Partitas and More
MUSIC BY LEO KRAFT
Design: Carol Lager & Leo Kraft
Available at your favorite digital etailers
including iTunes, Rhapsody and eMusic
Catalog Number: CPS-8649
Audio Format: Stereo, DDD
Playing Time: 60:00
Release Date: 1998
Listing & Audio Samples
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Quartet No. 2 (18:56)
Pieces for Clarinet and Piano
No. 3 for Wind Quintet
New Wind Quintet
Four Pieces for Piano Four-Hands and Tape
Chinn and Allen
20th Century Music -
August 1998 - by Mark Alburger
indeed not always reality. Leo Krafts Capstone release, Partitas
and More, is not a dry and cerebral affair in the least. It chronicles
the composers stylistic development between 1958 and 1969, and begins
with an altogether charming, animated neoclassic Partita No. 1,
which sparkles and syncopates through four brilliant movements (Prelude,
Capriccio, Arietta, and Toccata).
The String Quartet No. 2 (195) finds its own soulful way to a Carteresque
bargain of chromaticism. By the Five Pieces for Clarinet and Piano
(1962), Kraft has moved decidedly into a non-tonal world, still
energetic and engaging. But, while attempting to stay an American
course, this work, like the following Partita No. 3 for Wind Quintet,
still bears traces of Berg and Schoenberg. By the time we reach
Antiphonies: four Pieces for Piano Four-Hands and Tape (while the
last two pieces are undated, one assumes these to be the most recent
works, as the previous music had been presented chronologically).
Kraft has entered the Davidovskian world of live-and-memorex. Funny
sounds and virtuosity. Lots o fun. Nice ending. With stimulating
live contributions from duo pianist Genevieve Chinn and Allen Brings.
In Kraft, as in many mid-century composers, one can clearly hear
the stylistic trends of the day. As the characters in Michael Nymans
the Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat put it in relation to the
title characters visual art:
Natural curves became
Angular, almost cubist
Then less and less
More abstract expressionist
Do you not see development?
- September/October 1998 - by Robert Kirzinger
CD fleshes out a bit the discography of Leo Kraft (b. 1922). Most
of the work already represented on disc comes from the 80s and 90s;
this disc covers the years 1958-69.
Kraft studied with Randall Thompson and Boulanger, and the Neoclassic
imprint shows clearly in the Partita No.1 for piano solo (1958). This
four-movement partita reminded me immediately of Harold Shapero's
little sonatas from the 40s - short. bright, motif-driven, and delightful.
Though Kraft remarks "the first partita . . . marks the end of
my diatonic and freely tonal style," all of the works on this
disc remain true to Classical values of thematic development. The
String Quartet No.2 (1959), in a single movement (18:56). far
exceeds the Partita in scope and seriousness. From the opening Adagio's
contrapuntal lines. Kraft develops the material organically to an
intense, quick scherzo. After the fairly lengthy development of this
new matter, each instrument engages in a solo recitative, interrupted
by chords in the full ensemble. A new slow section ensues, with chorales
and solo passages. Without segue the fast material returns, soon acting
as accompaniment for the return of the Adagio material. As well as
being a lovely piece, this is as solidly idiomatic quartet writing
as one is apt to hear. The Audubon Quartet gives a passionate and
understanding reading in this 1970 recording.
Five Pieces for Clarinet and Piano goes further on the road away from
tonality, to the point of including a 12-tone movement. The longest
movement is the four-minute Fantasia, which trades freely lyrical
solo passages with the piano. The other pieces miniaturize specific
musical moods - Prelude, lntermezzo, Capriccio, Tarantella - giving
the group a suitelike arch. The use of these moods gives the tougher
pitch material a greater accessibility than a more extreme shift from
the earlier Neoclassic style would allow. The clarinet's tone is a
little on the treble side for my tastes, but the piece is played well.
The Partita No.3 for Wind Quintet is also a suite in five movements.
Kraft writes as idiomatically for the less history-laden wind quintet
as be does for the string quartet, but the material is less ambitious
and more along the lines of the Partita No. 1 and the Five Pieces
for Clarinet and Piano. As in the Five Pieces, each movement takes
on a specific mood (more or less the same ones as in Five Pieces).
In Antiphonies: Four Pieces for Piano Four-Hands and Tape,
the pianists romp through four fairly short movements with tape competition.
The taped material and that of the piano aren't seamlessly integrated
most of the time. Some of the sounds are downright goofy. and the
tape's atonal pitch material (and attendant glissandos and timbral
shifts) takes on a kind of happy-go-lucky air. The piano parts (and
I don't know that four hands are really needed) seem to play a more
stabilizing, serious role.
Partita No. 1 and Five Pieces for Clarinet and Piano were recorded
in 1996; the balance of the disc was taped in the early 70s. There's
no appreciable difference in quality. The String Quartet No. 2 feels
like the only really significant work here, but the other pieces are
well written, well played, enjoyable, and well worth hearing."
- Winter 1997-98 - by Marshall Bialosky
that it has become relatively feasible economically to produce your
own CD, the mails these days are full of such offerings from composer-friends
anxious to share their good fortune with others and in the process
receive some long overdue praise and publicity. If one is a frequent
attendee of such events as an SCI regional or national meeting,
or a NACUSA concert, or scores of other such composer-generated
events, one rarely gets to hear a lot of music by the same composer.
Thus it is truly hard to form a firm estimate of many of one's colleagues
(and even friends) when a large body of their work remains unperformed.
While the CD devoted to a single composer runs the risk of revealing
hitherto unknown weaknesses, it also affords the interested listener
a much better chance to savor the individuality a given composer,
which being buried in a single concert alongside six or seven others,
does not provide.
case in point is the recent CD devoted entirely to the music of
Leo Kraft called "Partitas and More" released by Capstone
Records as CPS-8649. Although I have personally known the composer
for many years, this is the most music of his that I have ever heard.
Present on the CD is Partita No. 1 for Piano, String Quartet
No. 2, Five Pieces for Clarinet and Piano, Partita No.3 for Wind
Quintet, and Antiphonies: Four Pieces for Piano Four-Hands and Tape. The CD is accompanied by an unusually frank tracing of the composer's
musical career by Kraft himself. I found all of this, save the last,
to be completely convincing, fresh, musical, inventive, and a sheer
delight to hear. Everything was so perfectly tailored to its medium
of expression rather than repeating the same ideas with new instruments.
The piano music was pianistic, the string music "stringy,"
the wind music "windy" in wonderful examples of idiomatic
music without sounding overly-familiar. At every juncture there
was always something new just around the corner. All of the pieces
had an "American" sound to them without resorting to low
common denominators. There was no "padding" in any of
this music. All of it sounded truly conceived and brought to compositional
reality with great conviction and taste. As a believer in the leavening
effect of vocal music, I found myself wishing there had been at
least that contrast with all the instrumental things, but I suppose
that is a small point.
The one work I did not like was Antiphonies solely because
of its tape part. I suppose many otherwise non-electronic composers
come to feel at a certain point that the history of music may be
passing them by and they need to investigate the electronic option.
Personally, I wish the electronic part of this work, which I found
completely non-expressive and unclearly related to the rest of the
piece, could be re-written and assigned to some real instruments.
The piano parts sounded fine to me, but what the tape "added"
was not at all clear. However, on the strength of the four other
excellent pieces on this CD, I would recommend this disc very highly.
Having recently celebrated his 75th birthday, this gift to us truly
demonstrates a mature composer."