recently been listening to a number of discs from Koch's
serendipitous back catalogue. This has taken in works
by Neikrug, Pinkham, Hovhaness, Cowell, Roy Harris and
now Steven Gerber.
was born in Washington DC. He is based in New York City.
His teachers included Earl Kim and Milton Babbitt (see
earliest works leaned on serial apparatus but from 1981
onwards he has embraced tonality although not unconditionally.
His fidelity to tonality can be heard in full splendour
in the Violin Concerto
written for and premiered
by Kurt Nikkanen.
to hear from Nikkanen again. Like so many other top young
players he enjoyed a clutch of celebrity launch discs
and then dropped from international sight. Here he champions
Gerber's rather romantic Violin Concerto which veers
between the tropics of American 1930s pastoral and torrid
Barber-Menotti-Flagello. In the central Lento
almost Tchaikovskian effusion of song stretches high
into the whistling realms occupied by Pettersson’s Seventh
Symphony and by Sibelius in his Humoresques. The aggressive
mordant brawling and boisterous finale is half the length
of either of the first two movements. This concerto
is absolutely stunningly recorded and the finale demonstrates
these technical virtues quite apart from being a pleasure
to listen to repeatedly.
Concerto was premiered by Nikkanen in 1994 in Moscow
and Novosibirsk. It was given its first US performance
by the artists recorded here. That took place in 1995
at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts.
was written for the artists we hear on
this disc. Like the Violin Concerto it is in three
movements of which the first is that rare bird a sheerly happy piece of music. It will bring
a smile without talking down to the listener. This
music is a little like Martinů in
his most smiling mood. The central movement is the
fast one. This is deeply pleasing and is written in
a progression that stretches forwards from the Dvořák
Cello Concerto. By contrast with the Violin Concerto
the work ends with a long and thoughtful Passacaglia
includes a melody and rounded treatment of touching
tenderness (3:03). This recalls, in mood alone, the
finale of the Finzi Cello Concerto.
a work of romance and grace with some incisively expressed
and thrustingly passionate music along the way - as at
2:03 and 5:19 forward.
also add that, contrary to the expectations, raised or
dashed by the name of the orchestra its sound is very
big – no suggestion of strings pared down to chamber
proportions. This is a full and fleshy orchestral sound.
A blizzard of scorching woody and sometimes steely ostinato
provides irresistible propulsion and optimism for the
finale. At 4.30 this develops the outward garb of minimalism.
Gerber is one of those composers whose works I will be
very happy to encounter again. To date the Gerber discs
on Arabesque (see
) and on Chandos (see
) have passed me by. I wonder what else there
is out there.