Fanfare - June/July 2004 - by Robert Carl
"Sherban Lupu is a violinist who lives and works in Urbana Illinois, Not too surprisingly, in light of his origins, he gives special attention on this disc to music by Romanian composers. Lupu is a wonderful musician. He has great technical facility with a wide range of unusual techniques requested by these composers. His tone is pure and focused, and his intonation on the mark. He plays with a welcome blend of precision and abandon, making this a satisfying recital.
Three works, all for solo violin (albeit one with tape), stand out in particular. Gheorghe Costinescu's 1989 Voices Within is a stunning work. It begins with the usual abrupt, truncated modernist gesture, but then unfolds in a manner that, while immersed in this tradition, also shows a highly personal take on it. Costinescu weaves—that's the right words, there are so many simultaneous strands at any moment—a texture that is constantly mutating, surprising, richly detailed, polyphonic. Violeta Dinescu has achieved significant European recognition, but hasn't yet found a comparable audience in the US. Her two movements, For Every Sword of Light and To Triumphon with the Sun, bear a resemblance to Costinescu's piece, though they are far more "moment-form" in their succession of isolated events. As such, they're not quite so compelling, but they have such intensity and fervent concentration in each musical kernel that I stay attentive. If the works were longer than 12 minutes, this might be a problem, but the span matches the materials. Warren Burt is an American composer who's lived for decades in Australia, and is one of the most interesting experimentalists around, in my book. Hi After Cicero: The Dream of Scipio Africanus (1989-90) is an essay in extremely high string-writing, all in harmonics, floating on a microtonal bed of electronic sounds. The piece is both hypnotic and intense.
Guy Garnett's Partita is an essay in what one could call the modernist neo-Baroque, elegantly concise and inventive. Zack Browning's Double Shot (2000) is an engaging moto perpetuo based, according to the composer, on material derived from magic squares. There's no way of knowing how this source relates specifically to the music, but it's just as well, because the energy and momentum of the piece are infectious on their own and, if nothing else, it's obvious the source gives a level of cohesion to the product. Ron Mazurek's Peasant Voices blends violin, piano, and a pre-recorded part of both electronic and concrète sounds into a fluid, dreamy fantasia, tinged with hints of Bartók and Enescu.
Dinu Ghezzo's Ostrom engages me the least of this program. According to the notes, the work is largely improvisatory, violin and piano responding to the stimuli of sounds on the tape part. Lupu (and whoever is the pianist—see below) respond sensitively and creatively to the challenge. That said, the flow—from textural to Eastern European folk to a whiff of jazz to the Ramayana monkey chant (!)—doesn't reveal for me any fresh connections or insights into these materials. Perhaps another listener will find more."