£16 post free World-wide

 


555 sonatas 9Cds mp3 files
Only £22


 


Benjamin: Written on Skin £16

Search
What's New
Previous CDs
Concerts
Jazz
Nostalgia
Composers
Resources
Announce
Labels index


Every day we post 10 new Classical CD and DVD reviews. A free weekly summary is available by e-mail. MusicWeb is not a subscription site. To keep it free please purchase discs through our links.

  Classical Editor Rob Barnett    



CD REVIEW
RECORDING OF THE MONTH


Some items
to consider


BRAHMS Complete Edition
58CD £95.22


Shostakovich 14 Petrenko


Rachmaninov #3
Prokofiev #2

 


Dunedin Consort

Peter Grimes

Hymn of Jesus: Sea Drift

Complete Mozart Edition
Mozart complete edition

Vaughan Williams Symphonies 5 & 8 £11

Weiner, Klepper, Bloch, Schulhoff £12 post free


Available again

alternatively
AmazonUK AmazonUS

 

Piano music of Roger Sessions and Ralph Shapey
Roger SESSIONS (1896-1985)
Sonata #1 (1930) [14:27]
Sonata #3 (1964-1965) [19:28]
Ralph SHAPEY (1921-2002)
Mutations (1956) [7:45]
Mutations II (1966) [11:32]
21 Variations (1978) [26:14]
David Holzman (piano)
rec. 16-19 January 2007, Rogers Center for the Arts, Merimack College, North Andover, Massachusetts USA. DDD
BRIDGE 9243 [79:31]
Experience Classicsonline


The juxtaposition of piano music by two such different composers as Sessions and Shapey is interesting. It works well on this useful CD thanks to the dynamism and perception of pianist David Holzman. It's to be welcomed for another reason: it helps to redress the balance after a period of neglect following their deaths in 1985 and 2002 respectively. It could be argued that the reputation of each was poorly established even before then and has been further obscured (by neglect) ever since.

Sessions music is nowhere near so 'difficult' as such a reputation would suggest. His first Sonata, for example, is lyrical, bouncy almost, sunny and immediate. Holzman plays its single movement - it lasts almost a quarter of an hour - with measured attack, never lingering nor yet rushing. He persuades us that there is much to be squeezed from its at times busy sounding full and rich passages. Holzman invites us to glance back to Ives … and even to Brahms! … through the eyes, perhaps, of Carter.

Like Messiaen's, the voice of the third sonata (from 35 years later and fully serial) is rich, packed and dense. Yet Holzman draws out Sessions' assuredness. The composer was not one to muse aloud or foist his experiments on us as he went along. This music is as carefully pre-considered as anything by Webern or Bartók. Its compelling beauty is spare in the first movement; yet we are teased, almost, by the changes in pace and texture. As it goes on the sonata becomes wilder and more expansive. Yet it never loses a classical beauty of melodic line for all the furious counterpoint and 12-tone attack. Holzman stays in perfect control without a hint of woodenness. He is an ideal pianist for this repertoire: he has not only an amazing technique (and at least 20 fingers); but his sensitivity to the inner structure of the music is sure and revealing without being overly 'pianistic' as such.

Ralph Shapey came from a different world, in some ways. Proletarian to Sessions gentry, he was most at home in the Abstract Expressionism of the New York scene. Shapey studied with Stefan Wolpe but was as close to Feldman (and even Cage) in his interest in fragmentation, pulsing extracts of sound surrounded by silence as a valid way to move a work forward. Holzman is - again - completely in accord with this idiom.

Mutations, Mutations II and 21 Variations have in common an interest in tension and withheld resolution. There is even more of Webern in the condensed nature of pieces like Mutations [tr.5]. It dictates its own terms of reference and rules. In that sense it needs to be played almost as an introverted and highly refined and concentrated interlude. And so Holzman plays it - yet somehow as an inevitable complement - to the rest of one's day - whose purpose and context can neither be ignored nor forgotten. Life oozes out of it.

Similarly Mutations II is even sterner. It's hard to tell - even after repeated listenings - whether Shapey has any peace in mind. Or whether - perhaps like Shostakovich - he really does despair and simply wants to portray incoherence without limit. Not that the music lacks direction. Again, that's a strength of Holzman's. It moves towards and away from centres of gravity tonally. Yet Mutations II does seem to be coming apart in all other respects.

Nowhere is Holzman's identification with the way Shapey was thinking when he conceived these pieces clearer, nor is Holzman's expert grasp of the music more stunningly visible, than towards the end of Mutations [tr.6] - and, for that matter, throughout the whirlwind Mutations II [tr.7]; those four hands again! Amazing.

