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Arnold ROSNER (1945–2013)
Piano Concerto No. 2, Op. 30 (1965) [19:26]
Gematria, Op. 93 (1991) [17:32]
Six Pastoral Dances, Op. 40 (1968) [12:11]
From the Diaries of Adam Czerniaków, Op. 82, for narrator and orchestra (1986) [26:49]
Peter Vinograde (piano); Peter Riegert (speaker)
London Philharmonic Orchestra/David Amos
rec. 19-20 Oct 2015, Abbey Road Studios, London
first recordings

Right from the start Rosner's concise three-movement Second Piano Concerto declares its allegiance to Elizabethan feeling and this is evident in harmony and rhythm. The potent brass writing may well have been modelled on that of the Venetian Gabrielis. Rosner's music is neither precious nor does it feel antique-contrived. It has a a touching quality as well as a thrumming robust and entirely modern power and muscle tone. The second movement of the Concerto is over-arched by the tragedy borne high in pomp in his The Chronicle of Nine (an opera still unrecorded, I am sorry to say) but ends in shimmering strings. The flighty finale with echoing euphoric brass ripples with intricate and rhythmic dominance.

Gematria was written a quarter century later. It starts in plangent unshowy majesty which with its dignified trumpet solos would pair well with trumpet signature works of similar mien such as Hovhaness's Avak The Healer. Its swarming rhythms and unglitzy majesty sustain it over a single unbroken span not far short of the concerto. The superb English-only notes by Walter Simmons, who has been a most practical and inspired friend to Rosner and his music, point out that this score was commissioned by the conductor here and reflects the composer's absorption in the mysteries and numerology of the Jewish Kabbalah. That is interesting to know but is not essential to an enjoyment and appreciation of the music. Gematria ends in Rosner's trademark magically poised writing for bells, gong and strings. It is an extremely impressive piece.

Gematria is followed by a suite of Six Pastoral Dances scored for woodwind quartet and strings. They are separately tracked and with titles that include Pavana, Gigue, Sarabande and Galliard the movements take the Elizabethan period as a point of departure. There's some fantastically attractive writing here in moods that move from irresistible toe-tapping dancing to joyous dignity. Each movement is short and to the point.

From the Diaries of Adam Czerniaków is a melodrama but I am sure that the orchestral score alone would work. Adam Czerniaków headed the Jewish community in Warsaw from 1939 until 1942 when he took his own life. He kept diaries from which these grim extracts are read by Peter Riegert who is recorded in a different location from the orchestral part. Czerniaków bore dutifully for as long as he could the onerous burden of being a go-between for the Jewish community and the Nazi administration. The two strands (voice and music) have been neatly blended by the engineers and producer. The orchestra provides a telling counterpoint to the thoughtful and often chilling narration. This is occupied with starvation, suicides, deportation, excoriating crises of conscience and agonizing diplomacy and is rich in original detail. Effects are achieved, as ever in Rosner's case, by restraint rather than chest-beating. Sound quality and performances are vivid.

This is a key addition to the Rosner discography. Links to further reviews on this site of this New York-based composer can be found here.

Rob Barnett



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