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Jacob DRUCKMAN (1928-1996)
String Quartet No. 3 (1981) [27.11]
Reflections on the Nature of Water, for solo marimba (1986) [15.17]
Dark Wind for violin and cello (1994) [05.46]
String Quartet No. 2 (1996) [18.26]
The Group for Contemporary Music (Curtis Macomber, violin; Carol Zeavin, violin; Lois Martin, viola; Fred Sherry, cello)
Dan Druckman, marimba
rec. Recital Hall, Music Division, SUNY, Purchase, New York, USA. 31 March-2 April 1996 (Quartets 2, 3, Dark Wind); 22 September 1996 (Reflections) DDD
NAXOS 8.559260 [66.40]



As part of their successful 'American Classics’ series Naxos turn their attention to the chamber music of the American composer Jacob Druckman. These recordings were issued previously on the Koch International Classics label in 1998.

Druckman was born in Philadelphia in 1928 and developed into one of the most prominent of contemporary American composers. After early training in violin and piano, he enrolled in the Juilliard School in 1949, studying composition with Bernard Wagenaar, Vincent Persichetti, and Peter Mennin. In 1949 and 1950 he worked with Aaron Copland at Tanglewood and later continued his studies at the Ecole Normale de Musique in Paris (1954-55).

Music critic Mark Swed has written about Druckman stating, “At the heart of the works of Jacob Druckman lies the bold, sure, and often arrestingly physical dramatic gesture... Yet Druckman's scores have always exhibited another characteristic as well: that of careful structure, built with meticulous attention to detail. The process of integrating these two sides of his character...has been a consistent factor throughout the composer's development.” 

Druckman produced a substantial list of works embracing orchestral, concertante, chamber and vocal, also composing for theatre, films, and ballet. He undertook a considerable amount of work with electronic music. In 1972 he was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for his score Windows for large orchestra. Organisations that commissioned his music included Radio France (Shog, 1991); the Chicago Symphony Orchestra (Brangle, 1989); the New York Philharmonic (Concerto for Viola and Orchestra, 1978 and Aureole, 1979); the Philadelphia Orchestra (Counterpoise, 1994); the Baltimore Symphony (Prism, 1980); the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra (Mirage, 1976); the Juilliard Quartet (String Quartet No. 2, 1966); the Koussevitzky Foundation in the Library of Congress (Windows, 1972); IRCAM (Animus IV, 1977); and numerous others.

Druckman taught at the Juilliard School, Bard College, and Tanglewood. In addition he was director of the Electronic Music Studio and Professor of Composition at Brooklyn College. He was also associated with the Columbia-Princeton Electronic Music Center in New York City. In the spring of 1982, he was Resident-In-Music at the American Academy in Rome. In April of that year, he was appointed composer-in-residence with the New York Philharmonic, where he served two two-year terms and was Artistic Director of the HORIZONS music festival. In the last years of his life, Druckman was Professor of Composition at the School of Music at Yale University.

Many of Druckman's works have been recorded, by Deutsche Grammophon, Nonesuch, CRI, New World and other labels. Recent recordings include Aureole with the St. Louis Symphony under Slatkin on New World, Prism with the New York Philharmonic under Mehta on New World; and Nor Spell Nor Charm with the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra on Deutsche Grammophon.

Although Druckman is best known for his dramatic orchestral works he also composed a sizable body of chamber music. Recorded here, the Second String Quartet was written in 1966 during his most experimental phase. It was commissioned by Lado, a philanthropic organisation for the Juilliard String Quartet. The score calls upon its performers to utilise a range of unorthodox techniques. The Third String Quartet was commissioned by the Fromm Music Foundation for the Concord Quartet in 1981. By contrast the Third from fifteen years later than the Second is composed more in the classical style. The players of the Group for Contemporary Music give convincing performances that are high in momentum and vitality. These two scores, especially the Second, provide considerable technical challenges which the players here meet with authority.    

In the final decade of his life Druckman’s music had been moving into a more established, late-Romantic pattern and Reflections on the Nature of Water for solo marimba is a clear example of this development. Druckman wrote Reflections as a commission from marimba player William Moersch. It is in essence a series of études composed in homage to Debussy’s piano preludes. Each of the six movements reflect a different physical property of water. Druckman stated that the score is an appreciation of the influence that Stravinsky and Debussy both had on his development. It is played on this recording by Druckman’s son Dan with real technical and artistic proficiency. He demonstrates himself to be a fine player. 

Dark Wind for violin and cello is one of Druckman’s last works. The score is remarkably concentrated and concise. It has been said to be a fitting summation of all that is finest in his mature style. Elements from the earlier quartets may be readily discerned but the leanness of texture and terseness of utterance suggests a new sense of urgency. Violinist Curtis Macomber and cellist Fred Sherry are fully engaged in this short score displaying fine musicianship.      

A fine release of rewarding music well performed and recorded.

Michael Cookson


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