21 Variations is much more figurative, chromatic, somewhat less abstract - at least in conception. The clusters, chords and clamour are as prominent as ever. Yet they are less the vehicles for the variations' development; more the result. Once again, Holzman is completely in tune with such an underlying purpose; he pulls out every nuance and subtlety without losing sight of Shapey's intention. In other words this is a performance where flourish, virtuosity (however tempting and even inevitable it could have been) is rejected for insight, patience and authority. Authority of a curious, not a demonstrative, kind.

Both Sessions and Shapey had few misgivings about distilling their reactions towards their century (and its art, its music) into abstract and almost romantically nostalgic styles. That, perhaps, is what they have most in common. Not that Holzman is out to build his performances entirely - or even chiefly - on commonalities. But what each composer's approach says about the other's is always illuminating from the hands of someone who is so at home in, and positive about, both. This makes this a special CD with few others exposing Shapey's music in particular to the same extent. It will not disappoint.

The presentation of this CD with an informative essay by Holzman and a reference to his lecture on Shapey is good; it's businesslike and a little severe - but a great background to two composers who surely deserve reassessment. Outstanding playing like Holzman's here is more than a giant leap towards that. His total understanding of the music, its context and its strengths commend it to us not for its perceived difficulty or lamentable obscurity, but its beauty and power.

Mark Sealey


 


Gerard Hoffnung CDs

Advertising on
Musicweb


Donate and get a free CD

New Releases

Naxos Classical

Hyperion

Musicweb sells the following labels
Acte Préalable
Alto
Arcodiva
CDAccord
Centaur
Hallé
Hortus
Lyrita
Nimbus
Northern Flowers
Redcliffe
Sheva
Talent
Toccata Classics


Follow us on Twitter

Subscribe to our free weekly newsletter
 


EXPLORE MUSICWEB INTERNATIONAL

Making a Donation to MusicWeb

Writing CD reviews for MWI

About MWI
Who we are, where we have come from and how we do it.

Site Map

How to find a review

How to find articles on MusicWeb
Listed in date order

Review Indexes
   By Label
      Select a label and all reviews are listed in Catalogue order
   By Masterwork
            Links from composer names (eg Sibelius) are to resource pages with links to the review indexes for the individual works as well as other resources.

Themed Review pages

Jazz reviews

 

Discographies
   Composer
      Composer surveys
   National
      Unique to MusicWeb -
a comprehensive listing of all LP and CD recordings of given works
.
Prepared by Michael Herman

The Collector’s Guide to Gramophone Company Record Labels 1898 - 1925
Howard Friedman

Book Reviews

Complete Books
We have a number of out of print complete books on-line

Interviews
With Composers, Conductors, Singers, Instumentalists and others
Includes those on the Seen and Heard site

Nostalgia

Nostalgia CD reviews

Records Of The Year
Each reviewer is given the opportunity to select the best of the releases

Monthly Best Buys
Recordings of the Month and Bargains of the Month

Comment
Arthur Butterworth Writes

An occasional column

Phil Scowcroft's Garlands
British Light Music articles

Classical blogs
A listing of Classical Music Blogs external to MusicWeb International

Reviewers Logs
What they have been listening to for pleasure

Announcements

 

Community
Bulletin Board

Give your opinions or seek answers

Reviewers
Pat and present

Helpers invited!

Resources
How Did I Miss That?

Currently suspended but there are a lot there with sound clips


Composer Resources

British Composers

British Light Music Composers

Other composers

Film Music (Archive)
Film Music on the Web (Closed in December 2006)

Programme Notes
For concert organizers

External sites
British Music Society
The BBC Proms
Orchestra Sites
Recording Companies & Retailers
Online Music
Agents & Marketing
Publishers
Other links
Newsgroups
Web News sites etc

PotPourri
A pot-pourri of articles

MW Listening Room
MW Office

Advice to Windows Vista users  
Questionnaire    
Site History  
What they say about us
What we say about us!
Where to get help on the Internet
CD orders By Special Request
Graphics archive
Currency Converter
Dictionary
Magazines
Newsfeed  
Web Ring
Translation Service

Rules for potential reviewers :-)
Do Not Go Here!
April Fools




Return to Review Index

Untitled Document


Reviews from previous months
Join the mailing list and receive a hyperlinked weekly update on the discs reviewed. details
We welcome feedback on our reviews. Please use the Bulletin Board
Please paste in the first line of your comments the URL of the review to which you refer.