Justin Henry RUBIN (b.1971)
Eloga for violin and piano (2006) [8:12]
Variations on ‘Wie Schön leuchtet der Morgenstern’ for violin and piano (2009) [7:02]
Ecossaises for violin and marimba (2009-10) [11:36]
Una Serenata per cinque (2007) [9:37]
Three Chorales for two violins (2009) [6:37]
Piccolo Scherzo per tre strumenti (2009) [4:31]
Estemporaneo per due Musicisti for violin and piano (2007) [6:33]
Samuel Greenberg Constellation for two violins (2009) [9:04]
Fantasy on Pamina’s aria ‘Ach, ich fühl’s’ for bassoon and piano (2009) [7:22]
On Another Last Day for violin and piano (2009) [2:47]
Erin Aldridge (violin); Shannon Wettstein (piano); Jefferson Campbell (bassoon); Duo Gelland (violin duo); Gene Koshinski (percussion); Justin Rubin (piano)
University of Minnesota Duluth Faculty Woodwind Quintet
rec. December 2009 and May 2010, Sacred Heart Studios, Duluth, Minnesota except Three Chorales and Samuel Greenberg Constellation, rec. June 2010, Laxsjö Church, Sweden
MSR CLASSICS MS1398 [74:15]
Justin Rubin is a pianist, organist and composer who teaches - he is Professor and artistic director of the annual music festival - at the University of Minnesota Duluth. This collection of his chamber works composed between 2006 and 2010 reveals a communicator and a sensitive colourist with interesting things to say in his music.
Ecloga reveals not only fluency but a desire to play with pitch, to create two cadenzas (in an eight minute piece) and to craft a satisfactorily proportioned piece for violin and piano. There are refined textures here that make it a most attractive opener. Warm hearted and affectionate, with some folk influence, the Variations on ‘Wie Schön leuchtet der Morgenstern’ bring a ‘walking tune’ elegance to bear though, pace the notes, surely Hugo Distler wasn’t the only so-called ‘Master composer’ to have committed suicide. I can think of at least one other. Ecossaises for violin and marimba exploits the two sonorities most effectively, not least in the third slowly unfolding piece.
Una Serenata per cinque is a woodwind quintet that sports a deliciously perky and angular ‘scherzo’, though Rubin prefers to term it ‘Uchetti’. The Three Chorales began life as two manual organ pieces by Scheidt and Sweelinck but they have been resourcefully transformed for a violin team and most attractively so as well. There is the wryly amusing Piccolo Scherzo per tre strumenti - Rubin is much given to Italian nomenclature, perhaps rather too much so: what’s wrong with English? - as well as the rather yearning Estemporaneo. This too is made to sound more sophisticated by virtue of the qualifying phrase ‘per due Musicisti’.
Samuel Greenberg Constellation takes as its source a poem by Greenberg, described here as a ‘proto-surrealist’. There are four texts and they bring from Rubin varied and thoughtful responses, not least a lyric slow section. Rubin says his Fantasy on Pamina’s aria ‘Ach, ich fühl’s’ for bassoon and piano is more a homage to Busoni than anything. Reassigning the soprano aria to bassoon is certainly an aural coup, and it’s quite cleverly done in a piece that moves with the flow of a free fantasy. To end there is the ‘last day of college’ feel of On Another Last Day which is a bittersweet opus, in the wistful genre at which Rubin is good.
This well engineered disc is tautly annotated by the composer. His compositional voice is unthreatening but thoughtful and he conjures up attractive sonorities.
Jonathan Woolf
Unthreatening but thoughtful music with attractive sonorities.