ROSNER: Nocturne, Op. 68; Tempus Perfectum, Op. 109; Symphony No. 6, Op. 64

ARNOLD ROSNER: Nocturne, Op. 68; Tempus Perfectum, Op. 109; Symphony No. 6, Op. 64

London Phiharmonic Orch., Nick Palmer, cond., TOCCATA Classics. All music available from the Estate of Arnold Rosner; For further information, visit www.ArnoldRosnerMusic.com

During his fifty-year compositional career, the American composer Arnold Rosner (1945–2013) produced a body of work that combined diverse influences into a powerful, distinctly personal musical voice. His catalogue comprises compositions in nearly every genre, including three operas, eight symphonies, numerous works for orchestra and wind band, several large-scale choral works and many chamber, solo, and vocal pieces.

Rosner’s musical language was founded upon the harmonic and rhythmic devices of the polyphonic music of the Renaissance and early Baroque periods. These roots can be found, to a greater or lesser extent, in virtually all his music. To them he added a free triadicism and exotic modalities, intensified in some works by more contemporary harmonic dissonance, combining this language with the lavish orchestration and emotional drama of late-nineteenth-century Romanticism. What makes Rosner’s music worthy of serious consideration, rather than being merely an integration of earlier styles, is the way he shaped his unusual language to embrace an enormous expressive range – far broader than one might imagine possible – from serene beauty to violent rage. Illustrating the vast range of expression found in Rosner’s music, the works on this recording run the gamut: In Tempus Perfectum the connection to early music is obvious, despite certain anachronisms; in the fierce Modern Romanticism of the Sixth Symphony the connection is barely detectible; while the Nocturne reveals traces of early music within a conception that might be termed post-Modernist Impressionism. Yet despite its fusion of seemingly incongruous elements, most of his music is readily accessible even to untutored listeners.

Born in New York City in 1945, Rosner took piano lessons as a boy, and soon developed a voracious interest in classical music. Some sounds in particular appealed to him – juxtapositions of major and minor triads, as well as modal melodies – and before long he was working these sounds into music of his own. His family, fully aware of the remote prospects of success offered by a career in classical music composition, encouraged him to pursue more practical endeavours, and so he attended the Bronx High School of Science, whence he graduated at the age of fifteen, and then New York University with a major in mathematics. But all the while he was composing: sonatas, symphonies, concertos and more – not that anyone was especially interested in hearing the fruits of his labours. His composer-heroes at the time were Hovhaness, Vaughan Williams and Nielsen, and their influence is evident in much of his earlier creative work.

Graduating from NYU before he turned twenty, Rosner then spent a year at the Belfer Graduate School of Science, continuing his studies in mathematics. But, no longer able to resist the inner drive to pursue musical composition as his primary activity, he entered the University of Buffalo the following September, with a major in music composition. This was in 1966, when serialism was the dominant style in university music departments, and young composers were often coerced, directly or indirectly, into adopting it. Rosner often recounted how the Buffalo faculty dismissed his creative efforts with varying degrees of contempt. Later, in describing his educational experience there, he would say that he ‘learned almost nothing’ from these pedants. Although most of his peers capitulated to the pressure to embrace the style du jour, Rosner was adamantly opposed to serialism and stubbornly refused to accept a view of music that violated his most fervently held artistic values. And so, in response, his department repeatedly rejected the large orchestral work he had submitted as his dissertation. Realising that they would never accept the kind of music he considered meaningful, he gave up the notion of a doctorate in composition, and decided instead to pursue a degree in music theory, with a dissertation – the first ever – on the music of Alan Hovhaness. He completed this task successfully, and in the process became the first recipient of a doctorate in music granted by the State University of New York.

He devoted the rest of his life to writing the music that represented his personal aesthetic ideals, supporting himself through academic positions at colleges in and around the New York City area. His most enduring position was as Professor of Music at Kingsborough Community College (of the City University of New York), which he held for thirty years, until his death. During the course of his compositional career, his musical language gradually expanded from its idiosyncratic and intuitive beginnings, as the mature works on this recording illustrate. Arnold Rosner died in Brooklyn, in 2013, on his 68th birthday.

Rosner composed his Nocturne in 1978, dedicating it to his former student Louis Blois, who later became a published authority on the music of Shostakovich and other Soviet composers. During the late 1970s Blois had been studying astronomy, so Rosner sought in this work to suggest the movement of planetary bodies within the vastness of space. The work begins by evoking a mysterious, swirling atmosphere, irregularly interrupted by sudden vehement outbursts. Gradually, melodic fragments begin to emerge, at first tentatively, then slowly taking shape within the ethereal backdrop. About halfway into the work, the melodic fragments coalesce into a passionate melody in the strings, still surrounded by the swirling gestures and textures. The melody develops further, achieving greater prominence by the support of the rest of the orchestra. After a climax is reached, the intensity of the music gradually recedes into the eerie atmosphere with which the piece began.

Tempus Perfectum is a term from the late Medieval period that referred to the rhythmic meter designated today by the time signature 9/8. This indicates a meter of three beats per measure, each of which is subdivided into three smaller units. Rosner’s piece, composed in 1998, is a modern adaptation of the instrumental canzona, a genre that existed—with evolving meanings—for centuries. The point of departure for this piece is the type of canzona that flourished in Italy during the late Renaissance. Hence this is a work in which the connections between Rosner’s style and early music are clearly evident.

Not surprisingly, Tempus Perfectum maintains a 9/8 meter virtually throughout the work, as the canzona theme pursues its course in a neo-late-Renaissance manner. However, what is most unusual are sequences of triads—often in a different tonality from the canzona theme—that are superimposed over that theme at various points during the piece. These harmonic sequences, though written so as to conform to the 9/8 meter, audibly contradict that meter, as well as conflicting with the tonality. Listeners familiar with Rosner’s Gematria (Toccata Classics TOCC0368) will recognize this technique from that work, where it appears in perhaps its fullest application. In Tempus Perfectum, these harmonic sequences follow a course of their own, as each reappearance is successively longer and more fully orchestrated, until a climax of sorts is reached, after which the music diminishes in volume and speed. 

Rosner composed his Symphony No. 6 in 1976, three years after its predecessor. The Symphony No. 5, an orchestral Mass based on the plainchant Salve Regina, is a work of transcendent spiritual ecstasy, an apotheosis of the composer’s unique adaptation of Renaissance polyphony (Naxos 8.559347). Its successor is largely the emotional and spiritual antithesis of that work—an expression of the rage and bitterness that were significant components of Rosner’s personality—musical and otherwise. Unlike much of his music, this symphony may be described as an example of the distinguished canon of American Neo-Romantic Symphonies, as represented by such composers as Ernest Bloch, Samuel Barber, and Nicolas Flagello. The symphony is replete with so many striking events that a description such as this can reveal only the broadest outlines.

The opening Allegro agitato is an overwhelming expression of emotional turbulence that offers virtually no respite during its ten-minute duration. Revealing only the most remote connection to traditional sonata allegro form, the movement displays some of the most ferocious and explosive music Rosner ever composed. The element of tonality—often irrelevant to his music—is largely absent. The movement opens with a bold statement of a motif (a) characterized by a chromatic angularity unusual for this composer, with prominent dotted-note rhythms. This motif immediately launches a free development that spins off several related motifs. Among the most significant of these are (b) which features the “Scotch snap” rhythm (a short-long pattern with accent on the short note), (c) a stepwise rising-and-falling motif, and (d) another stepwise motif that revolves chromatically around a pivot-note. These four motifs are the essential thematic elements of the movement and are subjected to extensive development. This development proceeds through sections displaying great dynamic contrasts, until a running passage builds gradually to a cataclysmic climax in which all four motifs are combined, with additional emphasis provided by generous contributions from the percussion. This is followed by a moment of relief featuring motif (c), before motif (a) brings the movement to a powerful conclusion.  

The second movement, Adagio, evokes a hushed atmosphere before introducing a mysterious introductory theme played by the English horn, answered by the harp, followed by the clarinet. This theme develops slowly, gradually building to the presentation of the movement’s emotional highlight, a mournful melody first suggested softly by a muted trumpet, then stated in full by the strings. A second section follows, with a subdued melody characterized by trills and other ornamentation. This melody bears a slight connection to the rising and falling motif of the first movement. As it develops, the melody builds to a statement of some grandeur before it subsides. The introductory theme returns, first in the horn, then flute. A dynamic eruption highlights the introductory theme, now forcefully stated by the trombones, leading to a passionate restatement of the mournful melody heard earlier, now building to a tremendous climax, extended considerably by a varied restatement of the introductory theme. As this recedes, the ornamented melody returns, bringing the movement to a hushed conclusion. Worthy of note are clashes of major vs. minor harmony—one of Rosner’s favorite effects—heard throughout this movement, as well as striking orchestral effects that contribute to the evocation of a mood of hushed solemnity.

The third movement, the most complicated portion of the Symphony, comprises several sections: Grave; Allegro; Grandioso; Grave. It opens with a full orchestral statement of a stern, stately theme, rife with major-minor conflicts. A variant of this theme is played softly by the flute, followed by a further variant by the solo trumpet. An Allegro follows, transforming the opening theme into a rapid pattern that starts with just a few instruments against an agitated running pattern that functions along the lines of a counter-subject. As other instruments enter, the first violins and trumpet initiate a fugato that builds in intensity and volume. After some development of the material the trumpets and lower brass follow with a canon featuring rhythmic augmentation of the main theme. The texture becomes more complex as additional elements are added, some in contradictory rhythmic patterns, as the fugal texture dissipates. Soon a more peaceful, flowing motif, hinted at earlier, is introduced by the English horn, followed by variants of both themes in the French horn, then trumpet, against a subdued background texture. These two themes are treated in alternation until the counter-subject reappears in stretto. Further development of all three ideas continues, leading to a grand return of the stately opening gestures, but with a remote variant of that theme, which increases in intensity until it stops abruptly. The final Grave section opens with a dramatic statement of anticipation, followed by an ethereal reminiscence of the movement’s various motifs. A series of strident, cataclysmic eruptions follows, in alternation with further hushed reminders of the previous themes in woodwind and brass solos. This alternation suggests a conflict between outbursts of rage and attempts at a self-soothing serenity. After a lengthy trumpet valediction, the symphony comes to a somber conclusion.

Walter Simmons, musicologist and critic, has written extensively on American composers who maintained an allegiance to traditional musical values. He is the editor of a series of books, ‘Twentieth-Century Traditionalists’, published by Rowman and Littlefield. He wrote the first two volumes himself (under the Scarecrow Press imprint): Voices in the Wilderness: Six American Neo-Romantic Composers (2004), which treated the lives and works of Barber, Bloch, Creston, Flagello, Giannini and Hanson, and Voices of Stone and Steel: The Music of William Schuman, Vincent Persichetti, and Peter Mennin (2011). As a staunch advocate of the music of Arnold Rosner, he is deeply familiar with much of his output; he and Rosner were close associates for more than forty years.

ROSNER: Five Ko-Ans for Orchestra; Unraveling Dances; The Parable of the Law

ARNOLD ROSNERFive Ko-ans for Orchestra; Unraveling Dances; The Parable of the Law. Nick Palmer, cond. Christopher Burchett, baritone; London Philharmonic Orchestra; Nick Palmer, cond. TOCCATA T0CC-0464

During his fifty-year compositional career, the American composer Arnold Rosner (1945–2013) produced a body of work that combined diverse influences into a powerful, distinctly personal musical voice. His catalogue comprises compositions in nearly every genre, including three operas, eight symphonies, numerous works for orchestra and wind band, several large-scale choral works and many chamber, solo and vocal pieces.

Rosner’s musical language was founded upon the harmonic and rhythmic devices of the polyphonic music of the Renaissance and early Baroque periods. These roots can be found, to a greater or lesser extent, in virtually all his music. To them he added a free triadicism and exotic modalities, intensified in some works by more contemporary harmonic dissonance, combining this language with the lavish orchestration and emotional drama of late-nineteenth-century Romanticism. What makes Rosner’s music worthy of serious consideration, rather than being merely an integration of earlier styles, is the way he shaped his unusual language to embrace an enormous expressive range – far broader than one might imagine possible – from serene beauty to violent rage. The works featured on this recording reveal, perhaps to a greater extent than any previous recording of his music, the vast range of expression achieved by his remarkable creative personality. And despite its fusion of these seemingly incongruous elements, most of his music is readily accessible even to untutored listeners.

Born in New York City in 1945, Rosner took piano lessons as a boy, and soon developed a voracious interest in classical music. Some sounds in particular appealed to him – juxtapositions of major and minor triads, as well as modal melodies – and before long he was working these sounds into music of his own. His family, fully aware of the remote prospects of success offered by a career in classical music composition, encouraged him to pursue more practical endeavors, and so he attended the Bronx High School of Science, whence he graduated at the age of fifteen, and then New York University with a major in mathematics. But all the while he was composing: sonatas, symphonies, concertos and more – not that anyone was especially interested in hearing the fruits of his labors. His composer-heroes at the time were Hovhaness, Vaughan Williams and Nielsen, and their influence is evident in much of his earlier creative work.

Graduating from NYU before he turned twenty, Rosner then spent a year at the Belfer Graduate School of Science, continuing his studies in mathematics. But, no longer able to resist the inner drive to pursue musical composition as his primary activity, he entered the University of Buffalo the following September, with a major in music composition. This was in 1966, when serialism was the dominant style in university music departments, and young composers were often coerced, directly or indirectly, into adopting it. Rosner often recounted how the Buffalo faculty dismissed his creative efforts with varying degrees of contempt. Later, in describing his educational experience there, he would say that he ‘learned almost nothing’ from these pedants. Although most of his peers capitulated to the pressure to embrace the style du jour, Rosner was adamantly opposed to serialism and stubbornly refused to accept a view of music that violated his most fervently held artistic values. And so, in response, his department repeatedly rejected the large orchestral work he had submitted as his dissertation. Realizing that they would never accept the kind of music he considered meaningful, he gave up the notion of a doctorate in composition, and decided instead to pursue a degree in music theory, with a dissertation – the first ever – on the music of Alan Hovhaness. He completed this task successfully, and in the process became the first recipient of a doctorate in music granted by the State University of New York.

