminiscent of French
neoclassicism, but without the intentional wrong notes of Poulenc.
The flute is the star, but in the outer movements the piano is not
just accompanimental it is essential to the musics melodic as well
as harmonic development.
The first wind quintet, written in 1974 and tinkered with until
1988, is a 16-minute work that is brightly confident in its dedication
to tonality, in keeping with Baksas Classical Interests, the last
movement is full of gentle, Haydenesque humor.
The 1972 quartet for piano and winds, once past an introduction
of Romantic lyricism, is pervaded by a Mozartean spirit, particularly
in the keyboard writing.
The sympathetic performances are by East Coast pros, including the
principal wind players of the Atlantic Sinfonietta. Some tape edits
that are obvious over headphones stride right by the loudspeakers.
These days people like Baksa can write tonal, traditional music
with little fear of ridicule from a weakened avant-garde establishment.
And now that people are beginning to appreciate the graceful but
not earth-shaking music of Spohr, Reinecke and all those other 19th-century
composers, Baksas similar works should be taken just as seriously.
How nice that his time has finally come, without his having to be
dead a century."
Sonata, Robert Baksa. This is a beautiful, lush, big romantic work
for flutists. It is as lovely and intertwined as Schumann. A three
movement work with two big cadenzas beginning both the 2nd and 3rd
movements, this is a skillfully crafted piece for both flute and
piano, and allows the flutist plenty of opportunity for lyrical,
Reviews ? - by Dr. Ronald L. Caravan
Sonata, Robert Baksa. This newly available work appears to be a
substantial addition to the flute repertoire. Lasting 16 minutes,
its three movements are connected by cadenzas for the flute. The
compositional style is quite conservative, exhibiting a rather romantic
sound, even a bit Wagnerian in the midle slow movement. The edition
is beautifully engraved and the piece is well within reach of the
moderately advanced high school student."
Choice - Summer, 1991 - Issue No. 14 - by Paul Turok
deceptively simple chamber works by Robert Baksa (Flute Sonata,
Woodwind Quintet, Quartet for Piano and Winds) are firmly played
and fairly well recorded (CPS-8608)."