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  Classical Editor Rob Barnett    



William BERGSMA (b.1921)
The Complete Piano Music

Tangents (1951) [31.21]
Three Fantasies (1943 rev 1983) [6.15]
Piano Variations (1984) [16.54]
Jill Timmons (piano)
rec. 1990?, Laurel Studio, Los Angeles, DDD
LAUREL RECORD LR-852CD [55.23]



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These are the premiere recordings of the complete piano music of William Bergsma. Bergsma studied with Howard Hanson and with Bernard Rogers (whose own music really should be recorded). Kurt Stone has described Bergsma's music as "resourceful and imaginative, essentially tonal, texturally conventional and predominantly lyrical." I would not dissent from that judgement. His concertos for viola (Sweet was the Song the Virgin Sang) and the Violin Concerto (recorded by Statkiewicz and still available on Vox) are well worth the trouble of seeking out though the viola work is, I think, only available if you can find a friend on the underground tape network.

Bergsma is mildly dissonant in the 30 minute Tangents which careers from a toughened neo-Bachian Finzian spiciness to a jerky upheaval of kinetic force redolent of late Copland. Peace is never far away but then again you encounter sardonic and splenetic essays such as the Mr Darwin's Serenade and For Nickie Angry - two of a dozen pieces comprising Tangents, a work written as a limbering up for his fine opera The Wife of Martin Guerre - recorded once upon a time in extract on a CRI LP. The Fantasies written for Cecile Genhart a champion of modern music comprise two dramatic movements framing a halting night march. The late Variations consist of a Theme, eight Variations and a Coda. Unlike the other works here, the Variations are accorded a single track. They are a much tougher nut to crack than the other two pieces. The notes are good as is the sound which is powerful and close.

I hope that I will have the good fortune to hear more by the neglected William Bergsma. He always has something strong to communicate. Is there anyone out there who can direct me to other Bergsma discs?

Rob Barnett



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