He devoted the rest of his life to writing the music that represented his personal aesthetic ideals, supporting himself through academic positions at colleges in and around the New York City area. His most enduring position was as Professor of Music at Kingsborough Community College (of the City University of New York), which he held for thirty years, until his death. During the course of his compositional career, his musical language gradually expanded from its idiosyncratic and intuitive beginnings, as the mature works on this recording illustrate. Arnold Rosner died in Brooklyn, in 2013, on his 68th birthday.

Rosner composed his Five Ko-ans for Orchestra, Op. 65, in 1976, during what was probably the most fruitful period of his creative life, and it is one of his most important works. A note in the score, provided by Rosner, defines the Zen concept of Ko-an as a “riddle, action, remark, or dialogue not comprehensible by rational understanding but conducive to intense or prolonged meditation (literally, from Chinese Kung-an, ‘public statement’).” The five movements that comprise the work may thus be viewed as musical statements whose meanings may be inferred and understood via intuitive perception. Entitled “Music of Changes,” “Ricercare,” “Ostinato,” “Music of Stillness,” and “Isorhythmic Motet,” the five pieces also serve as representations of five aspects of Rosner’s compositional personality. The first, “Music of Changes,” serves as both an introduction to and a summary of the work, as its eight minutes feature a contrasting array of psychological and musical visions: an eerie evocation of abject terror, ethereal serenity, tightly interwoven polyphony of Medieval martial cast, unearthly inscrutability, delicate folk-like simplicity, swirling gusts of chaos from which emerges a stern chorale, solemn reflection, an aggressive, frantic onslaught of vigorous activity, finally concluding in somber mystery. “Ricercare” is based on a polyphonic style that flourished during the early 1600s. This movement, evocatively spiritual in character, is closest to the origins of Rosner’s style. “Ostinato” (literally, “obstinate”) is built around a consistent, percussively emphatic pattern of crotchets (quarter-notes) in quintuple meter. “Music of Stillness” is a remarkable oasis of mysterious tranquility, centering on an enigmatic phrase that recurs throughout the movement, initially stated by the flute and vibraphone. “Isorhythmic Motet” is based on a technique used in Medieval music which Rosner adapted to his aesthetic needs in several of his works, such as his String Quartet No. 4 and his Cello Sonata No. 2. In essence, his adaptation of the isorhythmic motet comprises variations on a recurrent rhythmic pattern that embraces all the instruments. The rhythms remain unchanged, while the dynamics, pitches, and resulting harmony are altered freely. In this movement the isorhythmic pattern is thirteen measures long, and repeats seven times.

Unraveling Dances, Op. 122, was Rosner’s final orchestral work, composed in 2007. It is almost unique in his output — a high-spirited orchestral showpiece. The distinguished composer Carson Cooman, who was Rosner’s chosen archivist, provided a note that appears in the score: “The inspiration for Unraveling Dances came from both the slow-tempo Spanish/Latin dance of the bolero and Rosner’s own experience with heart arrhythmia. He initially conceived of the idea of an arrhythmic or ‘mad’ bolero in which the basic pulse is not kept completely steady but rather is subjected to a variety of transformations throughout. In the resulting work, the underlying pulse never changes, but the rhythmic groupings continue to get longer and longer, beginning in bars of 3/8 and ending in bars of 7/4.” That is, there are eleven variations of the theme, the meter of each successive variation one quaver (eighth-note) longer than the previous one. Through modal changes, the character of the variations embrace many of Rosner’s favorite compositional inflections, including suggestions of the Renaissance and early Baroque and of Middle-Eastern music, finally introducing a fragment of Ravel’s own Bolero. Much like that piece, “the overall progression of the work moves from the quiet stasis of the beginning to the fierce orchestral grandeur of the end. The title has several layers of meaning: 1) the music unravels with the extra 8th-notes added from one variation to the next; 2) any group of dancers would go crazy if trying to actually dance to it (the composer imagined them ‘unraveling their clothes’); 3) the embedded reference to Ravel, composer of the most famous of orchestral boleros.”

In 1993 Rosner composed a setting for baritone and orchestra of a portion of Franz Kafka’s enigmatic 1915 novel, The Trial, known as “Before the Law.” Rosner’s work is entitled The Parable of the Law, Op. 97, and depicts the quintessentially “Kafka-esque” plight of a man who spends years in senseless futility, awaiting entry to “the Law.” Though the entry door is intended only for him, he is never admitted, until it is finally closed forever. Rosner’s setting captures the futile persistence displayed by the man as he attempts to overcome the senseless refusal of the doorkeeper. The baritone soloist recounts most of the story with the eerily impersonal detachment so characteristic of Kafka’s terrifying tableaux. The work develops several motifs that are stated near the outset. Shortly after the beginning, the primary four-note motif is introduced with subtlety by the lower instruments, followed a few measures later by the horn, then by the clarinet. This motif dominates the work, which maintains a mood of ominous, grim foreboding throughout.

Parable of the Law
Franz Kafka
(translator unknown)

Before the Law there stands a doorkeeper. To this doorkeeper there comes a man from the country who begs for admittance unto the Law. But then the doorkeeper says that he cannot admit the man at the present time. The man, on reflection asks if he will be allowed, then, to enter later on. “It is possible,” says the doorkeeper, “but not at the present time.” Since the door leading into the Law stands open as usual and the doorkeeper steps to one side the man bends down to look; the man bends down to peer into the entrance and when the doorkeeper sees that he laughs and says: “If you’re so strongly tempted, just try to get inside without permission. But note that I am powerful. And I am only the lowliest doorkeeper! From hall to hall, keepers stand at every door, one more powerful than the other. And the sight of the third man is already more than even I can stand.” These are difficulties which the man from the country has not expected to meet. The Law he thinks should be accessible to any man and at all times, but when he looks more closely at the doorkeeper he decides that he had better wait until he gets permission to enter. The doorkeeper gives him a stool and lets him sit down at the side of the door. There he sits waiting for days and years. He makes many attempts to be allowed to enter and wearies the doorkeeper with his importunity. The doorkeeper often engages him in brief conversation asking him about his home and other matters but these questions are put quite impersonally as great men put questions, and they always conclude with the statement that the man cannot be allowed to enter yet. The man, who has equipped himself with many things for his journey, parts with everything he has, however valuable, in the hope of bribing the doorkeeper. The doorkeeper accepts it all, saying, however, as he takes each gift, “I take this only to keep you from feeling that you’ve left something undone.” During all these long years the man watches the doorkeeper almost incessantly. He forgets about all the other doorkeepers and this one seems to him the only barrier between himself and the Law. In the first years he curses his evil fate aloud; later, as he grows older and as he grows childish, he only mutters to himself. Finally his eyes grow dim, and he does not know whether the world is really darkening around him or whether his eyes are only deceiving him. But in the darkness he can now perceive a radiance streaming inextinguishably out from the door of the Law. Now his life is drawing to a close. Before he dies, all that he has experienced during the whole time of his sojourn condenses into one question which he has never yet put to the doorkeeper. He beckons the doorkeeper, since he can no longer raise his stiffening body. The doorkeeper has to bend down so as to hear him, for the difference in size between them has increased very much to the man’s disadvantage. “What do you want to know now?” asks the doorkeeper. “You are insatiable.” “Everyone strives to attain the Law,” answers the man. “How does it come about then that in all these years no one has come, no one has come seeking admittance but me?” The doorkeeper perceives that the man is nearing his end and that his hearing is failing, and so he bellows in his ear: “No one but you could gain admittance through this door, since this door was intended for you, and only for you. I am now going to shut it.”

Walter Simmons, musicologist and critic, has written extensively on American composers who maintained an allegiance to traditional musical values. He is the editor of a series of books, ‘Twentieth-Century Traditionalists’, published by Rowman and Littlefield. He wrote the first two volumes himself (under the Scarecrow Press imprint): Voices in the Wilderness: Six American Neo-Romantic Composers (2004), which treated the lives and works of Barber, Bloch, Creston, Flagello, Giannini and Hanson, and Voices of Stone and Steel: The Music of William Schuman, Vincent Persichetti, and Peter Mennin (2011). As a staunch advocate of the music of Arnold Rosner, he is deeply familiar with much of his output; he and Rosner were close associates for more than forty years

PERSICHETTI: Selected Piano Music

VINCENT PERSICHETTI Selected Piano Music. CENTAUR CRC-3632

Vincent Persichetti was one of the most widely respected American musicians of his generation. A prolific composer, brilliant educator and lecturer, and prodigious pianist, he composed more than 150 works in virtually all genres and for virtually all performing media, while serving for 40 years on the faculty of the Juilliard School, many of them as chairman of the composition department.

During his lifetime Persichetti influenced the musical lives of thousands of people from all walks of life, and his name came to signify a comprehensive musicianship virtually unparalleled among American composers. Countless young pianists were nurtured on his easier pieces, while many other young instrumental students first experienced serious contemporary music through his works for band; church choirs turned to his Hymns and Responses for the Church Year as an inexhaustible resource, while many young composers have found his classic textbook Twentieth Century Harmony to be an indispensable tool; among professional soloists and conductors his sonatas, concertos, and symphonies stand among the masterworks of American music. Throughout his life Persichetti encouraged healthy, creative participation in music at all levels of proficiency, while shunning dogmas that advocated one compositional approach at the expense of others. He immersed himself in all aspects of music with an infectious, childlike enthusiasm devoid of pomposity.

Persichetti’s music illustrates what he saw as the future of music: a broad working vocabulary, or “common practice,” based on a fluent integration of the myriad materials and techniques that appeared during the twentieth century. In a sense, Persichetti’s vocabulary of gestures and figures and the somewhat detached way they unfold and interact form a kind of private language, from which he created his own personal expressive world. Seen in this way, the music begins to appear as a personal metaphor, with cross-references and elaborations of ideas from other pieces winking slyly at the listener, conveying enigmatic allusions that call for a particularly intuitive level of apprehension. All this is carried out with a light touch, free of solemnity or pretension, yet far from trivial. The music at times suggests an imaginary world, peopled by a large cast of cartoon-like characters, created by an eccentric master-puppeteer who amuses himself by portraying his own metaphysical vision through the interactions of his puppets. This characterization is illustrated throughout the pieces on this recording.

Unlike that of many of his contemporaries, Persichetti did not turn to the symphony for his most important statements, although he did produce the requisite nine. But he was more inclined toward sparse gestures and epigrammatic forms—indeed, many of his large works are elaborate integrations of diminutive elements. Most representative are his works for piano—some 35 pieces, including twelve sonatas, six sonatinas, a concertino, and a concerto, plus works for two pianos, and piano, four hands as well. The music spans the years 1929 to 1986, and includes pieces for pianists at all levels, from the beginning student to the advanced professional. Perhaps no composer since Scriabin has produced a body of piano music that offers such breadth of meaning, such fluency of articulation, and such richness of invention—not to mention such comprehensive and imaginative use of the instrument’s resources. Indeed, Persichetti’s piano music embodies in microcosm the all-encompassing range of his expression and comprises the most penetrating lens through which to view his formidable output.

Persichetti’s creativity was often stimulated by poetry. During the late 1930s and early 40s Persichetti composed a series of what he called Poems for Piano—a collection of sixteen character pieces, each inspired by a single line, laden with imagery, taken from modern poetry—American, for the most part. Though composed when he was still in his twenties, before his mature language had fully crystallized, these brief sketches embrace a boundless array of moods, states of mind, and approaches to piano figuration, achieved with remarkable subtlety and economy of means. Their styles range from atonality—even atonal pseudo-jazz—to the immediacy of a popular song, yet with virtually no redundancy of either meaning or technique. Especially striking are two in particular: No. 10 (“Dust in sunlight and memory in corners,” T.S. Eliot) and No. 15 (“And hung like those top jewels of the night,” Léonie Adams). This latter is one of the composer’s most straightforwardly beautiful melodies.

Persichetti’s six sonatinas were written during the early 1950s, when the composer was concentrating most intensively on music for the piano. The first three sonatinas were composed in 1950, and are rather like miniature versions of the sonatas he was writing at the time. The latter three were composed in immediate succession in 1954, and are easier both to appreciate and to play.

The Sonatina No. 1 comprises three tiny movements. It is largely simple in texture, although its language is acerbic, with relatively dissonant and often polytonal harmony, fragmentary gestures and sonorities, and attenuated tonality. Sonatina No. 2 is perhaps the most fully developed and cohesive of the group. It is a single movement, beginning with a slow, stately canon unafraid of dissonant harmonic friction, followed by a brilliant developmental scamper, with motifs of its own darting in and out of the transparent contrapuntal texture. Eventually, elements of both sections are combined, leading to an exuberant finish in C Major. Sonatina No. 3 comprises two movements—the first, gently rolling, with subtle modal shifts; and the second, rhythmically playful and affirmative in character.

The Sonatinas Nos. 4 through 6 are among the many pieces that Persichetti tailored to the abilities of beginning pianists. An essential aspect of Persichetti’s compositional personality was his connection to the inner world of the child. He devoted many of his compositional efforts to capturing this world, often in pieces that are relatively easy to play and hence, manageable by young musicians. These pieces are integral to and aesthetically consistent with the rest of his creative work, revealing musical and psychological sophistication despite their economy of means. The limitation imposed on technical difficulty was just one more constraint of the kind within which his creativity thrived. These pieces are neither dull exercises nor the sort of trivial “children’s music” produced for commercial purposes by the music education industry; they were created with the same attention to expressive and formal details that the composer devoted to larger, more complex works. Drawing upon polychords and polytonality, modality, dissonant counterpoint, irregular and unusual meters, and even absence of meter, he captured the whimsy, impishness, tenderness, innocence, and silliness of the young personality, as well as its access to a free, non-linear imagination, with an eloquent precision and delicate beauty that is the province only of an artist whose “inner child” has not been sacrificed to the jadedness of maturity. The fact that many of these pieces provided the thematic material for Persichetti’s sole opera The Sibyl—one of his two most ambitious works—suggests the importance he placed on them.

