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MSR Records

Mark ZUCKERMAN (b.1948)
Because [4:45]
Laughing Song [2:16]
Grow Old Along With Me [3:09]
Ani L’Dodi V’Alay T’shukato [1:27]
Proverbs for Four at Fifty:
Oz V’Hadar L’Vushah [2:02]
L’Khah Nirveh Dodim [3:01]
D’rakheyha Darkhey Noam [2:06]
Reyshit Khakhmah [2:03]
Kol Dodi [6:53]
Doyres fun der tsukunft [2:06]
Shtiler, shtiler [4:03]
Gebet [2:32]
Grant Us Peace [3:10]
The Goldene Keyt Singers: Mary Ellen Callahan (soprano), Hsi-Ling Chang (mezzo), Michael Steinberger (tenor), Thomas Meglioranza (baritone)
rec. Baby Monster Studios, New York City, 24-25 April 1999; TMF Studios, New York City, 2-3 October 1999
MSR CLASSICS MS 1146 [39:32]

Mark Zuckerman grew up in New York and later studied at the Juilliard School, at the University of Michigan and at Bard College. Early on he became fascinated by twelve-tone music – going on to complete a Ph.D. at Princeton, the American stronghold of serialism, studying with Milton Babbitt and J.K. Randall. At Princeton, indeed, he wrote a doctoral dissertation entitled Derivation As An Articulation of Set Structure:  A Study of the First Ninety-Two Measures of Milton Babbitt's String Quartet No.2.  Later he worked as an academic, holding posts at Princeton and Columbia. Wearying of the academic environment, and finding little stimulus to composition, he abandoned the university life and reassessed his direction as a composer. From roughly 1990 his work as a composer has followed two routes, side-by-side. One series of compositions has explored new aspects of atonality and serialist construction; another series of works in a traditionally tonal idiom. This second dimension of Zuckerman’s work is represented on this CD, which brings together recordings of a series of short choral works.
Perhaps the most immediately attractive items here are to be found in the series of Proverbs for Four at Fifty. Each sets a brief Old Testament text, in Hebrew. The brief settings are striking, the blend of voices often both intriguing and moving. Also very successful is Kol Dodi, a piece written for the 50th wedding anniversary of the composer’s parents, setting verses from the Song of Songs (again in Hebrew). Traditional Jewish idioms and inflections are handled with a thoroughly modern compositional sophistication. Quite a number of the pieces recorded here seem to have been ‘occasional’ in nature – written for the composer’s own wedding, for the birthdays of friends or in commemoration of the long service of a particular Rabbi. This last, Grant Us Peace, sets an English version of a favourite prayer of the Rabbi concerned, Rabbi Leonard Polter, setting it in a fashion which, in terms of structure, imitates aspects of the liturgical dialogue between cantor and congregation. The result is intriguing music of deceptive simplicity.
On the whole, I found Zuckerman’s settings of Elizabeth Barrett Browning (Because), Robert Browning (Grow old Along With Me) and William Blake (Laughing Song) rather less compelling than those of the modern Yiddish poets Avrom Reisen (Doyres fun der tsukunft and Gebet) and Mani Yeyb (Shtiler, shtiler). There is much that is subtle, persuasive and – quite simply – beautiful about these latter settings.
The choral quartet is admirable throughout; the composer provides helpful notes, with most of the texts provided, in the original (in the case of the English poems) or in translation.
This is a striking collection of choral miniatures – but the playing time is disappointingly ‘miniature’ too.

Glyn Pursglove


MSR Records


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