Notes and Editorial Reviews
FRIEDMAN Passages.1,6 Song of Moses. Colloquy.2,3 My Heart’s Friend4,5 • Ed Matthew (cl);1 Judith Nelson (va);2 Judith Lynn Stillman (pn);3 Silvie Jensen (sop);4 Dominic Inferrera (bar);5 Gary Sheldon, cond;6 Ad hoc O & Ch • 150 MUSIC 10 (57:55)
Gary William Friedman impresses as a composer who has mastered his craft. His strong lyrical impulse is discernable even when he adopts an atonal approach, and his disciplined technique prohibits extraneous note spinning. My feeling is that he conceives an artistic premise and won’t rest until he’s achieved it. There are some traces of jazz and Broadway proficiency in this selection of his serious works—he’s had a successful career in both fields— but they don’t intrude in an
obvious way. Instead, they’re heard in a certain suavity in song, an intimate knowledge of how to dramatize a text, and a way with extended chords and subtly shifting harmonies. For example, in Song of Moses his harmonic finesse colors what in other, more conservative hands would be a conventional liturgical setting with ear-opening combinations. Yet the overall effect is stimulating rather than aggressively iconoclastic. Combined with smooth voice-leading, the harmonic daring imparts a lustrous sheen that precludes formulaic blandness and theatrically highlights the text.
Passages is beautifully played by Ed Matthew, who poignantly characterizes each mood of this involving clarinet concerto, yet artfully blends the numerous episodes into a well-knit whole. He’s smoothly accompanied by the attentive orchestra, which is scored with precise sensitivity. Initially surrounded by atmospheric strings, harp, and delicate piano accents, the vaguely “modernist” clarinet part builds toward a tender romance (my term, not the composer’s) that has a lovely, lyrical waltz at its heart. This floats through the central section, varied skillfully with each recurrence. Reminding us that passages are not always smooth, an energetic hint of Klezmer music—ironically?—interrupts the flow; later, another “big” moment elaborates on the third of three linking cadenzas. Actually, only one of these is even slightly florid in the manner of a traditional cadenza; the others are gentle and not prolonged. Perhaps symbolically, Passages ends as it began, with a return of the opening material.
Although I prefer instrumental to vocal music, I found listening to the first of My Heart’s Friend’s four settings—the famous “Yes” soliloquy from Joyce’s Ulysses—a moving experience. The twining voices mirror Joyce’s innovative fusion of language and amorous feeling, and Silvie Jensen deftly balances joyous anticipation and recollected bliss. The remaining three songs are equally well performed, but for whatever reason it was the first that made the strongest impression.
Colloquy, for piano and viola—the piece that gives the CD it’s title—may qualify as an atonal composition, but it avoids the disjunct melodic agonies that often disfigure music of this type. While you probably won’t whistle Colloquy’s themes in the shower, there is a moment in the second movement where one could say “the sun comes out and the clouds disperse.” I was tempted to write “gloom” instead of “clouds,” but that might be imposing too heavy a burden on the music. Turbulent climaxes erupt, but the mood is primarily reflective, with the instruments—excepting a prominent viola solo—closely bound throughout the conversation’s peaks and valleys.
Gary William Friedman’s music successfully combines accessibility with artistic integrity, lyricism with abstraction, and abundant heart with refined design. While I will revisit Passages most often, that doesn’t diminish my respect for the other works.
FANFARE: ROBERT SCHULSLAPER
Works on This Recording
Song of Moses by Gary William Friedman
Margery Daley (Soprano),
Misa Ann Iwama (Mezzo Soprano),
Drew Martin (Tenor),
Charles Sprawls (Bass),
Martin Doner (Tenor),
Kathy Theil (Soprano),
Gregory Purnhagen (Baritone),
Anne Ory Brown (Mezzo Soprano),
Steven Moore (Bass)
Period: 20th Century
Length: 12 Minutes 10 Secs.
Notes: Composition written: USA (1993 - 2008).
Passages by Gary William Friedman
Ed Matthew (Clarinet)
Howard Joines Orchestra
Period: 20th Century
Length: 18 Minutes 8 Secs.
Notes: Composition written: USA (1993).
Composition revised: USA (2008).
Colloquy by Gary William Friedman
Judith Lynn Stillman (Piano),
Judith Nelson (Viola)
Written: 2007; USA
Length: 14 Minutes 25 Secs.
My Heart's Friend by Gary William Friedman
Silvie Jensen (Soprano),
Dominic Inferrera (Baritone)
Gary William Friedman
Howard Joines Orchestra
Length: 12 Minutes 27 Secs.
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