In 1960, Persichetti’s wife Dorothea, a brilliant pianist and the explicit source of inspiration for his entire output. wrote a doctoral dissertation on Persichetti’s music, discussing all his works composed up to that time. Regarding Persichetti’s “teaching pieces,” Dorothea noted that “the composer vehemently denies that he ever wrote such a thing, maintaining that he writes music, all of which can be taught, but some to students younger than others. The idiom of the large and the small pieces is often the same, and some of the little pieces which seem most simple technically have unexpected subtle and musically sophisticated spots, realized in quarter notes in a five-finger position…. [T]he little works are distillations of a musical expression that has undergone clarification to the point of great simplicity…. He does not write ‘down’ to attain simplicity. Some of his music is large, and some small; some difficult, and some easy…. If [the latter] are successful, it is so because they are music, not because they are pedagogy.

Over the course of his career Persichetti composed a series of what he entitled “serenades.” There are a total of fifteen serenades for a variety of instrumental media. Nos. 2 and 7 are for piano solo. The Serenade No. 2, composed when he was 14, was one of the pieces composed “behind the back” of his primary composition teacher Russell King Miller, and contributed to his eventual expulsion from Miller’s theory classes. Its three movements last barely two minutes, and are entitled “Tune,” “Strum,” and “Pluck.” Despite their brevity, relative ease of execution, and conceptual levity, these terse, mischievous pieces are quite sophisticated, with acerbic secundal dissonances, sparse gestures, rhythmic irregularities, and long stretches of atonality—all general characteristics of his work. Serenade No. 7 was composed in 1952. Its six tiny pieces are more accessible than those in Serenade No. 2, and are much easier to play.

Among the sizable number of Persichetti’s piano pieces suitable for upper-elementary and intermediate-level piano students, perhaps the best known is the Little Piano Book, Op. 60, composed in 1953. This group of fourteen easy pieces of uncommon charm and beauty has become a classic of its kind. The composer described it as “a collection of simple pieces written for, or about, friends and relatives and acquaintances. One is a self-portrait. This is my music reduced to its essence; nevertheless these pieces do contain elements found in my larger, more complex works.” Dorothea felt that “they may be some of the composer’s best music.” Other such works are the slightly more difficult Variations for an Album, and Parades, the easiest to play of all Persichetti’s piano pieces.

Notes by Walter Simmons
Author, Voices of Stone and Steel: The Music of Schuman, Persichetti, and Mennin 
(Rowman and Littlefield, 2011), from which these notes were adapted.

ROSNER: Violin Sonata No. 1; Bassoon Sonata; Cello Sonata No. 2; Danses a la Mode.

CHAMBER MUSIC BY ARNOLD ROSNER

During his fifty-year compositional career, the American composer Arnold Rosner (1945-2013) produced a body of a work that combined diverse influences into a powerful, distinctly personal musical voice. His catalog contains compositions in nearly every genre, including three operas, eight symphonies, numerous works for orchestra and band, several large-scale choral works, and many chamber, solo, and vocal pieces.Rosner’s musical language was founded upon the harmonic and rhythmic devices of pre-Baroque modal polyphony, and this source can be found, to a greater or lesser extent, in virtually all his music. To this he added a 20th-century freedom of modality and triadicism, intensified in some works by moderate dissonance, combining this harmonic language with the lavish orchestration and emotional drama of 19th-century romanticism. What makes Rosner’s music worthy of serious consideration, rather than being merely an integration of earlier styles, is the way he shaped his unusual language to embrace an enormous expressive range—far broader than one might imagine possible—from serene beauty to violent rage, with many points in between. And despite its fusion of seemingly incongruous elements, most of his music is readily accessible even to untutored listeners.

Born in New York City in 1945, Rosner took piano lessons as a boy, and soon developed a voracious interest in classical music. Certain sounds in particular appealed to him—juxtapositions of major and minor triads, as well as modal melodies—and before long he was working these sounds into music of his own. His family—fully aware of the remote prospects of success offered by a career in classical music composition—encouraged him to pursue more practical endeavors. So he attended the Bronx High School of Science, whence he graduated at the age of 15, and then New York University with a major in mathematics. But all the while he was composing—sonatas, symphonies, concertos, etc.—not that anyone was especially interested in hearing the fruits of his labors. His composer-heroes at the time were Alan Hovhaness, Ralph Vaughan Williams, and Carl Nielsen, and their influence is evident in much of his creative work.

Graduating from NYU before he turned 20, Rosner then spent a year at the Belfer Graduate School of Science, continuing his studies in mathematics. But, no longer able to resist the inner drive to pursue musical composition as his primary activity, he entered the University of Buffalo the following September, with a major in music composition. This was 1966, when the serial approach dominated university music departments, and young composers were often coerced into adopting it, either directly or indirectly. Rosner was adamantly opposed to serialism and refused to embrace it. He often recounted how the Buffalo faculty dismissed his creative efforts with varying degrees of contempt. Later, in describing his educational experience there, he wrote that he “learned almost nothing” from these pedants. While his peers may have capitulated to the pressure to embrace the style du jour, Rosner stubbornly refused to accept a view of music that violated his most fervently held artistic values. And so, in response, his department repeatedly rejected the large orchestral work he had submitted as his dissertation. Realizing that they would never accept the kind of music he considered legitimately meaningful, he gave up the notion of a doctorate in composition, and decided instead to pursue a degree in music theory, with a dissertation—the first ever—on the music of Alan Hovhaness. He completed this successfully, and in the process became the first recipient of a doctorate in music granted by the State University of New York.

Rosner devoted the rest of his life to writing the music that represented his personal aesthetic ideals, supporting himself through academic positions at colleges in and around the New York City area. His most enduring position was as Professor of Music at Kingsborough Community College (of the City University of New York), which he held for thirty years, until his death. During the course of his compositional career, his musical language gradually expanded from its idiosyncratic and intuitive beginnings, broadening and deepening its expressive range. Arnold Rosner died in Brooklyn, NY, in 2013, on his 68th birthday.

Rosner composed his Sonata No. 1 for Violin and Piano, Op. 18, in 1963, when he was 18 years old. (The Sonata No. 2, dating from 1972, serves alternately as his Sonata for Oboe and Piano.) As with a number of his early works, he later felt that the Sonata No. 1 could be improved without changing its overall character. In undertaking such retrospective revisions, Rosner was somewhat unusual. Many composers revise their works—often after a first performance or in anticipation of a second—shortly after completing them. Revisions much later are less common, as most composers’ styles evolve to the point where they no longer feel comfortable re-entering works from an earlier period. Rosner’s style evolved over time as well, as may be readily gleaned from this recording. But he never repudiated his earlier approach: Hence his revisions remain fully within the language of the original work. For example, when he returned to the Violin Sonata No. 1 more than forty years after completing it, he retained all the original thematic materials, while developing them with greater subtlety and sophistication. But there are no disjunctions in the basic musical language, which remains largely modal and consonant, as was the original version. In this way he was able to retain the freshness and innocence that characterized his earlier music, while providing a developmental complexity that gives the music added depth and interest. He dedicated the revised version to Emily Adele Vanderwerf, whose father had written the first academic dissertation on Rosner’s music.The first public performance of either version of Rosner’s Violin Sonata No. 1 did not take place until 2014, at a memorial concert in New York City on the first anniversary of his death. The violinist was Owen Dalby and the pianist was Margaret Kampmeier.

Rosner often asserted that his music was not “tonal,” by which he meant that he rejected the notion of “functional tonality,” i.e., the traditional view applied to 18th- and 19th-century music that tonality served as a primary unifying device within which deviations from the tonal center were understood as fundamental elements of a work’s structure. Most of Rosner’s music displays tonal centers that modulate freely throughout a composition without serving such structural functions. In his earlier works especially, some movements exhibit a central tonic, while others do not. The Violin Sonata No. 1 is an especially clear illustration of this. The vigorous first movement, Allegro molto, is freely modal and largely consonant, featuring the use of unrelated triads that was an enduring element of Rosner’s style. The movement is structured as a modified sonata allegro. Though it begins with a suggestion of D Dorian, that mode is contradicted freely by the second measure. This first theme introduces a profusion of motifs that provide the main material of the movement. A second theme is briefly suggested, introduced by sequences of perfect fourths, but the development focuses primarily on the motifs within the first theme. A third thematic idea characterized by repeated quarter-notes is introduced during the development. The recapitulation features the first theme in rhythmic augmentation in the piano, while the violin continues developing the movement’s main motivic material, until the final cadence in C-sharp.The second movement, Lento, is fervently lyrical and somewhat solemn in character. Most notable is an emphasis on the major-minor dichotomy, another harmonic feature that may be found in Rosner’s music throughout his oeuvre. The opening melody, freely modal, is accompanied by triads and perfect fifths, lending a slightly religious quality. A series of bell-like notes in the piano introduces a more unstable second section that ends with bell-like notes in the violin. The melody from the first section returns with a more elaborate accompaniment, followed by a return of the second section material, also accompanied by more active figuration. This pattern continues during a final restatement of the opening material. Major-minor conflicts recur throughout the movement, which largely maintains a modal tonality of C.  

The finale, Allegro, is suggestive of a spirited tarantella, as the unaccompanied violin introduces the main theme in G. The piano enters, abruptly shifting the tonality to the remote key of C-sharp. The material undergoes continual development during which the violin remains active while the piano accompanies with mostly open fifths. A second section, maintaining the C-sharp tonality, features a more subdued melody in the violin, while the piano now takes a more active role, drawing upon the first theme. This is followed by a development of both thematic ideas, often combined together. A coda accelerates the tempo, pressing forward to an emphatic conclusion, re-affirming the tonality of G.

Rosner composed Danses à la mode, Op. 101, in 1994, dedicating it to his friend Jan Naigus. In a note printed in the score, Carson Cooman comments that Rosner taught a variety of music courses during his years as a professor, including ethnomusicology. This latter experience led him to explore the music of a variety of countries and ethnicities, contributing to an already fledgling interest in the music of other cultures. These explorations found their way into some of his compositions, such as Danses à la mode. The title has something of a double meaning, referring on the one hand to the use of modal scales common to much ethnic music as well as to his own music. On the other hand it also alludes to his “lifelong interest in all matters culinary.”

Cooman notes, “The first movement À la Greque is in a fast 7/8 meter, with inflections characteristic of Greek folk music. Even before his teaching days, Rosner was interested in Indian music, and its influence appeared in a few of his compositions, including the second movement of this suite, as well as the concert band work RAGA!. a more extended exploration of the raga concept. The third movement, Sarabande, pays homage to the Baroque dance form. Musique du Nord evokes Scandinavian dance music.”The first performance of Danses à la mode was given by David Cowley in 1995, in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, as part of a festival devoted to Rosner’s music.

Rosner composed quite a number of sonatas and related works for solo instrument with piano. In fact, most standard instruments are represented among these pieces, and they comprise some of his most serious, deeply searching compositions. These works often sandwich a lighter, scherzo-like movement between two movements of somber, brooding character, and that is the case with the Sonata for Bassoon and Piano, Op. 121, composed in 2006. Compared with the light-hearted exuberance of the First Violin Sonata, the Bassoon Sonata—one of Rosner’s last works—maintains a mood of sober reflection throughout, even during the faster central movement. The work as a whole indicates the extent to which the composer’s language had expanded during his later years to embrace considerable tonal freedom.

The first movement, Adagio, opens with an unaccompanied line in the bassoon—highly chromatic, but not a 12-tone row by any means. This solo line embraces a number of short intervallic motifs that provide the source material for the movement—most prominently, a minor second and three scale-steps, both ascending and descending. (These motifs will appear prominently in all three movements.) Though the opening line suggests a tonal center of G, this is of little consequence. The piano enters, addressing the intervallic motifs and engaging them in counterpoint with the bassoon, while also providing an accompaniment largely of open fifths and triads. A continuous development follows with wandering tonality and soon the tempo quickens. This builds to something of a climax, followed by a return to the original tempo, as the bassoon clearly re-states a variant of the opening solo line, leading the movement to an unambiguous ending in D.

The second movement serves as a scherzo, marked Allegro energico ma serioso, although, as the marking indicates, the character of the movement is far from jocular. While mostly in 6/8 meter, there is much use of hemiola (“three against two”). The movement opens with arpeggiated open fifths in the piano with a tonality of G, followed by a stepwise rising and falling motif in the bassoon. Within this is incorporated a rising half-step figure that was a prominent motif in the first movement, treated here as an essential element as well, appearing in both ascending and descending forms. The movement unfolds as a free development of these ideas tossed back and forth chromatically between the two instruments, finally reaching a decisive conclusion in A.The third movement, Lento, is rather unusual in structure. It begins with a solemn solo in the bassoon, chromatic but suggesting a tonic of E-flat. Prominent in this solo are the rising and falling minor seconds that played a role in both previous movements. This solo is answered as a canon at the fourth treated in three voices, followed by a development of the motifs introduced thus far, with special attention to the rising and falling minor seconds. As the movement begins to draw to a close there is a reminiscence of the canon material, now abbreviated, in the piano, while further development gradually leads to a quiet conclusion in B-flat major-minor.The premiere of the Bassoon Sonata was given by the duo who perform it here, at the aforementioned memorial concert in 2014.

