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Steven R. GERBER
Symphony No. 1
Dirge and Awakening
Viola Concerto *
Triple Overture **

Lars Anders Tompter (viola)*, The Beckova Sisters** Russian Symphony Orchestra - Thomas Sanderling
recorded in Studio 5, Recording and Broadcast Station of Moscow - 3-7 August 1999.
 Chandos CHAN 9831 [67.19] DDD
   Amazon USA

Here is a disc which has benefited greatly from the chaos currently rife in the record industry. As sales have been dropping on the 80th version of someone's 5th Symphony, some of the recording companies have at last woken up to the fact that there is much wonderful music still out there waiting to be recorded. This process which was started by the independents, let unknown works by little known composers to be recorded and this issue is an example of this strategy. It is a fairly high risk move, but I guess that the curiosity sales for an unknown work might still be larger than for the umpteenth version of a well known piece.

With this disc, the strategy seems to have paid off, for we have an issue which I am sure many will find of great interest and give much satisfaction. How best to describe Gerber's style ? In discussion with colleagues, we came to the conclusion that it was like a mixture of Shostakovitch and Steve Reich, but that does nothing for Gerber, and not much else for the other two. Needless to say, from the very superficial description you will get an idea and all the works on this disc come from Gerber's current output which is becoming more and more tonal in character. In common with Shostakovitch, Gerber also uses initials / letters of his and other's names to create themes to work on. All the works presented here were written between 1988 and 1998.

Symphony No. 1 is in three movements, and has been described as Russian, tragic and despairing. Although true, I also found it uplifting and not at all difficult to listen to, and indeed listened to it again, immediately afterwards.

The Viola Concerto was written for Yuri Bashmet, and was first performed by him in Tours in 1997. The work is in three movements and each of these display a separate mood which is developed by the composer. The first is maestoso and this has a central cadenza based on the material earlier on in the movement. The second movement is a set of variations based on the letters B-A-S-H-M-E-T using German and French notation for the B, S, and H and French for the M (Mi) and T (Ti). The last movement is a short fast entity, rhythmically complex and somewhat lighter in context than the preceding movements.

Dirge and Awakening is a 10 minute single movement work written for Mikhail Pletnev and the Russian National Orchestra, and was first performed in Moscow in 1993. It is an abstract piece, with little or no programme in spite of the title.

Finally, the Triple Overture was written in 1998 for the present performers and specially for this disc. He was at first asked for a Triple Concerto but instead wrote more of a Triple Concertino. It was renamed Triple Overture because the term Concertino was thought to be a little light for what is indeed quite a concentrated work.

Although there are no competitive recordings of these works, the performances are first rate, with very expert playing from Lars Anders Tomter and the Beckova Sisters. The Russian Philharmonic Orchestra play and accompany very well, and they are lucky to have Thomas Sanderling in charge of the whole proceedings. The documentation is up to Chandos's normally high standard, and the recording, made by Russian engineers is of very high quality, well up to the company's normally high house standard.

I hope this issue does well - I enjoyed it very much, and recommend it very highly to you.

John Phillips

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