As part of their successful 'American Classics’ series
Naxos turn their attention to the chamber music of the American
composer Jacob Druckman. These recordings were issued previously
on the Koch International Classics label in 1998.
Druckman was born in Philadelphia in 1928 and developed
into one of the most prominent of contemporary American composers.
After early training in violin and piano, he enrolled in the
Juilliard School in 1949, studying composition with Bernard
Wagenaar, Vincent Persichetti, and Peter Mennin. In 1949 and
1950 he worked with Aaron Copland at Tanglewood and later continued
his studies at the Ecole Normale de Musique in Paris (1954-55).
Music critic Mark Swed has written about Druckman stating,
“At the heart of the works of Jacob Druckman lies the bold,
sure, and often arrestingly physical dramatic gesture... Yet
Druckman's scores have always exhibited another characteristic
as well: that of careful structure, built with meticulous attention
to detail. The process of integrating these two sides of his
character...has been a consistent factor throughout the composer's
Druckman produced a substantial list of works embracing
orchestral, concertante, chamber and vocal, also composing for
theatre, films, and ballet. He undertook a considerable amount
of work with electronic music. In 1972 he was awarded the Pulitzer
Prize for his score Windows for large orchestra. Organisations
that commissioned his music included Radio France (Shog,
1991); the Chicago Symphony Orchestra (Brangle, 1989);
the New York Philharmonic (Concerto for Viola and Orchestra,
1978 and Aureole, 1979); the Philadelphia Orchestra (Counterpoise,
1994); the Baltimore Symphony (Prism, 1980); the St.
Louis Symphony Orchestra (Mirage, 1976); the Juilliard
Quartet (String Quartet No. 2, 1966); the Koussevitzky
Foundation in the Library of Congress (Windows, 1972);
IRCAM (Animus IV, 1977); and numerous others.
Druckman taught at the Juilliard School, Bard College,
and Tanglewood. In addition he was director of the Electronic
Music Studio and Professor of Composition at Brooklyn College.
He was also associated with the Columbia-Princeton Electronic
Music Center in New York City. In the spring of 1982, he was
Resident-In-Music at the American Academy in Rome. In April
of that year, he was appointed composer-in-residence with the
New York Philharmonic, where he served two two-year terms and
was Artistic Director of the HORIZONS music festival. In the
last years of his life, Druckman was Professor of Composition
at the School of Music at Yale University.
Many of Druckman's works have been recorded, by Deutsche
Grammophon, Nonesuch, CRI, New World and other labels. Recent
recordings include Aureole with the St. Louis Symphony
under Slatkin on New World, Prism with the New York Philharmonic
under Mehta on New World; and Nor Spell Nor Charm with
the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra on Deutsche Grammophon.
Although Druckman is best known for his dramatic orchestral
works he also composed a sizable body of chamber music. Recorded
here, the Second String Quartet was written in 1966 during
his most experimental phase. It was commissioned by Lado, a
philanthropic organisation for the Juilliard String Quartet.
The score calls upon its performers to utilise a range of unorthodox
techniques. The Third String Quartet was commissioned
by the Fromm Music Foundation for the Concord Quartet in 1981.
By contrast the Third from fifteen years later than the
Second is composed more in the classical style. The players
of the Group for Contemporary Music give convincing performances
that are high in momentum and vitality. These two scores, especially
the Second, provide considerable technical challenges
which the players here meet with authority.
In the final decade of his life Druckman’s music had been
moving into a more established, late-Romantic pattern and Reflections
on the Nature of Water for solo marimba is a clear example
of this development. Druckman wrote Reflections as a
commission from marimba player William Moersch. It is in essence
a series of études composed in homage to Debussy’s piano
preludes. Each of the six movements reflect a different
physical property of water. Druckman stated that the score is
an appreciation of the influence that Stravinsky and Debussy
both had on his development. It is played on this recording
by Druckman’s son Dan with real technical and artistic proficiency.
He demonstrates himself to be a fine player.
Dark Wind for violin and cello is one of Druckman’s last works. The
score is remarkably concentrated and concise. It has been said
to be a fitting summation of all that is finest in his mature
style. Elements from the earlier quartets may be readily discerned
but the leanness of texture and terseness of utterance suggests
a new sense of urgency. Violinist Curtis Macomber and cellist
Fred Sherry are fully engaged in this short score displaying
A fine release of rewarding music
well performed and recorded.