Rosner composed his Sonata No. 2 for Cello and Piano, “La Divina Commedia,” Op. 89, in 1990. (The Sonata No. 1 had been composed in 1968; Maxine Neuman was the cellist for both its premiere and its first recording.) The work did not originally have a subtitle. The reference to Dante’s Divine Comedy was added several years later. Rosner left no information explaining his subtitle, so the listener is free to imagine what the connection might be.The first movement, Adagio, is an isorhythmic motet. This is a musical form that flourished during the Medieval Period, and one that Rosner used in several of his works, most notably the second movement of his String Quartet No. 4. As applied by the composer, a musical phrase is presented by all the instruments involved, each instrument contributing its own part. The rhythm of this phrase is then repeated over and over by the instrumental unit, while the actual pitches differ with each repetition. Hence it is easy not to realize that one is hearing repetitions of a single composite rhythmic pattern. In the case of the movement at hand, the phrase consists of ten measures, and is repeated ten times. The overall character of the music is rather severe—extremely so for Rosner, and the basic phrase is quite complicated rhythmically, harmonically, contrapuntally, and dramatically. Although the movement maintains an overall tonality of C, the elaboration is freely chromatic.  The second movement, Moderato, con rubato, is also unusual: a modal incantation of vaguely Middle-Eastern character (melismatic melody in the cello accompanied by open fifths in the piano, with roles reversed in the first return, and combined in the final return), heard in alternation with brief quasi-Renaissance dance episodes. The movement maintains a tonality of D, with modulations to the keys of A and C-sharp.

The finale, Allegro, is exuberant in character, with a formal structure that suggests sonata allegro but with only one theme group. Opening vigorously in G, the movement promptly introduces two main motifs, which permeate the movement while spinning off several subordinate motifs. The first main motif leaps up a perfect fourth, then turns back to where it started. The second main motif is focused on a descending stepwise triplet that repeats insistently. Both these motifs, along with related subordinate motifs, are subjected to extensive development, as triplet rhythmic figures propel the movement forward. Finally there is a recapitulation of the opening statement followed by further development. A coda leads to a decisive final cadence in G.

The premiere of the Cello Sonata No. 2 was given in 1991in New York City. The cellist was Dorothy Lawson and the pianist was Elena Belli. Rosner felt that the finale  was appealing enough in its own right that he planned to orchestrate it as an autonomous piece. He found the opportunity when he was commissioned in 1999 to write a piece to celebrate the approaching Millennium. He entitled the result A Millennium Overture.   

Walter Simmons, musicologist and critic, has written extensively on American composers who maintained an allegiance to traditional music values. He is the editor of a series of books, “Twentieth-Century Traditionalists”, published by Rowman and Littlefield. He wrote the first two volumes himself (under the Scarecrow Press imprint): Voices in the Wilderness: Six American Neo-Romantic Composers (2004), which treated the lives and works of Barber, Bloch, Creston, Flagello, Giannini, and Hanson, and Voices of Stone and Steel: The Music of William Schuman, Vincent Persichetti, and Peter Mennin (2011). As a staunch advocate of the music of Arnold Rosner, he is deeply familiar with much of his output; he and Rosner were close associates for more than forty years.

Curtis Macomber is considered one of the most versatile violinists before the public today, equally at home in repertoire from Bach to Babbitt. His playing has been praised recently by the New York Times for its “thrilling virtuosity” and by Strad Magazine for its “panache”;  as a member of the New World String Quartet from 1982-93, he performed in virtually all the important concert series in the United States, as well as touring abroad. Mr. Macomber has for many years been recognized as a leading advocate of the music of our time. He has performed in hundreds of premieres, commissions, and first recordings of solo violin and chamber works by, among others, Carter, Davidovsky, Perle, Wuorinen, and Mackey. He is the violinist of Speculum Musicae and the Da Capo Chamber Players, and a founding member of the Apollo Trio.  His most recent recordings include: a solo recording (“Casting Ecstatic”), on CRI; the complete Grieg Sonatas on Arabesque; an all Steve Mackey record (“Interior Design”) on Bridge, and the complete Brahms Sonatas, also for Bridge.  Mr. Macomber is presently a member of the chamber music faculty of the Juilliard School, where he earned B.M., M.M., and D.M.A. degrees as a student of Joseph Fuchs. He is also on the violin faculties of the Manhattan and Mannes Schools of Music, and has taught at the Tanglewood, Taos and Yellow Barn Music Festivals.

Maxine Neuman is a cellist whose solo and chamber music career spans North and South America, Europe, and Asia. A grant recipient from the Rockefeller and Ford Foundations and the National Endowment for the Arts and a shared Grammy Award winner, her biography appears in Who’s Who in the World. She’s a founding member of the Claremont Duo, Duo Cellissimo, the Crescent String Quartet, and the Belmont Trio, groups with which she has traveled and recorded extensively. She has appeared as soloist before a sold-out audience in New York’s Town Hall in the American premiere of Giovanni Battista Viotti’s only cello concerto, and for Austrophon, she recorded Schumann’s Cello Concerto in Count Esterhazy’s historic palace in Austria. She has also been heard in such diverse settings as the Montreux Jazz Festival, films of Jim Jarmusch, with Metallica and the Ron Carter Jazz Nonet. A longtime champion of contemporary music, she has commissioned and premiered works by many of today’s leading composers. Distinguished as a teacher as well as performer, Ms. Neuman has served as a juror for numerous international competitions, and she has taught at Bennington College, Williams College and C.W. Post University. She is on the faculty at New York’s School for Strings and Hoff-Barthelson Music School. Her cello is a J.B. Guadagnini, dating from 1772. A friend of Arnold Rosner for almost 50 years, she gave the first performance and made the first recording of his Cello Sonata No. 1, as well as this first recording of his Cello Sonata No. 2.

David Richmond is a bassoonist who has performed with orchestras, on chamber music programs, and in solo performances in North America, Europe, and Africa. A member of the Sarasota Opera Orchestra in Sarasota, Florida, he has also performed with orchestras throughout greater New England, including with A Far Cry, the Pro Arte Chamber Orchestra, the Boston Modern Orchestra Project, Odyssey Opera, the Monadnock Music Festival, the Boston Pops, and the New Bedford Symphony Orchestra. In addition to this recording, he may be heard on the Boston Modern Orchestra Project’s 2016 recording of Virgil Thomson’s Four Saints in Three Acts. In November 2016, Mr. Richmond was featured soloist with the Nairobi Orchestra in Kenya, and has spent increasing time in Nairobi, introducing young Kenyans to the bassoon and sharing his love of music with that city’s rapidly growing community of classical musicians. Mr. Richmond received his master’s degree in bassoon performance from the Rice University Shepherd School of Music, where he studied with Benjamin Kamins. Born and raised in Portland, Oregon, he graduated from Harvard College with a degree in music, and also studied bassoon privately with George Sakakeeny on a Paine Fellowship from the Harvard music department. Mr. Richmond gave the first performance of Rosner’s Sonata for Bassoon and Piano.

Margaret Kampmeier enjoys a varied career as piano soloist, collaborative artist and educator. Equally fluent in classical and contemporary repertoire, she has concertized and recorded extensively. She has appeared with the St. Petersburg Chamber Philharmonic, New York Philharmonic Ensembles, Kronos Quartet, Saratoga Chamber Players, Sherman Chamber Ensemble, Richardson Chamber Players, Mirror Visions Ensemble, Locrian Chamber Players and Peter Schickele. As orchestral keyboardist, she performs regularly with the Orchestra of St. Luke’s, and is a frequent guest of the New York Philharmonic, American Composers Orchestra and Orpheus Chamber Orchestra. As a recording artist, Ms. Kampmeier can be heard on the Albany, Centaur, CRI, Koch, Nonesuch, and Bridge labels. She teaches piano and chamber music at Princeton University and is Chair and Artistic Director of the Contemporary Performance Program at the Manhattan School of Music. She has given lecture-recitals on a wide range of topics including, Preludes and Fugues through the Ages, Contemporary Keyboard Techniques, and Piano Music of Women Composers. She holds a doctorate from SUNY Stony Brook, where she studied with esteemed pianist Gilbert Kalish. She has both performed and recorded a great deal of music by Arnold Rosner, including serving as accompanist on a recording of his complete vocal music.

Carson Cooman is one of the most remarkable figures on the music scene today. He is active as a pianist as well as an organist, specializing in the performance of contemporary music. More than 150 new compositions by composers from all over the world have been written for him, and his organ performances can be heard on a number of CD recordings. He is also a composer whose catalog numbers more than a thousand works embracing a wide range of forms and styles—from solo instrumental pieces to operas, and from orchestral works to hymn tunes. His music has been performed on all six inhabited continents in venues that range from the stage of Carnegie Hall to the basket of a hot air balloon. His music appears on more than forty recordings, including more than twenty complete CDs on the Naxos, Albany, Artek, Gothic, Divine Art, Métier, Diversions, Convivium, Altarus, MSR Classics, Raven, and Zimbel labels. Cooman is also a writer on musical subjects, producing articles and reviews for a number of international publications. He serves as an active consultant on music business matters to composers and performing organizations, specializing particularly in the area of composer estates and archives. He is an avid admirer of the music of Arnold Rosner, with whom he developed a close relationship during the elder composer’s final years. Rosner chose him to be the curator of his musical archive.

ROSNER: Piano Concerto No. 2; Gematria; Six Pastoral Dances; From the Diaries of Adam Czerniakow

ROSNER: Piano Concerto No. 2 (Peter Vinograde, piano); Gematria; Six Pastoral Dances; From the Diaries of Adam Czerniakow (Peter Riegert, speaker)London Philharmonic; David Amos, cond.  TOCCATA CLASSICS TOCC-0368

Liner Notes

During his fifty-year compositional career, the American composer Arnold Rosner produced a body of a work that combined diverse influences into a powerful, distinctly personal musical voice. His catalog contains compositions in nearly every genre, including three operas, eight symphonies, numerous works for orchestra and band, several large-scale choral works, and many chamber, solo, and vocal pieces.

Rosner’s musical language was founded upon the harmony and rhythmic devices of pre-Baroque modal polyphony. To this he added a 20th-century freedom of modality and triadicism, and combined this harmonic language with the orchestration, drama, and scope of 19th century romanticism. What makes Rosner’s music worthy of serious consideration, rather than being merely a homogenization of earlier styles, is the way he shaped his unusual language to embrace an enormous expressive range—far broader than one might imagine possible—from serene beauty to violent rage, with many points in between. And despite its fusion of seemingly incongruous elements, most of his music is readily accessible even to untutored listeners. This remarkable expressive range is well illustrated by the four works presented here.

Born in New York City in 1945, Rosner took piano lessons as a boy, and soon developed a voracious interest in classical music. Certain sounds in particular appealed to him—juxtapositions of major and minor triads, as well as modal melodies—and before long he was working these sounds into music of his own. His family—fully aware of the remote prospects of success offered by a career in classical music composition—encouraged him to pursue more practical endeavors. So he attended the Bronx High School of Science, whence he graduated at the age of 15, and then New York University with a major in mathematics. But all the while he was composing—sonatas, symphonies, concertos, etc.—not that anyone else was especially interested in hearing the fruits of his labors. His composer-heroes at the time were Alan Hovhaness, Ralph Vaughan Williams, and Carl Nielsen, and their influence is evident in much of his creative work.

Graduating from NYU before he turned 20, Rosner then spent a year at the Belfer Graduate School of Science, continuing his studies in mathematics. But, no longer able to resist the inner drive to pursue musical composition as his primary activity, he entered the University of Buffalo the following September, with a major in music composition. This was 1966, when the serial approach dominated university music departments, and young composers were often coerced into adopting it, either directly or indirectly. Rosner was adamantly opposed to serialism and refused to embrace it. He often recounted how the Buffalo faculty dismissed his creative efforts with varying degrees of contempt. Later, in describing his educational experience there, he wrote that he “learned almost nothing” from these pedants. While his peers may have capitulated to the pressure to embrace the style du jour, Rosner stubbornly refused to accept a view of music that violated his most fervently held artistic values. And so, in response, his department repeatedly rejected the large orchestral work he had submitted as his dissertation. Realizing that they would never accept the kind of work he considered legitimately meaningful, he gave up the notion of a doctorate in composition, and decided instead to pursue a degree in music theory, with a dissertation—the first ever—on the music of Alan Hovhaness. He completed this successfully, and in the process became the first recipient of a doctorate in music granted by the State University of New York.

Rosner devoted the rest of his life to writing the music that represented his personal aesthetic ideals, supporting himself through academic positions at colleges in and around the New York City area. His most enduring position was as Professor of Music at Kingsborough College (of the City University of New York), which he held for thirty years, until his death. During the course of his compositional career, his musical language gradually expanded from its idiosyncratic and intuitive beginnings, broadening and deepening its expressive range. Arnold Rosner died in Brooklyn, NY, in 2013, on his 68th birthday.

Rosner composed his Piano Concerto No. 2, Op. 30, in 1965, shortly after graduating from NYU, and before receiving professional instruction in composition. As such it is an excellent representation of the roots of his musical language; it is also quite unlike any other piano concerto in the literature. Among its unusual features are its use of a scherzo as an opening movement, its lack of focus on virtuoso showmanship, and its avoidance of the sense of opposition between soloist and orchestra that characterizes the standard concerto. Instead it is dominated by melody—melody that resembles no other music, yet is readily accessible, irresistibly memorable, and instantly identifiable for those familiar with his music. 

The first movement, Scherzo: Allegro, is oriented in the key of G, with a strongly mixolydian flavor, and conveys a sense of joyful exuberance. The harmonic language is almost completely consonant, with interest generated by a free use of chromatically-related triads. Although the movement begins softly, its volume level reaches considerable peaks. This opening section is followed by a Trio: Allegretto. Relatively subdued at first, this section is based on a modal melody that hovers around G minor, and reveals some intervallic reminiscence of the scherzo melody. The tempo presses forward as a variant of the melody leads to a huge climax. A hushed transition then leads to a re-statement of the scherzo.

The second movement, Largo, begins very slowly and softly with another melody, again largely consonant, but in constantly-shifting modes. This melody is developed contrapuntally, and some striking major-minor dissonances are heard as it proceeds. Its serene, almost religious, character is transformed as the movement builds toward a gigantic climax with violent tone-clusters in the piano. As the climax recedes, the movement concludes as it began, in quiet serenity.

