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Henry COWELL Instrumental, Chamber and Vocal Music Vol 1

Piano Pieces
Deep Color
The Fairy Answer
Quartet for Flute, Oboe, Cello, and Harpsichord
Three Anti-Modernist Songs
Suite for Violin and Piano
Polyphonica, for Small Orchestra
Irish Suite, for String Piano and Small Orchestra

Continuum (Cheryl Seltzer and Joel Sachs, Directors)

Naxos 8.559192 [66 mins]

Henry COWELL Instrumental, Chamber and Vocal Music Vol 2

Homage to Iran
Piano Pieces
Two Songs
Six Casual Developments
Set of Five

Continuum (Cheryl Seltzer and Joel Sachs, Directors) www.continuum-ensemble-ny.org

Naxos 8.559193 [60 mins]

Recorded at the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters,
New York City, etc 1984-1992

Lukas FOSS Complete Solo Piano Works

Scherzo Ricercato (1954)
Passacaglia (1940)
Grotesque Dance (1938)
Prelude in D (1951)
Fantasy Rondo (1944)
Four Two-Part Inventions (1938)
For Lenny, Variation on 'New York, New York' (1987)
Solo (1981)

Scott Dunn, Piano

Recorded at the American Academy of Arts and Letters, New York, USA, 2003
Naxos 8.559179 [55 mins]

Two wonderful releases in the Naxos American Classics Series, it is well worth three of your £5s to come to grips with the wild and innovative Henry Cowell (1897-1965) and the more urbane Foss, whose smaller scale music will go nicely together.

Cowell (who invented clusters; Bartok asked Cowell permission to use them in his music!) 'almost single-handedly laid the foundations for American compositional life',is continually stretching limits, and was to be found inside the piano as often as playing on the keyboard. An exilarating and 'continuously' entertaining roller-coaster ride with early iconoclasm.

Various artists take part in the Cowell discs, and my only significant reservation is that Mia Wu is a rather rough violinist in the Suite for Violin and Piano; Marilyn Dobow smoother in the attractive Set of Five with percussion and piano. Continuum is dedicated to shock and surprise; my first contact with them was at the Luxembourg ISCM New Music Days, where they challenged the 'modernist' audience with one of Francis Schwarz's theatre pieces.

Lukas Foss (b.1922) used to be heard in UK regularly (BBC Third programme etc) a few decades ago, but seems to have virtually disappeared; more our loss. Still alive, this is a very welcome reminder of a greatly accomplished composer, whose piano music is original and personal despite being broadly tonal (he flirts with minimalism in the 1981 Solo, but not oppressively). Bach is behind a lot of his methods, bartok too, sometimes Hindemith; but Foss is his own man, and he has a fine devotee in Scott Dunn in this tribute CD.

Note: I am informed of a previous release of a complete Foss piano music CD in 2002, by Daniel Beliavsky for Lukas Foss's 80th birthday, + an interview with the composer.

© Peter Grahame Woolf