WGBH Radio WGBH Radio theclassicalstation.org

American Classics - Wuorinen: String Sextet, Etc

Release Date: 09/26/2006 
Label:  Naxos   Catalog #: 8559288   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Charles Wuorinen
Performer:  Paul NeubauerAni KavafianIda KavafianPaul Coletti,   ... 
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Chamber Music Society of Lincoln CenterGroup for Contemporary MusicTashi
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 1 Hours 16 Mins. 

In Stock: Usually ships in 24 hours.  

Notes and Editorial Reviews

WUORINEN String Sextet. 1 String Quartet No. 2. 3 Divertimento. 2 Piano Quintet 3 Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center; 1 TASHI; 2 Group for Contemporary Music 3 NAXOS 8.559288 (75:45) Read more

This is Naxos’s second reissue of material from earlier Wuorinen CDs that are now out of print (along with a first recording of the Divertimento), and many thanks to them for keeping this fantastic music available. The previous disc collected six trios for extremely diverse instruments into one blockbuster collection. This time we move up to string quartet, piano quintet, and string sextet.

Like Homer’s rosy-fingered dawn, Charles Wuorinen seems destined to be forever attached by lazy writers to one epithet or another along the lines of “brainy” or “intellectual” or “complex,” usually as some sort of backhanded esteem. As if Bach or Mozart weren’t all of those things too! When I listen to Wuorinen, I am put in mind of Mendelssohn or Haydn more than Schoenberg or Webern. Wuorinen uses some pretty hard-core serial techniques, but they’re in the deep background. The music always sounds lively, with wide-ranging humor from chortling to all-out guffaws (as when a snatch of something sounding like Camptown Races falls out of the finale of the Piano Quintet; this is also the composer that dropped a bald-faced quotation of the opening of the Tchaikovsky First Piano Concerto into a piano piece called The Blue Bamboula ).

Wuorinen disproves George Rochberg’s contention that serial music can only express angst and neurosis. He also may be the only serial composer who can build a powerful rhythmic head of steam through contrapuntal interplay alone—no chugging ostinatos or inert marking of time, but there is emphatic repetition woven into his motives, which shapes them distinctively and memorably. And all of this is held aloft with a harmonic coherence that’s remarkable in music without a traditional tonal center—although I suspect that he’s choosing his hexachords carefully, like Stravinsky did, to provide something like a tonal center, because the harmonies are much more vividly drawn than in Schoenberg or Webern. His music is full of notes, but (like Mendelssohn and unlike, say, middle-period Elliott Carter) it never sounds overcrowded; and it’s not flamboyantly fragmented like Babbitt. The Sextet, for example, has a very romantic ending in which the players pull together into unified gestures across the ensemble and unison lines that sweep across the entire range of the instruments. The Quartet’s final movement begins with late-Romantic lyricism over very tonal underpinnings. And like the blockbuster Third Piano Concerto, the Quintet’s final movement crests in running piano octaves.

The stylistic hallmarks of this music are Stravinsky’s harmonically and rhythmically sharp neo-Classicism ( Symphony of Psalms , the Concerto in D, and the Violin Concerto; the “Stravinsky minor third” is a particular favorite), the clarity and grace of his late serial music, and the motivic concentration and rhythmic vitality of Stefan Wolpe’s later music. But Wuorinen takes these elements to another level entirely, one full of characteristically American energy and abundance. Like Mozart, he’s profligate with his musical ideas. The result is music of kaleidoscopic richness and balletic motion. I find it enormous fun, and frequently want to hear a piece again immediately after it’s done.

The performers are all absolutely the top-of-the-line in this repertoire: TASHI (recorded in 2000), The Group for Contemporary Music (1991 and 1996), and the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center (1994). The sound quality of the four different recordings is not materially different, and is as good as it needs to be. The performers bop and swing deliriously through rushes of hairtrigger counterpoint and big fat juicy chordal writing. Ursula Oppens is all over the piano like static electricity on a wool sweater. If you love chamber music for strings and piano, this is for you. If you love chamber music in general, then so is the Trios disc. If you’ve been kept from Wuorinen’s music by the cut-and-paste rhetoric of lazy critics, do give one of these joyful collections a try.

FANFARE: Eric J. Bruskin
Read less

Works on This Recording

Sextet for Strings by Charles Wuorinen
Performer:  Paul Neubauer (Viola), Ani Kavafian (Violin), Ida Kavafian (Violin),
Paul Coletti (Viola), Fred Sherry (Cello), Leslie Parnas (Cello)
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1989; USA 
Date of Recording: 10/02/1991 
Venue:  Academy of Arts and Letters, New York 
Length: 19 Minutes 8 Secs. 
Quartet for Strings no 2 by Charles Wuorinen
Performer:  Lois Martin (Viola), Carol Zeavin (Violin), Benjamin Hudson (Violin),
Joshua Gordon (Cello)
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Group for Contemporary Music
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1979; USA 
Date of Recording: 04/22/1991 
Venue:  Recital Hall, SUNY College, Purchase 
Length: 20 Minutes 17 Secs. 
Divertimento for Alto Saxophone and Piano by Charles Wuorinen
Performer:  Steven Tenenbom (Viola), Theodore Arm (Violin), Ida Kavafian (Violin),
Fred Sherry (Cello)
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Tashi
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1982; USA 
Date of Recording: 11/19/2000 
Venue:  Recital Hall, SUNY College, Purchase 
Length: 11 Minutes 35 Secs. 
Notes: Composer: Charles Wuorinen. 
Quintet for Piano and Strings by Charles Wuorinen
Performer:  Carmit Zori (Violin), Scott St. John (Viola), Fred Sherry (Cello),
Curtis Macomber (Violin), Ursula Oppens (Piano)
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Group for Contemporary Music
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1993-1994; USA 
Venue:  Academy of Arts and Letters, New York 
Length: 24 Minutes 45 Secs. 
Notes: Academy of Arts and Letters, New York (06/17/1996 - 06/18/1996) 

Customer Reviews

Be the first to review this title
Review This Title