> Murray ADASKIN Collection [CF]: Classical CD Reviews- Nov 2002 MusicWeb(UK)

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Murray ADASKIN (1906-2002)
Five CDs from The Adaskin Collection
Murray ADASKIN (1906-2002)
The Adaskin Collection

Volume 1: String Quartets
String Quartet No.1 (1963)

String Quartet No.2 (1994) ‘La Cadenza’

Allegro moderato
Andante amabile
Allegretto scherzando
Lafayette String Quartet
Recorded at the University Centre Auditorium, University of Victoria, BC, Canada, in March 1994
ADLAR MM 101 [49.36]
Volume 2: Solo instrumental works
Vocalise No.2 ‘In 5/4 time’ for solo cello (1994)
Sonata for piano (1950)

With free and gentle motion
Moderate, but rhythmic
Finale, quick and lively
Sonatine Baroque for solo violin (1952)

Rondalee for piano (1993)
Eskimo Melodies for piano (1980)
Etude No.1 for piano (1992)
Vocalise No. 1 for solo clarinet (1989)
Gretchen for piano (1992)

Ewa Stojek-Lupin (piano), Andrew Dawes (violin), Patricia Kostek (clarinet), Tsuyoshi Tsutsumi (cello)
Recorded at CBC Vancouver, and the Philip T Young Recital Hall, University of Victoria, Canada
ADLAR MM 102 [44.13]
Volume 3: Chamber Music
Octet for Strings (1993)
Sonata No. 2 (1987) for violin and piano
Divertimento No.7 for two cellos and piano (1985)
Vocalise No. 1 for solo violin (1989)
String Quintet (1995)
Allegro vivo
Lafayette String Quartet
Cuarteto Latinoamericano
Sharon Stanis (violin)
Ewa Stojek-Lupin (piano)
Tsuyoshi Tsutsumi (cello)
Pamela Highbaugh-Aloni (cello)
Jacques Israelievitch (violin)
Gary Karr (double bass)
Recorded at the Philip T Young Recital Hall, University of Victoria, Canada
ADLAR MM 103 [49.04]
Volume 4: Solo instrumental works
Sonata for cello and piano (1981)

Nocturne for clarinet and piano (1978)
Sonata No.1 for violin and piano (1946)

Rondo allegro
Daydreams for Eb alto saxophone and piano (1971)

Ewa Stojek-Lupin (piano),
Patricia Kostek (clarinet)
Tsuyoshi Tsutsumi (cello)
Bruce Vogt (piano)
Ann Elliot-Goldschmid (violin)
Patricia Grant Lewis (piano)
Erik Abbink (saxophone)
Jacqueline Perriam (piano)
ADLAR MM 104 [45.07]

Volume 5: Chamber Music
Woodwind Quintet No. 1 (1974)
Allegretto -Andantino-Allegretto
Allegro ma non troppo
Musica Victoria (2000)

Adagio maestoso -Allegro ma non troppo-Meno mosso e tranquillo-Allegro ma non troppo-Adagio
Sonatine Baroque for solo violin (1952)

Woodwind Quintet No. 2 (1993)
Adagio-Allegro moderato-Adagio-Scherzando
Bergen Woodwind Quintet
Thuringer Salonquintett
Jack Glatzer (violin)
ADLAR MM 105 [49.06]

The violinist, composer and teacher Murray Adaskin died in August 2002 at the age of ninety-six after a distinguished career in the musical life of his native Canada. He played violin in orchestras for silent films in Toronto, was a member of the Toronto Symphony from 1922-35, and was violinist in the Royal York Hotel Trio from 1938 to 1952. In 1952 he moved to Saskatoon to become head of music at the University of Saskatchewan. He was conductor of the Saskatoon Symphony Orchestra from 1956-1960, and was appointed composer-in-residence at the university in 1966, finally retiring in 1972. Adaskin became one of the first major composers to be based in Western Canada when he moved to Victoria in 1973 and continued to compose and teach. More than half his works were written in Victoria.

He composed about 130 works between the post-war years and his retirement in 2000. Most of his music is instrumental, although there is some vocal work including his one-act opera Grant, Warden of the Plains. His final work, Musica Victoria (featured here in Volume 5), was written in 2000. His music has been widely performed, broadcast, recorded and admired since the 1950s. He was an influential and charismatic teacher and thousands of students took his music appreciation classes at the University of Saskatchewan. He was also a founding member of the Canadian League of Composers in 1951 and an associate composer of the Canadian Music Centre.

