VAN DE VATE: Adagio for Orchestra. Variations for Chamber Orchestra. String Trio. Suite for Violin Solo. Letter to a Friend’s Loneliness. Piano Sonata No. 2.

VAN DE VATE: Adagio for Orchestra.  Variations for Chamber Orchestra. String Trio. Suite for Violin Solo. Letter to a Friend’s Loneliness. Piano Sonata No. 2. Szymon Kawalla conducting Slovak Radio Symphony Orchestra and Kozzalin State Philharmonic; Martinu Philharmonic String Trio and Quartet; Michael Davis, violin; Sulie Girardi, soprano; Makiko Hirashima, piano. VIENNA MODERN MASTERS VMM-206 [DDD]; 63:25. Produced by Clyde Smith and Nancy Van de Vate.

This is identified as Volume III in a series devoted to the music of Nancy Van de Vate, although neither of its predecessors appears to have received notice in these pages. Now in her mid-60s, she was born in New Jersey, studied at a number of schools in this country, including the Eastman School and Florida State University, and has gone on to live abroad–in Indonesia and, currently, in Vienna. The works of hers that I have heard have ‘left an impression of a solid, mainstream composer, qrounded in traditional techniques but evolving along with the changing tides of musical fashion.   I have not encountered the influence of minimalism in her work, but I haven’t heard Volumes I and II of the series.) The pieces included here confirm but fill out that impression.

Adagio and the Variations, date from the late 1950s and are among Van de Vate’s earliest works. The Adagio was originally composed as the second of three movements. It is effectively somber,   but does not stand alone successfully.   The Variations are pleasantly modal, in a simple, somewhat Hansonian vein. 

The decade of the 1960s is not represented on this disc. The next three pieces appeared during the mid 1970s. The String Trio was written for amateur players and is simple intechnical demands and its actual materials, but its musical meaning and expressive content are not simplistic. It has a modesty and subtlety that call to mind the viol fantasies of the early 17th century. Music for unaccompanied violin is not my favorite genre, but Van de Vate’sSuite, highlighting jagged, angular gestures and dissonant intervals, is shaped with a sensitivity to line and shape, and succeeded in holding my attention.   I found Letter to & Friend’s Loneliness, an 11-minute setting of poetry by John Unterecker for soprano and string quartet, to be the least interesting of the pieces on the disc. Despite the focus provided by a text, the work struck me as diffuse and expressively vague.

Piano Sonata No. 2, composed in 1983, is the most recent piece presented here, as well as the most compelling. It is a solid piece, shaped along traditional lines despite a dissonant harmonic language, with a propulsive vigor in its outer movements.

Performances and sound quality are quite good overall, except for the fact that soprano Sulie Girardi’s voice is embedded in too much reverberation. The Violin Suite and the Piano Sonata are not easy works; violinist Michael Davis and pianist Makiko Hirashima deserve credit for their accomplished advocacy.