The third movement, Presto, returns to the lively, high-spirited tone of the opening movement. A loose rondo design, it is based on a syncopated modal melody that hovers around a tonal center of E. A secondary melody of similar character follows, leading back to a variant of the initial theme in triplet figuration. The solo piano introduces a second section, with a ponderous theme in triple meter, strongly related to the main theme of the first movement. Once this theme reaches a climax, a transition leads to a modified return of the first section, which then evolves into a variant of delicately ethereal character, featuring a continuous pattern of arpeggios in the piano’s high register. A fragment of the theme highlights its major-minor features in thundering octaves and triads. This builds to what feels like the work’s final peroration, as the delicate variant heard earlier is now stated with monumental grandeur. The movement’s main theme returns briefly in a form similar to its initial statement before leading to a coda based on yet another variant of the theme, which builds once again to a grandiloquent conclusion.

When the opportunity for a performance of one of his earlier works appeared, Rosner would typically review it to eliminate impracticalities and other symptoms of his inexperience. For this reason, before this concerto was recorded, composer-organist Carson Cooman edited it to adjust details of orchestration and piano figuration. 

Rosner composed a number of works that suggest the spirit of music from the Elizabethan period, such as his Five Meditations, Op. 36, and A Gentle Musicke, Op. 44. These have become among his most popular compositions. Six Pastoral Dances, Op. 40, scored for woodwind quartet plus strings, mines a similar vein, while incorporating a few distinctly modern touches. The opening “Intrada” sets the Elizabethan tone. The “Waltz” that follows is built upon a slightly mischievous melody heard first in the clarinet. In the middle a distinctly Rosnerian use of chromatically related triads is heard. The stately “Pavana” is richly polyphonic, with much use of suspensions and appoggiaturas that resolve in a manner reminiscent of music from the 17th century. The movement concludes with some piquant chromatic dissonances. The “Gigue,” is built around continuous triplet patterns, and is probably the movement with the most modern flavor, featuring perky dissonances and unorthodox parallelisms. However, the central section brings forth a more strongly Elizabethan touch. The final cadence is quite uncharacteristic for the composer, ending quizzically on a sub-dominant triad in second inversion. The warmly polyphonic “Sarabande” returns to the spirit of a 17th-century motet, leading directly into the finale, “Galliard and Reprise.” This lively movement begins with the composer’s characteristic treatment of triadic consonance, leading directly into a triumphant but abbreviated restatement of the opening “Intrada.” Six Pastoral Dances was composed in 1968, and was first performed the following year by the Bronx Symphony Orchestra under the direction of Michael Spierman, to whom it is dedicated.

Conductor David Amos discovered Rosner’s music during the early 1980s, and soon became one of his most vigorous champions. Conducting the Jerusalem Symphony Orchestra, Amos led the first recording of Rosner’s orchestral music. Between 1986 and 1993 he commissioned four works from the composer, each of which he premiered with his own Tifereth Israel Orchestra of San Diego. The first of these was From the Diary of Adam Czerniakow, Op. 82. As will be evident to the listener, this work represents considerable maturation of Rosner’s musical language. He provided the following note, included at the front of the score:

Adam Czerniakow was the chairman of the Judenrat, or Jewish local government in the Warsaw ghetto from 1939 (the beginning of the German occupation and administration of the ghetto) until 1942 when he took his own life during the time of mass deportation of the population to death camps in the east. In this capacity, Czerniakow kept a secret diary which recounts considerable detail about the ghetto and its history, and also reveals the growing awareness and torment in Czerniakow himself as the Nazis moved deviously, carefully, and inexorably towards including the Jews of Poland in the “final solution.”

The unique artistic opportunity conveyed by the Diaries is its combination of two otherwise irreconcilable perspectives—the viewpoint of a mass of victims, which portrays the magnitude of the events, and that of a single tragic individual, which better portrays the human pathos of those events. Czerniakow was, after all, both a very tortured victim in his own right, and in a very real sense, a conduit—sometimes in spite of himself—between the oppressors and the thousands of Jewish victims in occupied Poland.

The work … is scored for full orchestra and one narrator, reading Czerniakow’s words. These diary entries are spoken only; there is no singing in the entire piece. The music is in one continuous movement, befitting something of an extended stream of consciousness, and the actual style migrates from symphonic, to coloristic, to cantorial, according to the spirit of the historical events.

The English translation of Czerniakow’s material was made by Raul Hilberg and Stanislaw Staron, in collaboration with Josef Kermisz of Yad Vashem in Jerusalem. The composer has applied for and received permission from all of these for the use of the material…. [The text has been further edited for concision by Walter Simmons.]

The first performance of this work took place in 2010. The score bears a dedication to Lee and David Amos.

The second of the Amos commissions is Gematria, Op. 93. During the early 1980s Rosner began exploring an approach he called stile estatico. Partly influenced by the “minimalism” that had become a popular style among living composers, but which Rosner felt was not sufficiently developed by any of its most prominent practitioners, stile estatico entails the simultaneous use of multiple ostinati. But these repeated ostinato patterns each follows a rhythmic cycle of its own, and are thus of different durations; hence the patterns overlap each other, as each starts and stops at different points. While these ostinati are unfolding, a more distinctive element may appear in the foreground. Gematria, composed in 1991, is probably the work in which Rosner employed the stile estatico most fully and with the greatest complexity. Of course the greatest challenge in composing a piece of this kind is to achieve meaningful overall coherence as each ostinato pattern repeats according to its own individual rhythmic cycle. In a note that appears in the score, Rosner writes:

Although found elsewhere, Gematria is most fully developed as an esoteric aspect of Judaism, particularly of Kabbalah mysticism. Numbers are systematically substituted for letters, resulting in complex hidden ideas, cross-references and double-meanings in otherwise apparently straightforward texts. This work does not apply a similarly schematic approach to music, but attempts a fitting mood and richness by means of complicated cross-rhythmic overlays of colors and harmonies. This work was commissioned by David Amos and the Tifereth Israel Orchestra of San Diego.

The premiere of Gematria took place in 1992. The work is dedicated to the members of the Tifereth Israel Orchestra of San Diego.

N. LLOYD: Three Scenes from Memory; Five Pieces for Dance; Episodes; Piano Sonata. MENNIN: Five Pieces; Piano Sonata. Myron Silberstein, piano.

N. LLOYD: Three Scenes from Memory; Five Pieces for Dance; Episodes; Piano Sonata. MENNIN: Five Pieces; Piano Sonata. Myron Silberstein, piano. Naxos 8.559767

Liner Notes

Norman Lloyd (1909-1980) and Peter Mennin (1923-1983) are apt discmates. Both were Pennsylvania-born composers who also devoted substantial portions of their careers to teaching as well as educational administration. Both served together on the faculties of the Juilliard School from 1947 until 1958. And Lloyd was one of the figures considered as possible successor to William Schuman when he stepped down as president of the Juilliard in 1962, although Mennin was ultimately chosen for this position. But despite these points of overlap, the careers of the two men were distinguished by markedly different emphases.

Norman Lloyd played a significant role in many facets of American musical life in the 20th century, although neither his name nor his music is often heard today. Born in Pottsville, PA, Lloyd received his undergraduate and graduate training in music at New York University (1932; 1936). His career owed much to his relationship with William Schuman during the 1930s and 40s. In 1936 he joined the music faculty at Sarah Lawrence College, where Schuman was already experimenting with his own ideas regarding music pedagogy. When Schuman assumed the presidency of the Juilliard School in 1945, he took Lloyd with him, and the two men, in consultation with Vincent Persichetti and Richard Franko Goldman, developed the Literature and Materials Program, which revolutionized music education in America.

But during those early years Lloyd had other interests as well. One of these was modern dance. After accompanying Martha Hill’s classes at NYU, he spent his summers at Bennington College (1934-42), where, as accompanist, he became acquainted with a number of distinguished choreographers, chief among them Martha Graham, as well as Doris Humphrey and José Limón. In fact, in 1935 Graham commissioned him to compose music for Panorama, Bennington’s first major dance production, which included “Puritan Hymn” (heard on this recording). It is thus no surprise that it was Lloyd who developed the dance department at Juilliard in 1951. During the Depression he and his wife Ruth performed jazz and popular music as a piano duo. Lloyd also became interested in film, and composed music for more than 30 documentaries before and during World War II. Perhaps the accomplishment for which he was best known was providing the musical arrangements for The Fireside Book of Folksongs (1947), as well as for several other popular collections of folksongs that graced the pianos in thousands of American homes during the late 1940s and 50s.

Upon earning his doctorate from the Philadelphia Conservatory in 1963, Lloyd accepted the position of dean of the Oberlin College Conservatory. While there he co-authored—along with Arnold Fish—the widely used textbook Fundamentals of Sight Singing and Ear Training (1964). In 1965 he was invited to join the Rockefeller Foundation as director of arts programming. During this period he found the time to write the Golden Encyclopedia of Music (1968). He remained at Rockefeller until his retirement in 1972, and died of leukemia in July, 1980.

Lloyd did not regard himself primarily as a composer, thus much of his music remained unpublished, and dates of composition are not always available. For example, it is not certain exactly when he composed his Three Scenes from Memory, short piano pieces simple enough for elementary students to play. Each piece was dedicated to one of his early music teachers at the Braun School in Pottsville, PA. The gently pandiatonic  “Winter Landscape” was dedicated to Carrie Lou Betz. “Sad Carrousel,” wistful and waltz-like, was dedicated to Mrs. Robert Braun. In “City Street,” quartal harmony predominates, although the piece ends with reiterated triads, in a manner reminiscent of much of Schuman’s music. This piece was dedicated to Florence Stephens.

Five Pieces for Dance were composed during the period 1935-38, when Lloyd was actively involved in the dance program at Bennington. As noted, “Puritan Hymn” was written for Martha Graham’s Panorama. Though simple to play, it displays polytonal dissonance and changing meters, while evincing a heavy tread. “Blues” was dedicated to Louis Horst. It is relaxed and idiomatic, following the standard twelve-bar blues prototype. “Piping Tune—Tune for the Open Air” is a charming pentatonic melody with a distinctly Celtic flavor. “Dance Hall Study” was written for Anna Sokolow, and is a somewhat clown-like treatment of irregular rhythmic groupings over a constant duple-meter accompaniment. It is a little more difficult and complex than the preceding pieces. “Theme and Variations,” dedicated to Martha Hill, is the longest, most difficult, and most elaborate piece of the group, though the variations are clear and easy to follow.

Episodes, dedicated to Stanley Lock, a longtime member of the Sarah Lawrence music faculty, were most likely composed during the 1940s. Suitable for an intermediate-level pianist, they are more substantial than the previous pieces, and reveal a greater compositional security. American in flavor, they inhabit a language reminiscent of composers like Aaron Copland and Vincent Persichetti. No. 1 has a wistful, nostalgic feeling; No. 2 is similar, but a trifle sunnier; No. 3 is perky, displaying a light touch and pandiatonic harmony; No. 4 is austere and meditative; No. 5, more complex and difficult than the others, is sprightly and lighthearted, with delightful rhythmic twists.

The Sonata for Piano is Lloyd’s most ambitious composition for the instrument. Composed in 1958, it was dedicated to pianist Joseph Bloch and his wife Dana. Bloch gave the work’s premiere in 1966. The sonata is a compelling, convincingly developed abstract work in three movements, and features nervous, heavily-accented rhythmic syncopations, pandiatonic and polytonal harmony, and much intervallic parallelism and contrary motion—all of which represented something of a lingua franca among American composers during the 1950s, especially those associated with the Juilliard School.

The first movement, a driving Allegro, is based on a descending motif of gradually expanding intervals. A lyrical, contrasting middle section is based on the same motif. The second movement, Slowly and freely, is wistful and reflective, and is based on a descending scalar motif and its inversion. The third movement opens with an introduction marked Roughly, with rapid running figurations that recall the motifs from both preceding movements. This leads directly into the Finale, With a rhythmic drive. The briskly energetic movement opens with a playful, jazzy motif of its own, but with hints of the thematic material from the two previous movements. This lively movement culminates in an exultant conclusion.


While composition was one of many musical activities that engaged the interest and involvement of Norman Lloyd, the life of Peter Mennin revealed a different emphasis. Although he too spent much of his career in musical administration, composition was unquestionably the endeavor that was most important to him. His responsibilities as president of the Peabody Conservatory (1958-1962) and the Juilliard School (1962-1983) occupied much of his time and attention, with the result that his oeuvre is small. But he compensated for that by producing works that were major statements almost exclusively (nine symphonies, three concertos, sonatas for piano and for violin and piano, and a large-scale cantata head the list), with little in the way of peripheral or diverting fare.

Born in Erie, PA, Mennin (né Mennini) was drawn to music by the age of 5, when he began rigorous formal training with a European teacher of the “old school.” This early exposure led to his subsequent embrace of some of the more orthodox disciplines than were in favor during the mid-20th century, rejecting “the American tendency to look for an easy way. There is no easy way,” he insisted. After completing high school, he entered Oberlin, where he remained for only two years, as he did not get along with his teacher, Normand Lockwood. However, he did complete his first symphony there, before volunteering for a stint in the military. Attracted by their policy of performing student works, Mennin entered the Eastman School in 1944, where he worked under Howard Hanson and Bernard Rogers, although he bristled at any interference in his aesthetic intentions. While there he completed a Symphony No. 2, which won two awards, although he subsequently withdrew the work, as he did its predecessor. For his doctorate he wrote his Symphony No. 3, which was premiered by the New York Philharmonic in 1946, before it had even been accepted by the Eastman doctoral committee. The following year William Schuman invited him to join the Juilliard faculty, along with Norman Lloyd.

The successful premiere of his Symphony No. 3 led to a recording by the New York Philharmonic, conducted by Dimitri Mitropoulos. By the 1950s Mennin was recognized as one of the leading American symphonic composers of his generation, winning honors and awards throughout the decades to follow. His Symphony No. 7 (1963) is considered by many to be one of the greatest of all American symphonies.

In 1982, Mennin was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, but kept this fact secret from most of those around him, devoting the time that remained to his responsibilities at Juilliard, and to the completion of a Flute Concerto. He died in June, 1983.