Adaskin composed pieces for young musicians and for special occasions, organized concerts and festivals, adjudicated competitions, and served on cultural committees and boards. He was responsible for the purchase of a quartet of Amati instruments for the University of Saskatchewan, instruments played for many years by Victoria's Lafayette String Quartet (as on Volume 1), an ensemble with whom he had a close association. The university didn't want to buy the violins, which at the time were worth $10,000, and are now valued at $5 million. Adaskin was named an Officer of the Order of Canada in 1980, and received six honorary doctorates.

A couple of years ago Adaskin recalled how his teacher Darius Milhaud congratulated his pupil on receiving a telegram from a Canadian listener which asked ‘Have you seen a psychiatrist?’ after hearing his Suite for Orchestra. As Milhaud pointed out, ‘This shows that Canadians are reacting to your music’. From the evidence of these five CDs (each a separate entity lasting under just 50 minutes, and not a boxed set) there’s not much to see a psychiatrist about. To use the word ‘old-fashioned’ to describe Adaskin’s music may be deemed to be a snub, but nothing like that is intended. Certainly in terms of late 20th century styles it remains conventional, often using dance forms, jazz, lilting melodies, common Italian terms for its tempo indications, and emotional Romanticism. A good starting point to familiarise yourself with the Adaskin style is the first disc with the two string quartets, especially the later one written for the players featured here with their four Amati instruments. Another highly enjoyable work is the Sonatine Baroque (curiously included on both the second and fifth volumes) for solo violin. Adaskin clearly enjoys writing works for accompanied instruments and does it well, and Andrew Dawes is a fine player, especially the viola-like sounds of his violin’s low register, while Pat Kostek’s performance of the Vocalise for solo clarinet has wit, colour and technical expertise.

The String Octet is a very brief affair at four minutes, but no less effective for that, and as an occasional work it opens with a fanfare followed by a moving middle section and concluding with a rather witty passing reference to Beethoven’s fifth. His sonatas with piano accompaniment divide their labours evenly, and it must be said he writes extremely well for the piano and for string instruments (in particular and unsurprisingly the violin). He clearly seems to have favoured instrumental music, either for soloists or for small ensembles, throughout his career, though the orchestral catalogue is apparently substantial too. There are many distinctive themes and imaginative ideas in his second violin sonata, and original textures in his scoring of the entertaining Divertimento (one of nine carrying this title) for two cellos. The String Quintet also gives equal prominence to its five players, notably including the double bass which so often plays an also-ran role supporting its string colleagues (including Schubert’s Trout Quintet), but Adaskin, at the impressive age of 90 when he wrote it, did have that fine player Gary Karr in his sights. As an example of Adaskin’s readily accessible style this is as good as it gets and the playing is excellent.

On the fourth disc there is a risk of sameness not only to the style but also the instrumental combinations, but having said that, it would be a pity to miss the brief but hauntingly lovely Daydreams for alto saxophone creamily played by Erik Abbink to a discreet piano accompaniment by Jacqueline Perriam. The fifth volume spans virtually his entire composing career from 1952 to 2000 and mixes works for strings and for woodwinds. Adaskin is nothing if not consistent, always intent on appealing to a broad audience and making no attempt to follow compositional fashion, eschewing innovation and largely avoiding the twelve-note system or taking other avant-garde routes. The second movement of the first wind quintet shows his training with Milhaud, a Gallic wit and subtlety in its rhythms, and short germinal musical ideas developed in relatively short phrases, the finale its most attractive movement. With Musica Victoria we are, in terms of scoring, exactly at Schubert’s Trout Quintet mentioned earlier. The ensemble combination is typical of the old Viennese coffee-house tradition, and at 95 Adaskin produced this, his last and highly compelling work, with its wistful tunes, gentle rhythms and translucent textures. It is given a lovingly paced performance by the salon quintet.

Murray Adaskin’s name may not be familiar to many outside Canada or North America, but judging from these five CDs it should be. He was clearly a craftsman of the highest order, he had something to say and communicated it with care, humanity and sensitivity to the ears of his audience. If you like the style you will be hooked.

Christopher Fifield

see also In Memoriam Murray Adaskin


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