This disc and several of the early instalments
in Soundspell's Kupferman Edition are taken from recordings first
issued on LP on the Serenus label.
I came to this disc with two pieces of baggage.
Firstly I recalled praise for the music in early issues of Fanfare.
Secondly I had just heard the impressively diaphanous and vehement
Kupferman Cello Concerto (the one with tape and orchestra) on
VoxBox's American Concertos double CD.
Kupferman was born in Manhattan in 1926. His
natural lingua franca is atonal but with an unblinkered
aptitude for importing tonal elements when there is an expressive
His Lyric Symphony is not perhaps
typical. It is inspired by memories of a lost composer friend
whose natural medium was tonality. The work is in a single 22
minute movement incorporating three episodes played without interruption.
Each episode is predominantly slow or moderato. It is played
here by the orchestra and conductor who appeared in several CRI
recordings of the 1950s and 1960s. The recording shows the stress
and strain of the years that have passed since it was made for
Serenus in, I would guess (the notes are silent), 1960-65. The
strings sound a tad strident and the original recording engineer
pulled back on the levels when the music rose to any great eminence.
This is an impressive work suggestive of some apocalyptic amour
with the hyper-romantic musing love-song on the high strings (Barber
out of Harris out of Pettersson) heard at the outset and returning
with satisfying emphasis at the end.
The Variations for Orchestra are
systematically atonal but avoid the morose meandering often associated
with such work by variation of speed and incident. Certainly the
writing is not emotionally desiccated and the orchestration is
full of colour. The theme is a Moderato intenso followed
by four variation sections marked agitato, andante,
allegro, moderato andante. Once again the sound
is stressed. The Ostinato Burlesco is an ebullient
orchestral concert-opener - Bernstein on turbo. This is easy to
listen to, complete with burbling horns and seething with percussion-driven
rhythmic 'irritation'. The tumult pauses for thought in an exotic
mist redolent of Griffes' Pleasure Dome before the thrashingly
adrenaline pumping slalom resumes. An early piece then, with only
the lightest atonal glaze and with more of Broadway about it than
Schoenberg. Wonderful. Try it on your unsuspecting friends.
Kupferman's Cello Concerto shows,
rather like the works of the Swedes Lindberg and Johanson, a fruitful
nexus between classical and jazz dissonances. It is scored for
amplified cello, bass, three saxes, piccolo, flute, clarinet and
bass clarinet. The three movements are Zodiac, Blues
Stream and Wild Wild Roses. The cello is in urgent
song most of the time in Zodiac with dissonance-inflected
gestures from 1940s Big Band music. The Blues Stream is
quietly alive with Gershwin blues but becomes more sourly reflective
as the movement progresses. Wild and blasting interplay between
the three saxes contrasts with the warming reflections of the
cello's atonal rhapsodising. The work was originally written for
Laszlo Varga who is the cellist for the completely different Kupferman
Cello Concerto on VoxBox.
An attractive single disc introduction though
the vintage sound of the three orchestral works begins to show
its age. The disc should also appeal to out and out jazz enthusiasts.