Mennin’s own music reflected concerns that appeared early on, and continued to evolve throughout his career. The most salient characteristic of his music is a continuous unfolding of polyphonic lines through imitative counterpoint, rather than the more conventional dialectical opposition and integration of contrasting themes. Indeed, he emphasized counterpoint above all other elements, almost to the point of obsession. Mennin believed that the most important quality for a composer is individuality, and his own work readily illustrates that conviction. His mature compositions seem to reflect the sober contemplation of ferocious conflict among wild, massive forces in ceaseless turbulence, escalating in intensity toward cataclysmic explosions of almost manic brutality—all articulated through clear musical logic and meticulous craftsmanship. Over the course of decades, the linear aspect of Mennin’s music became increasingly chromatic, the harmony increasingly dissonant, and the rhythm increasingly irregular. This evolution may be heard clearly in the two works presented on this recording, one from his earlier years, the other one of his later compositions. His body of work thus stands as an inexorable progression, each entry grimmer, harsher, and more severe than the last.

Five Piano Pieces, originally entitled Partita, were composed in 1949, and received their first performance at the hands of Grant Johannesen. The title Partita would have implied a connection to the Baroque suite, which the individual movement titles still suggest: PreludeAriaVariation-CanzonaCanto, and Toccata. The pieces comprising the “suite” follow the composer’s general procedures at this point in his creative development, although their impact is somewhat less distinctive than that left by his larger works. The odd-numbered movements are torrential perpetual-motion affairs—toccata-like, despite their different titles—largely in two voices, with irregularly grouped patterns and phrases, and prominent use of ostinato in the third movement. The two even-numbered movements are slow and somber, with long-breathed lyricism, and build to powerful climaxes. Several of the movements are written in the Phrygian mode.

Mennin’s Piano Sonata was commissioned by the Ford Foundation on behalf of pianist Claudette Sorel. Completed in 1963, the work displays a much harsher, more dissonant harmonic language than is found in his previous works, as well as linear writing that is much more freely chromatic. Although each of its three movements is clearly anchored in a tonal center, each is largely atonal throughout its course of development, while the meter changes with virtually every measure.

The first movement, Poco moderato, opens with a slow introduction that presents the movement’s primary thematic material, which includes several motifs that will figure significantly later in the work as well. The first is a descending motif that ends in an accented mordent—a characteristic Mennin gesture. This motif recurs throughout the movement for brief moments of repose, and suggests the shape of the motifs that dominate the remaining movements. Another motif, a four-note figure consisting of two descending minor-seconds, is the chief focus of development once the vigorous Allegro commences, and is transformed several times through octave-displacement. As the movement proceeds, the tempo changes a number of times, linear counterpoint becomes highly dissonant, and textures quite dense; the emotional temperature is tense and grim. By the time it reaches its resolute conclusion, a tonal center of C has been affirmed.

The second movement, Adagio, displays a deeply searching, improvisatory quality. It revolves around a lofty melody of somewhat melancholy cast, which eventually builds to a powerful, dissonant climax. Again, despite its highly chromatic linear writing and extremely harsh harmonic language, a tonal center of C-sharp minor clearly frames the movement.

The finale, Veloce, is a tremendously propulsive movement in perpetual motion, with a constant figuration, but ever-changing meter, suggesting the general feeling of a rondo. Again, although the harmony is quite dissonant, the tonality is clearly B-flat minor. Before it reaches its grimly decisive conclusion, motifs from the first movement make their appearance. Some commentators have remarked on a similarity to the finale of Prokofiev’s Seventh Sonata, while the coda of the movement has provoked comparisons with the corresponding passage in the last movement of Barber’s Piano Sonata. However, the aggressive energy and ceaseless drive of this movement are far more characteristic of Mennin’s body of work than of Prokofiev’s or Barber’s.

Mennin’s Piano Sonata is an extremely difficult work to render effectively, and few pianists have taken on the challenge. But, as this recording illustrates, it ranks among the great American contributions to the genre.

Notes by Walter Simmons
Author, Voices of Stone and Steel: The Music of Schuman, Persichetti, and Mennin (Scarecrow Press, 2011)

Myron Silberstein

Myron Silberstein’s professional performance career began at the age of seventeen, when he won first prize at the twenty-sixth annual Giornate Musicale International Piano Competition in 1991. He made his full-scale European debut at the Giornate Musicali Festival the following summer. Silberstein’s 1993 U. S. debut at the Joan and Sanford I. Weill Recital Hall at Carnegie Hall was hailed for its inventive programming and virtuoso playing. Silberstein’s debut recording on Connoisseur Society included a critically-acclaimed performance of Ernest Bloch’s rarely-heard Piano Sonata and first recordings of pieces by American composer Vittorio Giannini. Most recently, Mr. Silberstein’s musical direction of Chicago Opera Vanguard’s production of Martin Wesley-Smith’s opera Boojum was nominated for a Joseph Jefferson Award. Mr. Silberstein resides in Chicago, where he serves as General Manager for VOX 3 Vocal Music Collective, an organization devoted to the performance of overlooked art-song repertoire.

Acknowledgments

This recording was funded in part by generous contributions from Laura Flanigan, Helena Brown Axelrod, and Hank Perritt.

Special thanks to Catie Huggins for facilitating the loan of several of Norman Lloyd’s scores.

FLAGELLO Symphony No. 2; Odyssey; Valse Noire; Concerto Sinfonico. ROSNER Symphony No. 7, “Trinity.”

FLAGELLO Symphony No. 2; Odyssey; Valse Noire; Concerto Sinfonico. ROSNER Symphony No. 7, “Trinity.” University of Houston Saxophone Quartet, Wind Ensemble; David Bertman, cond. NAXOS 8.573060

Liner Notes

Nicolas Flagello was one of the 20th century’s leading exponents of traditional late-romantic musical values. He held firmly to this aesthetic throughout his life, forging a personal musical language and a distinctive body of work shaped by his own temperament and embodying his own unique perspective on life.

Born in New York City in 1928, Flagello grew up in a family steeped in music. While still a child, he began a long and intensive apprenticeship with composer Vittorio Giannini, who imbued him with the enduring values of the grand European tradition. His study continued at the Manhattan School of Music, where he earned both his Bachelor’s (1949) and Master’s (1950) degrees, joining the faculty immediately upon graduation and remaining there until 1977. During the early l950s, he won a Fulbright Fellowship to study at the Accademia di Santa Cecilia, under the tutelage of Ildebrando Pizzetti.

In addition to composing, Flagello was active as a pianist and conductor, making dozens of recordings of a wide range of repertoire from the Baroque period to the 20th century. In 1985 a deteriorating illness brought his musical career to an end prematurely. He died in 1994 at the age of 66.

As a composer, Flagello held with unswerving conviction to a view of music as a personal medium for emotional and spiritual expression. Although this view was unfashionable during his lifetime, more recently his works have begun to win enthusiastic advocacy, as his music is recorded and performed with increasing frequency.

Odyssey was commissioned by Marice Stith and the Cornell University Wind Ensemble, who gave the premiere of the work, under the composer’s direction, in 1981. Odyssey opens with a slow, funereal introduction, which exposes the principal motif, based on the interval of a minor-second. This motif is further explored during the agitated section that follows, during which a subsidiary motif is introduced by the piccolo and the English horn. The subsidiary idea also highlights the interval of a minor-second. After further elaboration of the subsidiary motif, an extended, multisectional development follows. Beginning like a sinister march, the development is swept along by driving triplet figures whose momentum is interrupted several times by references to the brooding introduction. After an elaboration of the two motifs, the energy subsides, leading to a mournful melody introduced by the clarinet. This melody, combining both motifs, builds to a large, climactic statement, in which a suggestion of hope sweetens the prevailing downcast tone. However the grimness returns, casting a shadow over the work’s final chords.

In 1964 Flagello was commissioned to compose a short test piece by the American Accordionists’ Association. He responded with a powerful, tightly-packed work entitled Introduction and Scherzo.Although it has proven to be a valued contribution to the serious accordion repertoire, I felt that its merit transcended its original purpose, and warranted attention beyond the circumscribed community of classical accordionists. In 1984, while Flagello was composing his Concerto Sinfonico, it occurred to me that the saxophone quartet would be an excellent alternative medium for the accordion piece. When I suggested the idea of a transcription to Flagello, he responded favorably, assuring me that he would “get to it” after he finished the Concerto. But by that time a deteriorating neurological condition had advanced to the point where he could no longer work. But the idea continued to haunt me, until, several years later, I undertook the transcription myself, completing it in 1992, and entitling it Valse Noire.

In two sections, the work opens with an aggressively sinister introduction. This leads directly into the “scherzo,” which, though notated largely in 6/8 meter, has the character of a darkly brooding waltz—one of Flagello’s favorite genres. The waltz proper is based on two main thematic ideas, the second of which is hinted at in the introduction. 

Flagello composed his Symphony No. 2, “Symphony of the Winds,” in 1970, but the work did not receive its first public performance until 1979, when it was introduced by the Cornell University Wind Ensemble, conducted by Marice Stith. Flagello’s Symphony No. 1 (Naxos 8.559148), is a monumental tragic-heroic work for full symphony orchestra. For its sequel Flagello decided upon a work of reduced duration for smaller instrumental forces, though with no simplification of aesthetic intent. The ensemble consists of only the woodwind, brass, and percussion sections of the full symphony orchestra—a group of about 25 players that differs considerably from the standard symphonic band.

Symphony of the Winds illustrates the intense emotionalism, often somber and turbulent in character, typical of Flagello’s mature style. The composer provided movement subtitles by way of program notes, which suggest the notion of “winds” as metaphor as well as instrumentation. “I: The torrid winds of veiled portents; II: Dark winds of lonely contemplation; III: The winds of re-birth and vitality.” The first movement, Moderato comodo, introduces two motifs that direct the course of the entire symphony. The first of these is based on the interval of a third, which governs the shape of all subsequent themes. The second motif consists of a descending second followed by a descending larger interval, of varying size. Both these motifs are contained within the exposition of the restless first theme. The presentation of the second theme is marked by an eerie calm, soon replaced by an almost demoniacal starkness. The development treats the material through brief, erratic and rhythmically turbulent episodes, continuing the movement’s tone of nightmarish grotesquerie. 

The second movement, Aria, is built around a gentle, pastoral melody, improvisatory in character, in alternation with a more somber, soulful melody that ends in a strange cadential figure of unearthly gravity. The movement culminates in an explosive, brooding climax, before ending with the strange cadential figure. The final movement, Fuga, is, as its title implies, a full-length fugue, whose subject is clearly composed of the two motifs noted at the beginning of the work. It pursues its course with a dark vigor, although during the development a ray of optimism intrudes, the first of the entire piece. After a harmonic augmentation and stretto, the work comes to an assertive close.

The Concerto Sinfonico was Flagello’s last completed work. It was commissioned by the Amherst Saxophone Quartet, who gave the premiere in November, 1985, with the Buffalo Philharmonic, under the direction of Semyon Bychkov. Although the character of much of Flagello’s music is dark and tempestuous, it is difficult to listen to the Concerto Sinfonico without hearing in its consistent tone of anguish, agitation, and dread a sense of what Flagello experienced while confronting the physical and psychological disintegration that his illness had already begun to wreak. On the other hand, the work is a fully autonomous, thematically unified musical structure that requires no extrinsic knowledge in order to understand and appreciate it. Its title indicates the composer’s conception of the work as not so much a virtuoso vehicle as an integrated symphonic structure in which the saxophone quartet serves as the composite voice of a hypothetical protagonist.

Veteran arranger Merlin Patterson was introduced to the Concerto Sinfonico in its original orchestral version in 2004, and decided to create a transcription for wind ensemble. This version was introduced in 2005 by the New Hudson Saxophone Quartet and the University of Houston Wind Ensemble, conducted by Tom Bennett. 

The Concerto Sinfonico is launched (Allegro non troppo) by a driving rhythm in the orchestra that quickly builds to an almost hysterical shriek, before the saxophones enter, introducing the main theme. At the head of this theme is a three-note motif that serves as the basis of the entire work. Soon the second theme—a lonely, plaintive melody derived from the first theme—is introduced by the alto saxophone. After this theme reaches a climax, a furious development of the first theme follows. This is followed by an introspective reflection on both themes, which even admits a blossoming of faith and hope, before leading with grim resolution to the driving recapitulation and coda, bringing the movement to a defiant conclusion.

The second movement, Lento movendo, is a mournful barcarolle based on the material from the first movement, primarily as heard in the second theme. This section gradually reaches a climax, ushering in a turbulent central portion that culminates in a chilling explosion. The passage ends in sad resignation. The opening barcarolle returns briefly, then concludes with a reminder of the three-note motif from the first movement.

The third movement, Allegro giusto, opens with the three-note motif, played by the timpani, reinforced by the lower woodwinds and brass. The character of the movement suggests a grimly sardonic scherzo, with newly-fashioned themes derived from the first-movement material. The scherzo is followed by a grotesque “trio” section, before the scherzo idea returns, now subjected to a thorough development. This eventually builds to a stark proclamation, followed by a shattering cataclysm. After the tumult subsides, slow harp arpeggios accompany a hopeful return of the work’s main motif. But the mood darkens, as the second theme answers solemnly over ominous tremolos and timpani strokes. All hope seems dashed, as the driving rhythm that opened the work now hammers it into defeat.


Arnold Rosner was born in New York City in 1945. He earned a doctorate from the State University of New York at Buffalo in 1971, during an era when the serial avant-garde was at its height. Finding that approach thoroughly unappealing, Rosner has pursued a conservative but highly individual style, and his works have been widely performed, recorded, and reviewed. He has composed three operas, eight symphonies, six string quartets, and numerous other orchestral, chamber, vocal, and choral works. Critic Steven Schwartz commented on Classical.Net: “[Rosner’s] music packs a huge emotional wallop and it’s meticulously well-written besides. He writes gorgeous, powerful, long-breathed tunes. The craft serves the message to the point where it effaces itself almost completely. Listening to a Rosner work is like hearing the music of Orpheus.” Rosner serves on the faculty of Kingsborough College in Brooklyn, NY. He has also worked in broadcasting and, an avid bridge player, he is a tournament champion.

