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  Classical Editor Rob Barnett    



AVAILABILITY
www.centaurrecords.com

Distributed by D I Music (UK) T: +44 (0)161 491 6655 F: +44 (0)161 491 6688 dimus@aol.com

Arthur BERGER (b.1912)
Complete works for solo piano

Episodes (1933) [4.32]
Fantasy (1942) [4.42]
Rondo (1945) [3.30]
Partita (1947) [7.34]
Four Two-Part Inventions (1948-49) [9.25]
Three One-Part Inventions (1954) [9.10]
Five Pieces for Piano (1969) [12.11]
Birthday Cards - suite assembled by Geoffrey Burleson (1980-1994) [9.17]
Geoffrey Burleson (piano)
rec. 7, 11 Jan 1999, Little Center, Clark University, Worcester, Massachusetts. 6 July 27 Dec 2001, Patrych Sound Studios, Bronx, New York. DDD
CENTAUR CRC 2593 [66.37]



Centaur's catalogue is valuable but little sung. It is a delight to write about this disc and about a composer who has had hardly any attention from the record companies.

Berger was born in New York City. His style evolved from dodecaphony to neo-classical to serial. He was educated in schools in the Bronx. Knowledge about music during his high school years was soaked up from scores and music books. He soon began writing music. At New York University he teamed up with Jerome Moross and Bernard Herrmann. Through them he discovered Ives, Cowell and Varèse. His Two Episodes is a souvenir of those days when Schoenberg was the god of the 'Young Composers' group. The rigour of the Schoenbergian method was soon rejected. He took up music criticism and teaching, then travelled to Paris on a Paine travelling fellowship. Contact with Milhaud accounts for a neo-classical phase during the late 1930s and 1940s. The 1950s into the 1960s saw a further sea-change with the move to serialism which reached its zenith in his string quartet (1958). His compositions in the 1960s and since have been freer - moving easily from and to serialism - but still tough.

The Episodes are not the rigidly structured pieces we might have feared. If the Poco adagio is rather desiccated the Scherzando does not lack for jazzy juiciness and neither does the Allegro molto. These twelve tone pieces play for no more than 4½ minutes in total.

Almost a decade on and the Fantasy is a sanguine blend of jazzy positivism and fragmentation. Three years later the Rondo is a pleasing piece with melody playing an important part as it does in the Fantasy. Three Bagatelles are again delightful for both their dissonance and their tonal resource. The Partita is in five movements in which dissonance, fragmentation of line and popular music fuse and melt.

The Inventions date from the period 1948 to 1954. Some carry a Bachian implication (Lento and Leggiero tr. 16, 17). By 1969 he was back to 12-tone writing. On this disc the Five Pieces (Schoenbergian title too!) defiantly espouse the dodecaphonic cause. Be warned - this is firmly in the skittering, scatty, plink-plunk mode. While Copland-like effects float free from many of the other works this is tough indeed. The Birthday Cards, products of the 1980s and 1990s, are mined from the same refractory lode.

By no means easy music though the earlier tracks are more approachable than the later. The writing is concise with many pieces playing less than two minutes. Geoffrey Burleson is a doughty and highly sympathetic advocate for Berger's music. I am sure the composer must be delighted with his disc which is also extremely well documented by the pianist.


Rob Barnett

 



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