Moods – Piano Music by American Women Composers
Marilyn J ZIFFRIN (b.1926) Moods (2005) [6:23]; Piano Sonata (2006) [8:55]
Elizabeth BELL (b.1928) Arecibo Sonata (1968 rev 2005) [13:15]
Rami LEVIN Passages (2002) [8:24]
Rain WORTHINGTON Hourglass (1991) [7:57]; Tangents (1996) [10:29]; Dark Dreams (2001) [8:06]; Always Almost (1996) [6:16]
Max Lifchitz (piano)
rec. 17–20 December 2007, Chapin Hall (Bernhard Music Center), Williams College, Williamstown, MA, DDD
NORTH/SOUTH RECORDINGS N/S R 1049 [70:00]
One wonders why, in this day and age, it is deemed necessary to include in the title of a CD the words Women Composers. Surely no company would dream of issuing a CD under the title Music by Male Composers, would they? When CRI (Composers Recordings Inc) issued the complementary CDs Lesbian American Composers and Gay American Composers I think we’d reached the nadir as far as the naming of CD compilations could go. This title is merely a backward step, and I am none the wiser as to understanding why this name is thought to be essential. I wonder why North/South Recordings didn’t go the whole hog and employ a female pianist – a real chance to give the sisterhood full rein.
The big question is, who are these composers? They are all new names to me. The second question is, is the music worthwhile, no matter what the sex of the composer?
First things first. The booklet contains good notes which place each female composer in musical context, and introduces her and her work(s) to us. My first impression, on first hearing, was that whilst all this music is well crafted, and certainly very well performed, there is a singular lack of an individual voice at work in any of the pieces. These female composers - isn’t that annoying? – I’ve written that expression twice and it really irritates - better, these composers (doesn’t that feel right?) have certainly created well written pieces, but that really isn’t enough.
The presence of Hindemith is in evidence throughout. I have no problem with Hindemith the composer, and certainly, his influence is great and far reaching, and not just through his pupils, but when heard in the work of four composers, and all of them heard together on one disk, the voice becomes tedious.
The best of the bunch seems to me to be Rain Worthington whose website tells us that she is “… a distinctly unique voice within the field of contemporary music.” I feel that that statement, on the strength of what we have here, is pushing things a bit too far, but I do feel that there is probably a composer of some stature lurking somewhere in the background.
Overall, I find all these pieces to be far too serious, with no let-up, or gentle light relief from relentless greyness. Where is the variety of timbre, melody, metre? It’s all too much of a muchness. I am sure that Max Lifchitz plays with total authority and sincerity, but even his advocacy cannot help the fact that I really don’t care.
One final point. On YouTube you can find a 2 minute excerpt from Rain Worthington’s orchestral work Shredding Glass. Here is a work well worth our time. I want to hear much more of this composer, for she obviously, on the strength of this work, has a fine aural sense and can create atmosphere and a sense of time and space. However, I cannot, in my heart of hearts, welcome this disk. For me, there is insufficient substance in the music to grip the listener and - this is important - make them care about the compositions.
This CD is certainly a valiant attempt to introduce us to some work new to us, but good intentions are simply an insufficient reason for devoting an entire CD to this work.
There is insufficient substance in the music … see Full Review