Rosner writes, “I had completed more than 80 compositions, and was in my 40s before attempting to write for band. I will admit that I was somewhat skeptical about the band as a medium for serious music; it took three friends to persuade me to give it a try. Of course, I was wrong about the existing repertoire and the potential for my own music, and I apologize publicly here and now.

“After experimenting with a transcription of Sweelinck’s Chromatic Fantasy for organ I felt ready to write an original work, and proceeded to compose Trinity, my Symphony No. 8, which I completed in 1988. I have written some seven band compositions since, but this one is still the largest in scale. 
“In the field of surveying, the concept of triangulation is often used, referring to looking at an area from three different perspectives or angles so as to understand it in full dimension. In my Symphony No. 8, “Trinity,” I have attempted to bring this approach to meditative or spiritual thought. If one views the mysteries from three different, and to some extent opposing viewpoints, does one derive deeper insights or simply confusion? Whether my work succeeds in providing such a full dimension is for the listener to decide.

“Critics have sometimes referred to my music as neo-archaic, and there is partial truth to that. While I believe in fairly complex structures, rich orchestration, and some intensity of drama and mood, I still believe in traditional melody, harmony, and counterpoint. I suppose the “neo-archaic” aspect derives from the fact that I MUCH prefer the modes and progressions of music that is 400 years old to that which is 200 years old. 

“The first movement, ‘Ave Maria,’ has some resemblances to Renaissance style and, as the title suggests, views the spiritual world from a devout, perhaps Christian aspect. In the second movement, ‘Le Rondeau du Monsieur le Diable,’ the perspective purports to be devilish, but the actual musical influences are even earlier, suggesting the 14th century or before. Mysticism of numbers and “music of the spheres” take over for the finale, ‘Pythagoras,’ where parts move in cross-rhythmic patterns—slow majestic chorales in the brass against saxophone or woodwind rushes in rhythmic conflict with them, with splashes of color or additional beat-patterns in percussion.”

Notes by Walter Simmons
Author, Voices in the Wilderness: Six American Neo-Romantic Composers (Scarecrow Press, 2004)

David Bertman

David Bertman is Associate Professor of Music and Director of Bands at the University of Houston’s Moores School of Music. Overseeing more than 450 students, he plays a vital public role in university life, as a roving ambassador throughout the Houston community. He is the conductor of the Moores School Wind Ensemble and Symphonic Band, teaches graduate and undergraduate conducting, and is the co-author of a comprehensive program in band musicianship, published by the Hal Leonard Corporation. During his tenure at the School Bertman has received an impressive series of awards testifying to his distinguished contributions to the University community. He is a member of the Texas Music Educators Association, the College Band Directors National Association, the Texas Bandmasters Association, and Phi Beta Mu.

Moores School of Music

The University of Houston’s Rebecca and John J. Moores School of Music is one of the premier music schools in America. Its remarkable faculty of internationally recognized performers, composers, and scholars; outstanding student body; modern facility; and comprehensive programs make the Moores School of Music a natural choice for nearly 600 students annually. The School’s commitment to academic excellence and the highest performance standards has ensured its role as a vital resource in the educational and cultural life of Houston and the state of Texas.

Liner Notes: Ezio Flagello sings the music of Nicolas Flagello in performances conducted by the composer: Passion of Martin Luther King (1968); L’Infinito (1956); The Land (1954)

EZIO FLAGELLO SINGS THE MUSIC OF NICOLAS FLAGELLO
IN PERFORMANCES CONDUCTED BY THE COMPOSER
Naxos 8.112065

Passion of Martin Luther King(1968)
Ezio Flagello: bass baritone; Ambrosian Singers, London Philharmonic Orchestra, Nicolas Flagello, conductor

L’Infinito (1956)
The Land (1954)
Ezio Flagello: bass baritone; I Musici di Firenze, Nicolas Flagello, conductor

The brothers Nicolas Flagello (1928-1994) and Ezio Flagello (1931-2009) were born in New York City to a family that had been musically active for generations. Their father, a successful dress designer, was an amateur oboist, and their mother had been a singer whose father (conductor and composer Domenico Casiello) was said to have studied with Verdi. Both boys became immersed in music at an early age, although their parents did not encourage them to pursue it professionally. Nicolas began playing the piano at 3, and started to compose before the age of 10. After high school he resisted his parents’ wish that he pursue a career in engineering. Ezio was more amenable to their plan for him to become a dentist. Nicolas, who had already begun studying composition with Vittorio Giannini, entered the Manhattan School of Music in 1945, earning both his Bachelor’s (1949) and Master’s (1950) degrees there. Upon graduation he joined the Manhattan School faculty, where he remained for 25 years. Meanwhile, as Ezio’s voice began to mature, its rich quality began to attract attention, and he entered the Manhattan School as well, studying with Friedrich Schorr. Upon graduating in 1953, he joined the Army, where his extraordinary talent was recognized when he won first prize in an Army talent search. This led to auspicious appearances on the TV shows of Arlene Francis and Ed Sullivan. Both brothers won Fulbright Fellowships in 1955, enabling them to study for a year at the Accademia di Santa Cecilia in Rome. 

In 1957 Ezio was persuaded to enter the Metropolitan Opera Auditions of the Air and won First Prize. He made his Metropolitan Opera debut in Tosca that year, and two weeks later with little notice was asked to substitute for an ailing colleague as Leporello in Don Giovanni. Thus began an illustrious career that included 528 performances with the Metropolitan, as well as appearances with the San Francisco Opera, Philadelphia Lyric Opera, Houston Grand Opera, Connecticut Opera, Milwaukee’s Florentine Opera, and other companies throughout the country. His European tours included performances at La Scala, the Vienna Staatsoper and Berlin Deutsche Opera, as well as London’s Covent Garden. He was widely acclaimed in the title roles of Falstaff and Gianni Schichi, in addition to Dr. Dulcamara in L’Elisir d’Amore, Sparafucile in Rigoletto, Klingsor in Parsifal, Pogner in Die Meistersinger, and many others. In 1966 he created the role of Enobarbus in the world premiere of Samuel Barber’s Antony and Cleopatra. In addition he appeared on the concert stage with many of the world’s leading orchestras. Later in his career, Ezio won a Grammy Award and a Grand Prix du Disque for his recordings of Cosi fan Tutte and Don Giovanni respectively. In addition he played a cameo role in the film The Godfather II, and appeared several times on The Tonight Show.

During his years on the faculty of the Manhattan School, Nicolas continued to compose, eventually producing a large and distinguished body of work. His music embodied traditional romantic musical values, although his later works were intensified by modernist innovations in harmony and rhythm, but without the irony or detachment of postmodernism. For him music remained a personal medium for spiritual and emotional expression. His works include six operas, two symphonies, eight concertos, and numerous orchestral, choral, chamber, and vocal works. 

In the American Record Guide Mark Lehman wrote, “What [Nicolas] Flagello brings to his art is … an absolute conviction in the primacy of emotion: the music throbs with vitality. It can be exciting or turbulent, sweetly melancholy or tragic — but it is always openly and fiercely passionate.” And in Classical Music (Backbeat Books, 2002), Bret Johnson stated, “[Nicolas] Flagello was perhaps the most effective exponent of the American lyrical post-romantic ideal in the generation that followed Barber. His profound belief in the expressive power of music is manifest in every piece.”
In addition to composing, Nicolas was active as a pianist and conductor, and made dozens of recordings of a wide range of repertoire, from the Baroque period to the twentieth century. In 1985 a degenerative illness brought his musical career to an end prematurely.     Although much of Nicolas’ music remained unheard at the time of his death, in recent years his work has been performed and recorded at an increasing rate, attracting the attention of a new generation of listeners. Violinists Elmar Oliveira and Midori, and conductors Semyon Bychkov and James DePreist are just a few of today’s leading performers who have found in Nicolas Flagello’s work deeply felt musical content, presented in a clear, comprehensible manner.


Nicolas Flagello had long admired Martin Luther King’s dedication to the ideals of human justice and brotherhood and was deeply moved by the influential black leader’s assassination in April 1968. The comment made by Pope Paul VI, upon learning of King’s sudden martyrdom, ‘‘I liken the life of this man to the life of our Lord,’’ immediately galvanized Nicolas’ creative energy. Seeking a suitable form of musical tribute, he recalled a work he had composed in 1953 for chorus and orchestra, called Pentaptych. This piece, which had never been performed, comprised settings of five sacred texts from the Latin liturgy: 1. Hosanna Filio David; 2. Cor Jesu; 3. Et Flagellis Subditum; 4. Stabat Mater; and 5. Jubilate Deo. Nicolas realized that restructuring the work around Martin Luther King would provide a human focus missing from the earlier composition. He decided to combine excerpts from the speeches of the slain civil rights leader in alternation with the Latin liturgical texts, so as to suggest King as a latter-day embodiment of Jesus Christ. Indeed, the selections he chose from King’s speeches concern the fundamental Christian values of brotherly love, faith in God’s omniscient goodness, and enduring hardship without succumbing to fear or vengeance, rather than more worldly social concerns. He set King’s words for bass-baritone, in an expressive arioso consistent stylistically with the choral portions, in such a way that the vernacular solo element continually reverberates against the timeless spirituality of the Latin choral sections in a deeply moving synergy. Nicolas ended the work with a heartfelt setting of a portion of the ‘‘I Have a Dream’’ speech, followed by the vigorous choral fugue ‘‘Jubilate Deo.’’ 

Shortly after its completion, Nicolas and Ezio decided to record the work in England, with the London Philharmonic and the Ambrosian Singers. However, a suitable company was not found to release the recording, and it lay dormant for a while. Several years later the distinguished conductor James DePreist became interested in the work, and agreed to lead the premiere with the National Symphony Orchestra and the Cathedral Choral Society at the Kennedy Center in Washington, DC, in 1974, with Ezio as soloist. However, while preparing the work several months earlier, DePreist requested that Nicolas omit the ‘‘I Have a Dream’’/‘‘Jubilate Deo’’ sequence. In DePreist’s own words: “The music that accompanied the ‘I Have a Dream’ segment was so incredibly beautiful that it captured the spirit of the words, but in a crucial sense it did not capture the contrast of the context of those words—that it was necessary to have a march to the Capitol to make those words, that dream, a reality. I told Nicolas it needed to be more bittersweet to evoke the experience more fully….  So we talked about how I felt the spirit of the work would be better encapsulated in a new finale based upon a return to the theme of the third movement.”

Nicolas agreed to the change, and that was the version presented at the Washington, DC, premiere, and at the many performances the work has had since then, as well as on the recording conducted by DePreist, released in 1995. The 1969 recording of the original version of the work was never released—until now. In 2008, the American people elected Barack Obama, an African-American, to the Presidency of the United States. The Flagello Estate felt that this triumph was a significant milestone toward the realization of Dr. King’s “Dream,” and, perhaps, justified a revival of the original conception of the work. It was decided that a return to the original version of the Passion would be initiated by the first release of the 1969 recording, featuring Ezio Flagello’s towering performance as bass-baritone soloist.   

During his period of study at the Accademia di Santa Cecilia, Nicolas enjoyed the tutelage of the distinguished Italian composer Ildebrando Pizzetti (1880-1968). Although Pizzetti’s influence left little impact on Flagello’s compositional style, which had already begun to reveal an individual voice of its own, the maestro, then 76, reinforced his student’s proud awareness of his place in the continuity of Italian musical tradition. One of the pieces that Nicolas composed during this sojourn was L’Infinito, a setting of a poem of precocious philosophical cast by the nineteen-year-old Giacomo Leopardi (1798–1837). Pizzetti had asserted that the well-known poem was almost impossible to set, presenting an irresistible challenge to the young composer. A gloomy expression of humility and awe in the face of the Infinite, Leopardi’s poem reveals a lofty yet pessimistic perspective that Nicolas was coming increasingly to share, and his setting aptly captures its spirit. He set L’Infinito for bass-baritone and piano, with his brother in mind, although he later arranged the accompaniment for chamber orchestra.

Some years earlier, in 1954, also with his brother in mind, Nicolas had composed The Land, a song cycle comprising settings of six poems by Alfred, Lord Tennyson, for bass-baritone and chamber orchestra. Ezio introduced the cycle in New York City the following year, under the composer’s direction. The cycle was recorded, together with L’Infinito, in Rome in 1962. Nicolas’ warm, luxuriant settings present a variety of contrasting moods, expanding Tennyson’s simple verses in praise of birds, flowers, and seasons into a grand pantheistic statement, innocent in its fervor, which becomes explicit in the final song, ‘‘Flower in the Cranny.’’ The entire cycle is unified by a single motif, first presented during an extended introduction, against an undulating instrumental backdrop suggesting waves of the sea. This motif, first heard in D minor, recurs in each song, often in altered form. At the end of ‘‘Flower in the Cranny,’’ which has something of the character of a chaconne, this motif achieves a rapturous resolution in E major during an extended epilogue. The other poems in the cycle are ‘‘The Eagle,’’ ‘‘The Owl,’’ ‘‘The Throstle,’’ ‘‘The Oak,’’ and ‘‘The Snowdrop.’’ The Land displays Nicolas Flagello’s mastery of orchestration in conveying, with only a small group of instruments, the effect of a full orchestra. The accompaniment of this song cycle achieves a remarkable richness and variety of instrumental color, although it calls for an ensemble consisting of only four winds and a group of strings, augmented by piano and celeste.

Notes by Walter Simmons
Author of Voices in the Wilderness: Six American Neo-Romantic Composers
(Scarecrow Press, 2006)
For further information, see www.Flagello.com

Liner Notes-WILLIAM SCHUMAN: Casey at the Bat

The Poem

Nearly one hundred years after its first appearance, Casey at the Bat, the story of a baseball hero who fails at the cru­cial moment, remains a classic of humorous verse. Martin Gardner, who has researched and studied the subject of Casey extensively, has written, “The story of Casey has become an American myth because Casey is the incompara­ble, towering symbol of the great and glorious poop-out.” Yet the circumstances surrounding the creation of the poem are little known.

