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Meyer KUPFERMAN (b.1926)
Elegy for the Vanished for guitar and orchestra (1999) [35.49]
Icon Symphony (2000) [25.36]
Double Concerto for Two Clarinets and Orchestra (1991 rev. 2000) [25.25]
Brass Quintet (1970) [10.41]
Chamber Concerto in one movement (1955) [26.22]
Roberto Limón (guitar)
Czech National Symphony Orchestra/Meyer Kupferman (Elegy)
Czech National Symphony Orchestra/Paul Freeman (Symphony; Double Concerto)
American Brass Quintet
Samuel Baron (fl); Gilbert Kalish (pf); Isidore Cohen (vn); Jeanne Benjamin (vn); Harry Zaratzian (va); Mikhail Rudiakov (vc)
rec. ICN Polyart, Prague, 5-7 June 2000. DDD
The Orchestral Music Vol. 14
SOUNDSPELLS CD 133 [2CDs: 61.04+55.33]


This is the first of two 2CD volumes of the orchestral music of Meyer Kupferman.

The prodigiously productive Meyer Kupferman wrote a four minute solo guitar piece in memory of Rosanna Limón, the murdered sister of the guitarist Roberto Limón. That was in 1997. His Elegy for the Vanished is a full-blown development of that piece. The composer speaks of the piece as a 'gestalt form' - a fantasy concerto with classical, romantic, Iberian and avant-garde gestures in the mix. This piece is of symphonic proportions and the performance here has the added authority of the composer conducting and the dedicatee and brother of Rosanna playing the guitar. Kupferman's generously stocked imagination sings in full flood in this work and contrasts with the unyielding ultra-modernities of the Quantum Symphony and Foxfire piano concerto. Here the slightly melancholy caste of the music links with that British arch-romantic Arnold Bax and with Robert Starer's Viola Concerto but with a fine sheen of dissonance. This is a gloriously impressionistic and emotional work in which invention is convincingly sustained across the 36 minute duration. This can be grouped with the better guitar works of Rodrigo (Aranjuez and Andaluz), Ponce, Arnold, Walton and Sylvie Bodorová (the latter superbly recorded on a recent Arco Diva CD). The cover art by Kupferman is an abstract sharing the same title as this piece which ends in serenity. This may well be one of the undiscovered masterworks of the last century; certainly a work in which Kupferman speaks directly and with an authentic creative urge.

The Icon Symphony is in four brief movements. The composer compares it to a Credo in four parts with each tracked separately. The first rises from avant-garde ballistics to stratospheric heights almost suggestive of Scriabin in his Mysterium (see Ashkenazy's 'complete' recording on Decca). The 9 minute long quasi-cadenza has more lyrical material than the other movements connecting with the end of the first. The final allegro barbaro is savage, perhaps reflecting images of ignorant armies clashing by night not even redeemed by self-sacrificial motives or anything approaching heroism. You may feel awe but this does not reach towards any human emotions except perhaps fear.

The Concerto for two clarinets and orchestra was written in 1991 and revised in 2000. The revised version is what was recorded here. It was commissioned for Stanley and Naomi Drucker, the husband and wife team. Stanley Drucker's name is very well known as the lead clarinet with the NYPO. The premiere was with the Nassau Symphony conducted by Andrew Schenck. The two movement avant-garde piece comprises a whimsical, sarcastic, perky and humorous Molto allegro e scherzando fantastico and a much more serious Misterioso which connects with the clarinet's singing soul - strangely this reminded me of Nyman and Heath (both the Linn and Black Box collections). The two movements seem unequal bedfellows though each piece satisfies in its own right.

The 1970 Brass Quintet is a strictly serial piece based on Kupferman's so-called 'infinities' row. It is in two movements. The short adagio bristles with intriguingly rasping outbursts and hoarse skirling noises. It is given a tour de force of an outing. The two trumpeters include Gerard Schwarz better known now as a conductor. Schwarz was also a trumpeter in the wind symphony orchestras' recording of Alan Hovhaness's Ani Symphony (Crystal). This recording is taken from a Serenus Editions LP from 1973-74 (SRS12041) and a very slight surface rustle can be heard. Both this recording and the Chamber Concerto are ex-Serenus tapes with the recordings taken from and with the permission of the Music Library of the Lincoln Center.

The Chamber Concerto (for the greater part a double concerto for flute and piano) belongs to a group that includes the Fourth Symphony, the Lyric Symphony and Libretto for Orchestra ; works from the mid-1950s in large free-shaped one-movement forms. It is from Serenus LP 12304. Kupferman regards this as one of his favourite early pieces and one from which he drew many ideas for later works. The recording has stunning immediacy. Free use is made of dissonance but the lines are identifiably melodic, connected and pregnant with warm colour and yielding expression. There is about much of this music something of Ned Rorem's susceptibility to elysian French summers, lost domains ... the poignant nostalgia of Alain Fournier's 'Grand Meaulnes'; something of Poulenc and Berkeley also. The flute is played by Samuel Baron (1925-1997). Mention of Baron's name reminds me that his multi-tracked version of Hovhaness's The Spirit of Ink was reviewed here not so very long ago (Crystal CD809).

Irritatingly the norm with Soundspell seems to be to omit details of the date and location of recording sessions. Fortunately this is not the case with volumes XIV and XV of the Kupferman series.

The series is distinguished by Mr Kupferman's paintings reproduced on the booklet covers.

Kupferman's wide range fully displayed from the griping and expostulation of the Icon Symphony and Quintet to the early lyricism of the Chamber Concerto and the late and deeply affecting lyricism of the Elegy.

Rob Barnett


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