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Fred Lerdahl Vols 1 & 2

Time After Time
Oboe Quartet

Bridge 9191



Quiet Music

Rolf Schulte, violin/ Scott Nickrenz, viola/ Fred Sherry, cello/ Donald Parma, bass/
James Winn, piano/ Odense Symphony Orchestra/Paul Mann

Bridge 9269

These two of Fred Lerdahl's CDs, received alongside a batch of George Crumb discs (in connection with the BBC's forthcoming Total Immersion George Crumb day) was a bonus surprise - even Lerdahl's name is virtually unknown in UK. They are a great discovery.

Fred Lerdahl (b. 1943) is an important American composer and theoretician who, after encountering composer's "block", devised a personal composing method which has proved serviceable for a subsequent long composing and teaching career, and which makes meaningful contact between composing and listening.

One of his starting points was the realisation that though Boulez's Le Marteau sans Maitre was widely hailed as a masterpiece of postwar serialism, yet nobody could figure out, much less hear, how the piece was serial! He explored the "huge gap between compositional systems and cognized results" developing his ideas in several books - see too Cognitive Constraints on Compositional Systems.

But do not be put off by this theoretical background. Lerdhal's music is both accessible and far from the new simplicities of some of the minimalists. He often uses familiar tonal and stylistic conventions as points of departure and has developed a technique of expanding variations or 'spiral' form, different from the 12-tone method, with simple musical ideas proliferating and becoming longer and more complex with each cycle.

His own liner notes are illuminating. The works range from some for large orchestra, never treated bombastically, to a variety of chamber musics. The lovely oboe quartet avoids becoming a quasi-chamber oboe concerto and integrates the oboe with the strings.

Marches is a fantasmagoria of march-like ideas; Waltzes for "low string quartet" (vln, vla, vcl & db) a meditation on the waltz genre, with audible awareness of Strauss, Chopin and Ravel. It would be a marvellous concert partner for the Trout Quintet...Quiet Music derives its name from the material's resistance to building climaxes, emerging 'more like a flowing river'.

We have found each of the pieces sufficiently engaging as to want to hear more, and to listen again to get them into our heads; grateful too that Bridge sent us also Vol. 2.

For a fuller review of Vol. 1 do click onto AllMusicGuide .

The production is admirable (as with most Bridge releases) with sensible black on white texts and Brad Napoliello's delightful Kandinskyish cover illustrations.

Anthony Korf: Presences from aforetime, Symphony no 3, etc

Presences from aforetime (1999)
Miniatures (6) for Flute and Piano
Movements (3) for Clarinet Solo
Symphony no 3 (2007)

Bridge BDG 9294

Anthony Korf (b.1951), also new to me, is a true original. His music is mainly quite korfgentle, but wayward and unpredictable in the detail of its flow, the movements of the two main works feeling organic rather than contrived.

In the background are his concerns with nature and change, taking titles from Hardy, and with "old houses" in his mind (he had moved into an old famhouse in the country), but these points of association need not, I think, concern the listener; nor his ending of the symphony with 'a highly personalised setting of the Miserere Nobis from the High Mass' which, frankly, I didn't spot.

Korf and George Rothman seem to effectively share the enterprising Riverside Symphony, which gives several concerts a year in New York; Rothman conducting the symphony here, Korf its principals in the Presences from aforetime for oboe/English horn and a piquant quartet of assorted stringed instruments, cello, guitar, harp and piano.

The symphony too has a chamber music feel, with a tendency to understatement but no lack of telling incident. There are delightful smaller pieces as makeweights; tiny Miniatures for Flute with Piano and three pieces for clarinet solo which in recital could make a change from Stravinsky's.

I have posted this review together with mine of Fred Lerdhal (another American name to note); those two having given us the greatest pleasure in a batch received for consideration from Bridge Records.

Both are warmly recommended. Fuller details of Korf at http://www.hbdirect.com/album_detail.php?pid=1069020.

Peter Grahame Woolf