Ernest Lawrence Thayer (1863-1940) was the son of a wealthy New England businessman. He spent several auspi­cious years at Harvard, where he studied philosophy and edited the Harvard Lampoon (the venerable humor maga­zine), graduating Phi Beta Kappa and magna cum laude in 1885. After leaving Harvard, Thayer drifted aimlessly around Europe, until his college friend William Randolph Hearst invited him to write a weekly column of humor for the San Francisco Examiner, a newspaper Hearst had re­cently been given by his father.

Thayer accepted this offer, continuing the column for sev­eral years. Casey at the Bat was his contribution to the edi­tion of June 3, 1888. It might easily have sunk into the oblivion of his other writings were it not for the fact that several months later someone who had seen the column in the newspaper showed it to his friend William DeWolf Hopper (1858-1935), a comedian and singer. Hopper mem­orized the poem and recited it at one of his performances. The reception proved so enthusiastic that Casey became part of Hopper’s permanent repertoire, and as a result be­gan to appear in print throughout the country. (Hopper later estimated that he had recited the poem more than ten thousand times.)

As Casey at the Bat became more popular, discrepancies began to appear among different printed editions; even the actual authorship became obscured, as others attempted to claim credit for the poem. Thayer himself remained aloof from the controversy. After his brief period as a writer, he had halfheartedly assumed responsibility for his father’s business, retiring at an early age to Santa Barbara, Califor­nia, where he remained for the rest of his life. Thayer’s own retrospective comment on the poem:

In general quality Casey … is neither better nor worse than much of the other stuff [I wrote for the newspaper]. Its persistent vogue is simply unaccountable, and it would be hard to say, all things considered, if it has given me more pleasure than annoyance.

But what is the explanation for Casey’s “persistent vogue”? One English professor at Yale asserts of the poem that “the psychology of the hero and the psychology of the crowd leave nothing to be desired.”

This thought was further elaborated by DeWolf Hopper himself, in his memoirs:

The crowds do not flock into the American League parks.., solely in anticipation of seeing Babe Ruth whale the ball over the center field fence…. There always is a chance that the Babe will strike out, a sight even more healing to sore eyes, for the Sultan of Swat can miss the third strike just as furiously as he can meet it, and the contrast between the terrible threat of his swing and the futility of the result is a banquet for the malicious, which includes us all….[Casey] is as perfect an epitome of our national game today as it was when every player drank his coffee from a mustache cup. There are one or more Caseys in every league, bush or big, and there is no day in the playing season that this same supreme tragedy, as stark as Aristophanes for the moment, does not befall on some field.

Perhaps the notion of a great hero failing at the moment of truth, in the presence of his peers, touches a particularly sensitive nerve in the American collective unconscious.

Two silent film versions of the Casey story were made during the early years of this century, In the 1940s, Walt Disney created an animated cartoon version. But according to Martin Gardner, “the most important continuation and elaboration of the Casey story” is the musical adaptation by William Schuman.

The Composer

Schuman is one of the handful of serious American com­posers whose music has found a secure place in the concert repertoire. Works such as New England Triptych, American Festival Overture, and Symphony No. 3 are among the few pieces of contemporary American music to appear with reg­ularity on symphonic programs, and smaller works for band and chorus are favorites with student ensembles across the country.

Aaron Copland has said of Schuman’s music:

I think of it as being the work of a man who has an enormous zest for life … and that zest informs all his music…. His music represents big emotions! In Schuman’s pieces you have the feeling that only an American could have written them…. You hear it in his orchestration, which is full of snap and brilliance. You hear it in the kind of American optimism which is at the basis of his music.

Unlike other “American sounding” composers such as Ives, Copland, and Gould, Schuman does not achieve this identification through the use or imitation of American folk mel­odies or their syntax. Rather, the underlying spirit and temperament of his music reflects a brash assertiveness, a positive self-confidence, and an avoidance of sentimentality that suggest the American personality as it was traditionally perceived during this nation’s period of growth and development. These qualities can be found in Schuman’s earlier works, along with the influence of his distinguished teacher Roy Harris, as well as in his more recent compositions, despite their greater complexity and introspective ambigu­ity. As the years have passed, many specifically musical fea­tures have remained evident in Schuman’s works: bracing polytonal harmony (created by the superimposition of distinctly different triads); melodies doubled at an interval other than the octave; clear separation of instrumental choirs; dominant roles for brass instruments and an active use of percussion; syncopated rhythms; and a fondness for sizzling, triumphant conclusions.

The Work

Those acquainted with Schuman as one of America’s lead­ing serious composers, as well as a prominent educator and administrator, may be surprised to learn that he is also an avid baseball fan. In fact, in his youth he was an active participant, and even considered seriously a career as a professional ballplayer. It was therefore natural for Schuman, a great admirer of Thayer’s immortal poem, to consider a musical adaptation of Casey.

In the early 1950s Schuman and librettist Jeremy Gury built an entire opera, called The Mighty Casey, around the poem, adding characters, a romantic dimension, and many entertaining embellishments, not to mention a wealth of appropriately lively music. In 1975 Schuman designed an alternate version for concert performance, entitled Casey at the Bat. This version requires fewer characters and less elaborate staging.

Listeners familiar with Schuman’s serious symphonic works may be struck by the apparent simplicity and unabashed tunefulness of the Casey music. But a closer look reveals a solid, brilliantly crafted musical structure, interwoven with subtle thematic relationships. Moreover, many of the fea­tures of Schuman’s more familiar style are present in Casey, albeit in somewhat simple form: note especially the jagged, kinetic rhythms and nontonal parallelisms; the concluding section, in particular, is a brooding lament that would be quite appropriate in a major Schuman composition.

Both the opera and cantata versions of Schuman’s Casey last nearly an hour and a half. For the purposes of this recording we have, with the composer’s approval, made an abridgment designed both to keep the story intact and to present as much as possible of the main musical material. The complete work includes a spoken reading of Thayer’s poem. We are pleased to present the poem, in its entirety on this recording, read by William Schuman himself.

Liner Notes-HOVANESS: Talin. BARLOW: The Winter’s Passed. KAUFMAN: Pastorale. FLAGELLO: Adoration. BERGER: Short Overture.

Hovhaness: Talin
Barlow: The Winter’s Passed
Kaufman: Pastorale
Flagello: Adoration
Berger: Short Overture

“My purpose is to create music, hot for snobs, but for all people, music which is beautiful and healing, to attempt what old Chinese painters called spirit resonance in melody and sound.”

Alan Hovhaness has pursued this ideal with a vigor matched by few other contemporary com­posers. Functioning in his own esthetic realm, aloof from the musical mainstream and its myriad ephemeral trends and fads, Hovhaness has produced a prodigious body of music including more than 30 symphonies and literally hundreds of other works of all dimensions, designed to be performed by an endless array of instrumental combinations from the beginning student to amateur groups and large-scale professional ensembles. Since his days as an isolated eccentric who performed his exotic music for friends in the Boston area while living on a meager income earned as a church organist up until today when he is regarded as one of America’s most original and widely performed and recorded composers, Hovhaness has been guided by a dignity, humility and integrity that have enabled him to make use of any available means and opportunity to pursue his- own unique and uncompromising vision.

Born in Somerville, Massachusetts, in 1911, Hovhaness gravitated toward music at a very early age despite the absence of parental encouragement. He underwent a perfunctory exposure to conven­tional music lessons and studied for a while at the New England Conservatory. This training, how­ever, did not answer his inner artistic needs as did the counsel and encouragement of two Boston mystics, the painters Hermon di Giovanno and Hyman Bloom, who urged Hovhaness to turn toward the culture of his ancestral Armenia as a source of inspiration both musical and spiritual. Renouncing the conventional approaches he had thus far followed in vain, he delved wholeheartedly into this cultural archaeology and emerged with a new sense of artistic identity, having discovered a musico-philosophical realm with which he finally felt a kinship.

“I was looking for a new direction that would be more expressive, and I found that direction in the church music of Armenian culture. That led me to a more ancient kind of Armenian music than ‘folk music,’ much of which has been tampered with; I also discovered the music of Komitas Vartabed, who was a kind of Armenian Bartók, before Bartók. He was a very great man, and his development of Armen­ian music was the first influence I had.”

This was the beginning of Hovhaness’ immersion in the ancient Western and Oriental musical cul­tures upon which he has drawn for the inspira­tion of most of his mature work, in a pursuit of the Confucian ideal of joining heaven and earth, East and West.

“Somehow, Armenian music led me to India, when I heard the music of the dancer Uday Shankar, Ravi Shankar’s brother, who brought along a group of musicians from India. This opened up a whole new world yet seemed very much related to the different modes of Armenian music. Also Japanese music and theatre had a strong influence throughout the 1940s. The visual and musical aspects of Japan­ese drama, and its wonderful way of handling stories, gave me a new outlook; I wanted to create a new kind of opera from that influence. Around 1950, an Armenian from Korea played me some, ancient Korean court music and I found this terribly exciting. I thought this was the most mysterious music I had ever heard. That had a strong influence.

“The harmony and concept of Gagaku, which came to Japan from China in the 7th century, could readily be applied to any kind of modal melodic line. It is a very original concept and a more natural way of developing modal music than anything ever done in Europe until recently: the whole idea of rhythm versus non-rhythm, of chaos versus complete control or partial control. But this was thousands of years in development’, whereas the European is a rushed, intellectual thing—childish and angular, without much feeling or development, so far, and rather sterile. While I am not interested only in turning to the past, I think music should be beautiful now, just as it always was, and more beautiful, if possible.”

Talin, originally composed in 1952 as a viola concerto, on commission from Ferenc Molnar, is generally regarded by authorities on Hovhaness’ music as one of his finest and most fully consum­mated works. We are therefore pleased to present this first recording of an alternate version of Talin for clarinet and strings. The composer writes:

“I made the clarinet version of Talin for Law­rence Sobol after hearing his splendid and poetic performance of a new work, Saturn, which I wrote for him in 1971. This inspired me to transfer this viola concerto to the clarinet as an alternate version. Talin was an ancient Ar­menian cathedral whose beautiful ruins are a monument of architectural wonder, grandeur, and expressiveness. The first movement, Chant, is in the style and spirit of a priest-like incanta­tion. The middle movement, Estampie, is short and dance-like, in the style of a village festi­val, and imitates the nasal sound of the ka­manche, a near-Eastern bowed string instrument. The third movement, Canzona, is religious and choral-like in spirit and sound, suggesting angelic choirs joined by earthly choirs in a spirit of grandeur creating a tower of sound like the Armenian cathedrals.”

Wayne Barlow was born in Elyria, Ohio, in 1912. He studied with Howard Hanson at the Eastman School of Music and later with Arnold Schoenberg in Los Angeles, returning to Eastman in 1937 as a member of the faculty. The following year The Winter’s Passed was introduced in Rochester, New York, and since then it has become Barlow’s best known work. Scored for oboe and strings, it is a short rhapsody based on two folk songs from South Carolina that illustrate the lovely modal quality of folk melodies from the Appalachian region. The first, which forms the opening and closing por­tions of the piece, is in the mixolydian mode while the melody of the central portion is in the dorian mode.

Jeffrey Kaufman was born in New York City in 1947 and graduated from the Manhattan School of Music where he studied with Nicolas Flagello and Ludmila Ulehla. Kaufman is fast building a reputation as a versatile musician, capable of com­posing in a wide variety of styles for diverse media, both classical and popular. In addition he produced the long-running syndicated radio series Composer’s Forum and has been active as a record producer as well. Kaufman’s Pastorale was composed in 1977, and in its few moments succeeds in creating a mood of poignant nostalgia.

When Nicolas Flagello’s fifth opera, The Judgment of St.Francis, was premiered in New York City, Winthrop Sargeant of the New Yorker termed it “the most vigorous new opera I have come across in a long time,” adding that “Flagello has shown an unmistakable and totally un­confused talent for the operatic theatre.” Completed in 1959, The Judgment of St. Francis depicts through flashbacks the incidents of self-sacrifice and renunciation that led to the rejection and ostracism of Francis of Assisi by his family and friends, culminating in a hearing before the ecclesiastical court, ordered by his father. One of the most beautiful moments of the opera is a solilo­quy sung by Francis while in the dungeon where he has been thrown by his father. Undaunted by this punishment, he sings an Adoration that expresses the infinite joy and ecstasy that he feels in the security of being with God. Flagello has transcribed this Adoration for strings and harp, giving the vocal line to the solo violin. This brief excerpt demonstrates the ardent, elegiac lyricism of which Flagello is a master.

Born in New York City in 1928, Nicolas Flagello evidenced a precocious musical talent, performing in public on the piano and undertaking musical composition before he reached adolescence. He began an intensive and long lasting apprenticeship with Vittorio Giannini and studied conducting with Dimitri Mitropoulos. Shortly after receiving his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the Man­hattan School of Music, he was awarded a Ful­bright Fellowship to study in Rome where he received a Doctorate in Superior Studies from the Academy of Santa Cecilia in 1956 under the tutelage of Ildebrando Pizzetti.

Flagello has concertized widely as piano soloist and accompanist and has toured around the world as guest conductor of many of the world’s leading’ orchestras and opera companies. As a composer Flagello has received numerous awards and com­missions, and his works have been performed and recorded extensively. In addition to six operas his catalogue of some 75 works includes two symph­onies, numerous concertos and song cycles, as well as smaller works for virtually every combination. Flagello has taught on the faculties of the Curtis Institute of Music and the Manhattan School of Music.

Jean Berger was born in Hamm, Germany, in 1909 and received a doctorate in musicology from the University of Heidelberg. In Paris during the 1930s he studied composition with Louis Aubert and became increasingly active as a choral con­ductor. After a period in Rio de Janeiro he came to the United States where he has lived and worked since 1941. Although most of Berger’s composi­tional activity has involved choral music, he has written for other media as well. The Short Overture for strings is one such example. This light-hearted work “was written with the purpose of enlarging the repertoire of string music that—while not without challenge—could yet be played and performed by an amateur group.”