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Arnold ROSNER (1945–2013)
Chamber Music

Sonata No. 1 for Violin and Piano, Op. 18 (1963; rev. 2004) [13:38]
Danses à la mode, Op. 101 (1994) [10:06]
Sonata for Bassoon and Piano, Op. 121 (2006) [16:07]
Sonata No. 2 for Cello and Piano, Op. 89, La Divina Commedia (1990) [21:06]
Curtis Macomber (violin); Maxine Neuman (cello); David Richmond (bassoon); Margaret Kampmeier (piano); Carson Cooman (piano)
rec. 2015, Futura Productions, Roslindale, Mass. (Bassoon Sonata); 2016, DiMenna Center, New York City

Walter Simmons provides a great deal more than a 'taster' to Rosner's life and music in his liner essay for this disc. He has for many years been an ardent yet measured advocate of a befogged generation of American composers as his books proclaim.

Rosner's devotion and indebtedness to pre-baroque modal polyphony informs all his music. The pathways struck and pursued by this New York City composer never lead to a single popular or critical success. There is every appearance of his being indifferent to such matters. His music has great power to persuade and endear for those who will lend their ears and time. Rosner has a distinctive sound - one that combines plangency, a doughty regal quality and indomitable melancholia. Comparison with other composers - well, that's more difficult. He can sound a little like Ireland, Rubbra or even Shostakovich so that may help 'place' him.

The Violin Sonata No. 1 was written when Rosner was only 18 yet it already sounds characteristic. It was revised forty years after its completion and was premiered in 2014 at a memorial concert in New York City. Its three movements have that singing defiant solemnity that is such a hallmark of Rosner's writing. The last movement combines graceful deference and strenuous whirling rhetoric.

The Danses la Mode is a fully mature work for solo cello. It's in four movements, variously affected by Greek folk song and Indian music (the Raga). The Sarabande finds Rosner in home territory: centred and Bach-like. He comes across as mercurially rustic in the final and strangely titled Musique du Nord.

The Bassoon Sonata is amongst the last of Rosner's works. It muses in sombre and subdued light. Its beauty - and it certainly has beauty - is painted in a matte gouache. Even the central Allegro energico ma serioso gravitates towards the serious. The mask hardly ever slips.

The Cello Sonata No. 2 La Divina Commedia starts with a toiling Adagio - 'severe', as Walter Simmons observes, although not as unrelenting as in the Bassoon Sonata. The ensuing introspective Moderato con rubato has a vaguely Middle Eastern sound. The Allegro finale is a full-on optimistic construct. The composer saw this and when commissioned to write a Millennium piece in 1999 orchestrated the movement as the Millennium Overture.

All the musicians here, including ubiquitous composer Carson Cooman, find empathy and sympathy for this music. They pour their hearts and technique into this often dourly beautiful music.

A strongly forward recorded image and a well informed and readable essay complete the picture.

The disc ploughs a furrow parallel to Toccata's collection of Rosner's orchestral works.

Rob Barnett



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