Genzmer, like his teacher Hindemith, appears
to have placed some importance on writing works for often-overlooked
instruments, including a series of pieces written for recorder.
The Thorofon series of Genzmer’s works, now with at least four
discs, includes a trumpet concerto and chamber music in various
combinations. Genzmer also shares his mentor’s liking for classical
forms and counterpoint. Those who are admirers of counterpoint
but who consider Hindemith somewhat dry might find some interesting
listening in this series and particularly in this release.
The Double Bass sonata begins with a narration
of the thematic material by the bass as the piano contributes
chordal support. The piano then begins a rapid section with
alternating chords. The overall sound reminds this reviewer
of Alexander Tcherepnin as well as Hindemith. The Burleske
continues the rapid pace, with the bass double-stopped and bell-like
tones in the piano proving an effective and arresting moment.
The Adagio afterwards is brooding and beautiful, performed
wonderfully by Shehata, who bring out every ounce of this movement’s
expressive potential. The expansive chords of the piano again
show the stamp of Hindemith’s influence, as well as, in the
concluding Vivace, the sound-world of Tcherepnin. The
piano and bass trade off rapid passages, with the bass played
to its extreme ranges. A pause, and the piece concludes.
The second cello sonata begins with Hindemithian
chords, then the cello enters with a melodic line that is strongly
reminiscent of Shostakovich. I’ve not been able to determine
if this is a quote, but this reviewer found himself pillaging
his memory of Shostakovich’s vocal works (Symphony 13? Michelangelo?).
Regardless, the theme here is haunting. Like the Double Bass
sonata, we have a slow brooding beginning section before the
piano begins a busy Allegro. This movement ends decisively
before moving into a perpetual movement Scherzo movement,
dark in tone and rather agitated, with Bartókian arpeggiated
chords as the cello races through its notes.
In listening to these performances, Genzmer
appears to place specific emphasis on the slow movements — the
Bass sonata being the first example. Here in the second cello
sonata, we start expectantly, with trills in the piano, as the
cello interjects narrative lines. The impression is that of
an aria; the cello giving a vocal part; an uneasy repose, if
such can be said — the lullabies of Shostakovich’s vocal works,
as mentioned above. This movement is a thing of great beauty
that disturbs and disquiets.
Of the works that remain, I’ll go into
detail on the first cello sonata. A space of over 25 years separates
the second cello sonata from the first. The second has a larger
scale, but we have the Genzmer characteristic of a slow narrative
introduction, here with a “Bach meets the last movement of the
Op. 147 Viola Sonata of Shostakovich” atmosphere. The contrapuntal
element is here; the liner notes also mention — and it is easy
to notice in the listening, that the thematic material is less
camouflaged. As would be expected in this earlier piece, the
Hindemith influence is also easier to discern, especially in
the ending of the first movement and the chordal passages of
the following Adagio.
Well worth getting for fans of Hindemith,
as would be the rest of the series on Thorofon, if the recording
and performance quality are the same as with this release. The
bass remains distinct in this recording, which could overpowered
by the brighter tone of the piano. The playing is top-notch
and the works hold interest. An enjoyable release.