has often been noted for its Hassidic
aspects though the melancholic elements
that co-exist have perhaps been downplayed.
In his recent Viola
Concerto we can certainly hear an aesthetic
which we can impute to the influence
of Bloch, with a patchwork of melodic
strands and some bold rhythmic dance
gestures in both solo and especially
orchestral lines. To that we can add
light but elegantly precise scoring
with an especially delightful moment
in the central, slow movement where
the oboe winds behind the musing viola’s
solo - it has an expressive, communing
quality that impresses. Schoenfield
isn’t afraid to take his soloist up
high over the reflective, supporting
orchestral tissue. This is warmly romantic,
purely tonal and carried off in this
performance with considerable aplomb.
In the finale there are hints of Shostakovich,
and the Hebraic elements are more artfully,
less effusively presented than in a
contemporary work such as Isaac Schwartz’s
Yellow Stars. There’s increasing
drama, especially in the Dance of David,
with dance patterns renewed and some
Klezmer smear as well.
The Viola Concerto
is the major work here but the Four
Motets make an individual mark with
their reflections on High Renaissance
practice, the chromaticism adding to
an effect of newly minted traditionalism.
The harmonies are at their richest in
the second of the four – all are short
– and the sense of displaced time, or
a sense of time as a continuum, is maybe
at its most effective in the last. There
are also three excerpts from Act II
of The Merchant and The Pauper, his
1999 two-act opera. This was based on
mystic ideas enshrined in the writings
of Reb Nahman of Bratslav (1772-1811),
a charismatic leader of his community.
The most substantial is the twelve-minute
excerpt from Scene 1 – strong romantic
lines and sonorous narration, whilst
there’s vibrant dance music in the fifth
scene. Extensive though the notes are
– they always are with the Milken Archive
discs – it’s invariably only a partial
view of the opera.
All the performances
are committed and the trio of recording
locations fortunately doesn’t jar the
ear. I found the Concerto the most impressive
of the works here – full of Bloch and
Shostakovich lineage and attractive.
All are premiere recordings.