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Every day we post 10 new Classical CD and DVD reviews. A free weekly summary is available by e-mail. MusicWeb is not a subscription site. To keep it free please purchase discs through our links.

  Classical Editor Rob Barnett    



Steve PERILLO
Napoli! (1998)
Piano Concerto No.1 (1998)a
Hangoverture (1998)
Antique Suite (1998)
Nina Kogan (piano)a; St. Petersburg Festival Orchestra/Yuval Waldman
Recorded: "Kapella", St. Petersburg, May 1998
CENTAUR CRC 2544 [61:42]


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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 riotous Rondo.

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 or Morricone.

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.

Hubert Culot


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