are amongst the many musicians celebrated in Joyce’s Finnegans
Wake, as in a mention of Pietro Castrucci (“I introduced her
… to our fourposter tunies chantreying under Castrucci Sinior”)
so the title of Joyce’s great fiction - even with an intrusive
apostrophe – makes a perfectly appropriate title for this collection
of modern music for the violin.
Copland’s Sonata was dedicated to the memory of a friend, Lieutenant
Harry H. Dunham, who was shot down over the Pacific in the course
of World War II - though Copland had actually finished the Sonata
before hearing news of Dunham’s death. It is a fine, and moving,
piece. Each of the three movements closes quietly and there is
plenty of interplay between the instruments - the pianist is far
more than a mere accompanist – which, with frequent changes of
tempo, at times has an almost improvisatory feel about it. The
changes of tempo in the first movement are particularly striking
and expressive, and are very well handled in this performance.
The lento second movement is beautiful in its calm simplicity,
which contrasts very effectively with the far greater complexity
and variety of the closing allegretto.
Riconoscenza per Goffredo Petrassi might be said both to
‘recognise’ the occasion of its dedicatee’s 80th birthday,
for which it was written, and embrace something of the Italianate
nature of Petrassi’s own music. The two composers became friends
during Carter’s time as visiting composer at the American Academy
in Rome. It demands a virtuoso soloist – and it finds one here.
Use is made of three distinct idioms, between which it switches
abruptly. Some of the writing is poignant and lyrical (marked
dolce, legatissimo, scorrevole), some is
discordant and aggressive (giocasemente, furioso,
martellato), some is reflective (tranquillo, ben
legato). The transitions are fluid and the entire work, in
this fine performance, is an affectionate and graceful tribute.
Passions begins with a longish section for unaccompanied violin,
in which there are clear echoes of the Chinese musical idioms
of the composer’s childhood. The piece as a whole mixes western
and eastern musical gestures. The results are pleasant but not
Dale Roberts is the English representative in the programme. His
Capriccio is dedicated to Howard Ferguson. The composer
says of the piece that it is modelled after various of Paganini’s
Capricci, the duo sonatas of Béla Bartok and “certain traits
in the music of … Szymanowski”. I can hear more of Bartók and
Szymanowski than of Paganini, in a piece which is consistently
interesting but which somehow doesn’t quite catch fire until very
near the end of its more than eleven minutes of music.
Spring of Chosroes is one of his hypnotic musical negotiations
with stasis and pattern, which were much influenced by the composer’s
interest in Near and Middle Eastern rugs and carpets – the work’s
title refers to the legendary carpet woven for Prince Chosroes,
which was some sixty yards square and on which was represented
a garden, full of running water and flowers, trees and paths.
This ‘paradisal’ image receives a musical interpretation built
out of silence and stillness, repetition and very gradual change.
No one familiar with Feldman’s mature music will expect obvious
excitement – what they will expect and will hear, is music of
distinctive beauty which demands, and rewards, absolute attention.
It operates through small-scale details, where the most minute
differences carry immense significance. It demands so much precise
attention from the listener that I find it simultaneously stimulating
David Gompper’s Finnegan’s Wake, described by its composer
as presenting “Irish-Appalachia-Texas fiddle traditions embedded
within the context of art music”, comes as something of a shock
to the system if one simply allows the CD to run its course -
probably best avoided. An utterly different scale of significance
operates here, and the musical idioms could hardly be more different.
This is witty and playful stuff, dance rhythms and tunes taken
in unlikely directions and here performed with great gusto, with
the composer at the piano.
is a richly various and enjoyable programme. The works by Copland,
Carter and Feldman are important and, in their very different
ways, profoundly satisfying pieces. Those by Hu, Roberts and Gompper
are all of interest and well worth the hearing. David and Gompper
are obviously highly accomplished musicians. In both technique
and musical intelligence they are well equipped to cope with this
demanding programme and I look forward to hearing more of their
by Dominy Clements