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Design: Peggy Boney

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Catalog Number: CPS-8691
Audio Format: CD
Playing Time: 49:30
Release Date: 2001

Track Listing & Audio Samples
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  Christian Wolff
1 - 5. Rosas (10:24)
  Jo Kondo
6. Aquarelle (11:04)
  Ralph Shapey
  Gotlieb Duo
7. Variations (5:27)
8. Scherzo (2:48)
9. Song (3:14)
  Stuart S. Smith
10. Links No. 6: Song Interiors (9:29)
  Patrick Hardish
11. Duo (6:39)



New Music Connoisseur - Vol. 9, No. 4 - by John de Clef Pineiro

As an intimate collaborative art form, chamber music can provide an ideal medium for the expression of individual talents, as well as the synergy of joint efforts. And while chamber ensembles may have the potential to bring out the best in their constituent members, this is nowhere more evident than when the "ensemble" of musicians only consists of a majority of two, as in the case of The Hoffman/Goldstein Duo. Acknowledged virtuosic veterans of the new-music scene for more than two decades, pianist Paul Hoffman and percussionist Tom Goldstein amply demonstrate the intensity and power of their individual and combined talents in their very beautifully-recorded recent release under the Capstone label.

The title of the release ("Crossfade") is an apt summation for what we hear happening over the course of the five works offered on this recording. And, made more stark by the sharply contrasting natures of their respective instruments, the volleying of sounds and gestures back and forth, at times abrupt and at other moments just fading into each other almost seamlessly, seems to be the signature dynamic between these two electrifying music-makers on this compact disk.

Of course, the dialectic between piano and percussion is the fundamental challenge to which each composer's work on this CD had to rise, and most did, with varying degrees of success. The least successful of these was Christian Wolff's Rosas, so named as a tribute (but actually bearing no resemblance) to two of the most renowned activists of the last century: Rosa Luxemburg and Rosa Parks. The piece seemed to find its reason for being only in its final fifth movement. The soothingly spare appeal of Jo Kondo's Aquarelle, specifically written for Tom Goldstein and Kit Young, had an unobtrusive Feldman-like water-color feel to it, as alternating antiphonal chords in the piano and vibraphone blurred echo-like into each other. As quoted in the liner notes, Kondo's "primary concern was to point out both the subtle differences and similarities between the timbral qualities of the vibraphone and piano. For that purpose I treated both instruments alternately, creating between them a very slow, rocking rhythm."

Piercing through that bobbing tranquility were Ralph Shapey's tom-toms in the opening measures of his three-movement Gottlieb Duo, the longest work on the recording. Described by the composer as a "constant contrapuntal interplay between piano and percussion," the first movement (Variations) sounded somewhat disjointed and awkward. Though quite motoric, the more coherently percussive second movement (Scherzo) had the virtue of brevity as a way to keep its form in proportion to its content. Also brief was the third movement (Song), which sounded like a couple of young musicians haltingly experimenting with a tone row. Links #6, by Stuart Saunders Smith, very interestingly paired piano and vibraphone as if they were winding around each other like a double-helix of DNA. According to its composer, however, and while entirely imperceptible and unidentifiable to the listener (even after several hearings), this work contains "over forty bits of [American popular song and jazz compositions from the 1930s to the 1960s] woven together."

The last track is the outstanding work and highpoint on this recent Capstone release, a work that this reviewer considers to be a masterpiece in its own right: Duo, by Patrick Hardish. Indeed, through an amazing economy of means, Hardish has created a thoroughly engaging and beautiful contemporary work, full of force, intelligence and an exquisite sense for the appropriately chosen and timed sonority. As a work that clearly understands and has met the dialectical challenge mentioned earlier, this work is worthy of immense admiration. In addition, one cannot imagine how anyone could improve on this truly magnificent performance of the work. Finally, although the works performed on this recording are of vastly varying quality, it is also clear, nonetheless, that the high quality and artistry of The Hoffman/Goldstein Duo consistently come through loud and clear on this recording.