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Marga RICHTER (b. 1926)
Variations and Interludes on Themes from Monteverdi and Bach, “...Besides the still waters” (1992) [46.16]
Howard HARRIS (1945-1996)
Music for dauncing Judicially, proving the true observation of time and measure in the Authenticall and laudable use of Dauncing (1996) [27.05]
Renata Knific (violin); Pamela Frame (cello); Robert Weirich (piano) (Richter); Carinthian Saxophone Quartet (Gilbert Sabitzer, alto saxophone); Polish Radio National Symphony Orchestra/Joel Suben (Harris)
rec. 2004, Katowice, Poland. DDD
Notes in English.
LEONARDA LE 351 [73.21]

 

Both of these works are improvisational in style and make occasional use of motifs borrowed from famous music. This is a normal situation, but is still remarkable in our time because we have come through the dodecaphonist - perhaps that should be dodecaphone; others think it should dodecacophonist - age where even using an E flat minor scale was considered inexcusable plagiarism. Wagner got his Tristan motif from Berlioz, great moments from the Beethoven piano sonatas are scattered throughout the keyboard works of Haydn and Mozart, Irving Berlin stole “God Bless America” from the Berlioz Requiem (and his heirs tried to force the U.S. Boy Scouts to pay a royalty every time they sang it!), Liszt’s hungarian rhapsodies quote Hungarian pop tunes, both Strauss and Stravinsky ended up having to pay fines and royalties for borrowing tunes. So, we are just back to normal. It’s OK.

Born in Wisconsin in 1926, and possessor of a masters degree from Persichetti at the Juilliard School, Marga Richter has always been one of my favorite composers because of her unswerving pursuit of maximum passion in her works. She goes directly for the heart every time and usually hits square on. It was with some disappointment that it became clear to me that she often uses a famous composition by another classical composer as a matrix upon which to build her structures, but then according to Tovey the young Schubert did a lot of the same thing, as did the young Mozart etc., etc.

This work is pretty well described by its current title, less well served by the original program title which the composer no longer uses. These waters are more deep than still and turbulent storms of passion rage not far away. There are passages for full orchestra, for trio alone and against full orchestra, and extended soliloquies for each of the solo instruments. I enjoyed the work on first hearing and find it growing on me with each additional hearing.

Howard Harris describes Musicke for Dauncing Judicially (to give it a short title) as “jazz influenced”, but if like me that raises an alarm bell for you, don’t be concerned. The jazzy interludes are no jazzier nor more frequent that in Hindemith, and the structure of the music is sound and convincing. While it does not aim so deep in feeling as the Richter, this work is very entertaining; you will look forward to hearing it again. The piece was inspired by Hesse’s Steppenwolf. The saxophone is “placed ... in a ... jazz groove ... on top of music by Monteverdi, Bach, Handel and Schütz.”

Harris was born in Brooklyn, has written music from the age of eleven, and graduated from Juilliard with a B.Sc. in composition after studying with Elliott Carter, Hall Overton and Roger Sessions. He died unexpectedly at the age of 51 immediately after completing the orchestration of this work.

Paul Shoemaker

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