Neither the cover nor the notes of this CD give any
indication as to when Stephen Perillo was born, though the photograph
in his website (www.steveperillo.com)
shows that he must be in his early forties. His music, decidedly 20th
Century, does not yield any further information either. All we know,
is that, besides his professional activities, Steve Perillo composes
during his spare time, though he was at some time a pupil of David Del
Tredici. All the works here were written during the late 1990s.
Napoli! and Hangoverture
have much in common indeed and often sound as updated Ives or call Schnittke’s
polystylism to mind, often with a quirky sense of humour. The former,
a colourful, riotous evocation of Naples, opens with the tiny sounds
of a music box that will later reappear as a sort of ritornello.
This simple, almost naive idea is often countered by violent orchestral
clusters, in turn repeatedly silenced by pseudo-Neapolitan tunes (actually
the composer’s). The latter, written for a concert held on 1st
January 2000, also has all sorts of musical materials crashing into
each other. There are even some curious sounds that, to my ears at least,
suggest either a Wurlitzer or cinema organ (maybe these sounds are what
the back cover enigmatically refers to as "some sounds courtesy
of MVSOS" [sic]) and appropriately convey the meaning of the first
half of the title!
The Piano Concerto No.1, also from 1998,
opens with a Poulenc-like tune which also acts as a refrain throughout
the first movement though it is often rudely assaulted by angry orchestral
interjections. The slow section is some sort of theme and variations
often side-stepping into "cheap imitation" (as John Cage would
have it) of Classical piano writing. The finale movement is another
The Antique Suite is actually the orchestral
version of the somewhat earlier Woodwind Quintet No.2
of 1995. To some extent, this suite of short character pieces is the
most ‘classically’ conceived work in this release, although – again
– it has its share of unexpected material.
Obviously, these works, in which there are many funny
moments, are meant more to amuse than to plumb any great depth, through
their sometimes incongruous mix of almost innocent simplicity and post-modernist
sophistication. As already mentioned, Ives and Schnittke often come
to mind while some orchestral textures are sometimes redolent of Rota
These performances obviously have the composer’s approval
but are given a rather unflattering recorded sound.
So, in short, Steve Perillo’s idiosyncratic music may
not be – and will not be – to everyone’s taste; but if you enjoy Ives’
or Schnittke’s music, you will have no difficulty whatsoever to enjoy
this joyously iconoclastic music.