"This is the 11th
CD release by the Society of Composers, Inc. The selections comprise
a sort of juried "group-show," resulting in an eclectic
album, but with consistently high compositional standards.
This isn't to say that I agree with the musical arguments of every
piece. For example, I'm not so keen on the first piece on the program, Four Proportional Preludes by Brian Belet (b. 1955). The
Four Preludes, for piano, are nominally pitch-centered, though not
formally tonal. The shape of the group is an arch, with the first
and fourth taking a slower, recitativelike approach. The second
and third both take a fast, perpetual-motion role, with the second, Metallica, using pitches prepared with screws to produce
a metallic sound. Put together, these four preludes don't really
make a piece. One might say it's the nature of the prelude, but
that doesn't have to be the case. The performance in the middle
movements could stand a degree or two more abandon.
Another insubstantial piece is Ilta Pala(a) by Kari Henrik
Juusela (b. 1954). At just over 2:30, it's the shortest piece on
the program. A slow, free-tempo opening section lasts about a minute;
the remainder is a fast-pulsed, irregularly metered rondo that builds
from its recurring bass string motif to a dramatic ending of strummed
chords. The well-played little piece would be effective on a recital
of guitar music, but doesn't hold its own in this eclectic company.
Fugaz, by Carlos
Delgado (b. 1961), fares somewhat better despite lasting only
three minutes. The material ranges from fast chromatic passages
to multiphonics sustained with an echo effect. The aggressive stance
of the amplified saxophone keeps the energy level high throughout.
Andrew Rindfleisch (b. 1963) wrote Tears, for solo flute,
as accompaniment for a solo dancer. He incorporates into this attractive,
effective piece the sound of the exaggerated in-drawn breath of
the player and effects including slap- and flutter-tongue along
with more straightforward playing. Jean DeMart displays skill and
sensitivity throughout: Quiet, almost Japanese-sounding passages
and emotionally edgy, frenetic gestures occur side-by side with
often no transition. The whole is, however, cohesive, structured
in two large, more or less equal parts, with a correspondence between
playing style and melodic shape providing internal formal solidity.
More ostentatiously formal are the Piano Variations of David Epstein
(b. 1930). The work is an early one in Epstein's career, dating
from 1961. The variation procedure stems from a motif rather than
a whole theme. The sections are initially short, generating a gamut
of new moods from similar pitch material. As the piece progresses,
so does the complexity of approach. The work is well constructed,
but Epstein delves into some stylistic pastiche in the jazz-inflected
ending, adding to the sense of the whole being somewhat derivative.
If Epstein's piece is derivative, the Sonate pour piano et violon
(1992) is positively Ravelian. Alexandre Rudalev (b. 1937) studied
with Boulanger, but her Neoclassic thumbprint would be ultramodern
in this context. The piece, in four movements, derives its strengths
from lyrical melody and motivic development. His tunes are pretty
and the balance of the instruments sure. Rudajev lacks little in
traditional compositional skill. Should the piece show up on a recital
with Brahms and Prokofiev (you know, for shock value) the audience
might walk away with Rudajev's music in their heads.
The performances (especially for Tears and Fugaz) and
production on the whole are fine. My problem with the disc, if you
haven't beaten me to it, lies in its very eclecticism. The inclusion
of the little pieces of Juusela and Delgado and the exercises of Belet seems to belittle the CD as a whole.
Each piece should be coupled with a more serious work of the same
composer. The more substantial pieces here-those of Rudajev, Rindfleisch,
and Epstein-don't have enough commonality to work well together.
The disc, then, is consigned to being of interest to friends of
the composers or performers involved."
Record Guide November/December 1998 - By Lehman
"This sampler offers
a glimpse of whats happening these days in the groves of academe.
And if you dont think there is such a thing as academic
music, check out Brian Belets Four Proportional Preludesnot
to speak of his professional pedigree (research
at conferences internationally and
published in Perspectives
of New Music and elsewhere) and the composers jargon-heavy
explanation of the processes that go into writing his stuff. Were
talking linear and vertical structures
various orderings of the tempered intervals of perfect fifth and
minor second, rate of change
controlled by internal
sections, evenget thisalgorithmic composition.
Well, as far as Im concerned the only thing that algorithms
have to do with music is when our Vice-President dances to them.
But then Im not a tenured professor.
At any rate, Belets
preludespartly for prepared pianoare spacey,
rather Cageian tessellations that meander or twitter along punctuated
by long pauses before drifting off into silenceharmless, even
rather pleasant, though hardly memorable.
Andrew Rindfleischs Tears, for solo flute, is a little harder to forget: its
piercing high notes made me wince. Hence its title, perhaps?
this time intentionallyis Carlos Delgados Fugaz,
an electronically-goosed saxophone solo that evokes Godzillas
love-call (bringing to mind the New Yorkers comment
that this creature is like most of the males in Manhattan: he has
bad table manners, takes the subway, and has sex with himself).
I enjoyed Fugaz: its fresh, unpretentious, inventive,
Our Society of
Composers program concludes with a pair of more substantial
and much more traditional works. David Epsteins Piano Variations is strongly-built, flinty, and plangent, but never harsh, and expansive
enough to have a certain indefinable American tang.
Listeners draw (like me) to the mid-century piano sonatas of Roger
Sessions (one of Epsteins teachers), Leon Kirchner, and Elliott
Carter will find much to admire and enjoy in this splendid composition.
Id like to see more by Epstein on CD soon; CRI should reissue
the chamber music once on Desto vinyl.
1992 Violin Sonata is Gallic, sensuous, and (though quite active)
mostly serene in mood. Though I cant say it abounds in melody
or individual character, theres nothing here that would have
disturbed Tansman or Tailleferre or even Ravel.
Performances and recordings,
from various venues, are all quite expert; sonics on Fugaz are exceptionalthat souped-up sax sounds like its in
the room with you."