Paul Moravec is one of those rare composers these days who writes
music that is not only original, but is also listenable, yea,
even enjoyable. Ever conscious of the power of a good melody,
Mr. Moravec combines a winsome way with a tune with a very careful
and thought-out use of dissonance to create music that is not
only instantly memorable, but worthy of repeated listening. It’s
a fresh change of pace from what spills out of most copies of
Finale and Sibelius these days.
style is clearly American and yet it is somewhat difficult to
pin down his influences. His melodies are not theatrical like
Leonard Bernstein’s, nor are they colloquial like Aaron Copland’s,
yet they are fresh. Further, Mr. Moravec, who has won the Pulitzer
Prize for music, has managed to avoid the kind of episodic and
disconnected formal style that ensures only a single performance
of much new music. Rather, he says what he needs to say in just
the right amount of time and stops. It is this compactness of
expression and his careful attention to the sound and blend
of instrumental timbres that makes his music so very appealing.
three works on this program were composed for the Brigehampton
Chamber Music Festival, long a stalwart summer event in New
England. The Chamber Symphony is scored for seven instruments. It opens
with a virtuosic fast movement that features an energetic underpinning
from the piano and percussion with lyrical swathes draped on
by the winds and strings. The tender slow movement reminds me
a bit of Poulenc with its spicy harmonic language the floats
gently between tasty jazz chords and blissful major triads.
The third movement, labeled “Quick” is just that, a sprightly
romp through a musical playground with everyone running as fast
as they can. The work closes with a substantial finale that
begins slowly and peacefully and ends in another fun game of
tender Autumn Song for flute and piano is reminiscent
of Prokofiev to these ears with some sweeping gestures in the
piano and a flute part that often soars above the thick piano
texture to make itself known. Marya Martin and Jeewon Park give a warm and sensitive performance, just thoughtful enough to be
reflective, but not so over-ripe as to be maudlin.
Cool Fire rounds out the program. This three movement
work scored for flute, piano and string quartet is more adventurous
perhaps than the other two pieces, but nonetheless reflects
Moravec’s penchant for lyricism and his ability to write energetic
and intricate counterpoint in fast sections.
the performances here are of the first order, and it is evident
that these players have spent some time with the music and have
internalized it. There is a palpable sense of purpose to the
playing; serious when called for and utterly fun when appropriate.
Kudos to Naxos for making a goodly chunk of Mr. Moravec’s music available to us in
recent months, but at only forty-five minutes, it would have
been nice to have had one more piece on this otherwise fairly
was also a bit disappointed in the program notes which spent
far more time flattering the good nature of the composer than
they did in explaining the music to us. Those quibbles aside,
this is wonderful music and well worth exploring by conservative
and adventuresome listeners alike.
by Dominy Clements