Notes and Editorial Reviews
GRUNDMAN What Inspires Poetry. Warhol in Springtime. White Sonata. Why? • Vicente Cueva (vn); Daniel del Pino (pn) • NON PROFIT 1404 (58:42)
In Fanfare, 33:5, I reviewed Minds, an SACD released by Non Profit Music (0091) featuring violinist Ara Malikian and pianist Daniel del Pino and including Jorge Grundman’s violin sonata What Inspires Poetry, written specifically for
that premiere. Now the same label has issued a program devoted entirely to Grundman’s sonatas for violin and piano. The sonata’s three movements, “About Loneliness and Nostalgia,” “About Calm and Serenity,” and “About Rain and Storm” demand a performance redolent with emotional suggestivity; and it’s clear from the opening measures that that’s just the kind of reading violinist Vicente Cueva and Daniel Del Pino give of it: They’re both sensitive to its dynamic subtleties as well as its hauntingly fluid melodiousness. The first movement comprises many meditative moments when the violin plays alone, and del Pino preserves the emotional milieu the solo violin creates as he re-enters after each. If Cueva sounds a bit awkward technically in the upper registers at times during the movement, he draws an especially rich tone from the lower ones of his instrument. Both Cueva and del Pino reach deep into their musical personalities as well as into the music itself, producing an almost surprising sense of serenity in the softer passages. Later, in the brief second movement, in particular, the melodic lines reach comparative stasis, and Grundman has perhaps for that reason chosen not to extend its length. The notes claim that the third movement has become popular in the United States, leading to numerous broadcasts of the entire sonata. Malikian, as he demonstrated through the entire program of Minds, twists Grundman’s melodic lines with the stylistic acumen of Frank Sinatra, while he seems more fluent in some of the technical passages. But still, the different programs will be decisive in making the selection for many players.
Grundman dedicated the 15-odd-minute sonata Warhol in Springtime to Nikolai Kapustin. Andy Warhol influenced, according to him, the work’s becoming a sort of collage (with its repetitions on different levels); and springtime appears in the trills that occur throughout. In this sonata, Cueva’s tone production, exquisitely sensitive to timbres and textures, shows itself to optimum effect.
Grundman describes himself a non-dissonant modern composer and relates in the notes his trials and tribulations in a musical world initially hostile to that compositional predilection. The White Sonata, “The Child Who Never Wanted to Grow Up,” a 23-minute piece from 2012, seems a defiant challenge to the notion that C Major might be scrapped (although it’s not clear that listeners without absolute pitch will know C Major when they hear it). In fact, Grundman shows himself to be aware of the challenges of holding a listener’s attention in that key alone. It’s a challenge that many composition teachers might consider irrelevant, but they’re not the ones who will serve on the death panels in the musical health insurance industry. With the harmonies relative static, the musical aspects that vary here, of course, must also vary in either dissonant or simply modulating music: tempos, textures, dynamics, and the velocity of chord progressions. But in the case of a white-key piece, they will bear more weight. In this case, the performers, perhaps coached by the composer, make use of the musical devices at their disposal, seeming to realize their importance. Does this music lack the drama created by tonal contrasts? Well, maybe it does at times, but not without its own kind of compensation.
Grundman wrote Why? (from 2013) as a miniature complement to his program of sonatas. The question that arises most obviously from the program, however, isn’t about why but about why not. General listeners may or may not reflect academic prejudices against accessibility and tonal music; and their openness can’t be dismissed as entirely irrelevant (as Milton Babbitt once suggested it should be). Still, it’s hard to imagine violinists of the golden age—Jascha Heifetz, for example, or Nathan Milstein—adopting Grundman; on the other hand, it’s impossible to think of them as not equal to his expressive challenges. But it’s also hard to imagine many more recent competition winners, focused so intently (some might believe, narrowly) on technical perfection and tonal beauty, adopting him; but it’s easier to imagine them struggling with his works stylistically in a way that they don’t have to in the dissonant or aleatoric set pieces composed specifically for the competitions they enter. Thank God, listeners (pace Babbitt) will decide where to seat Grundman’s works and whether he can communicate intelligently without sticking pins in people’s ears. In any case, this compilation represents a good place in which to start the evaluation. Strongly recommended.
FANFARE: Robert Maxham Read less
Works on This Recording
What Inspires Poetry by Jorge Grundman
Vicente Cueva (Violin),
Daniel del Pino (Piano)
Period: 20th Century
Why? by Jorge Grundman
Vicente Cueva (Violin),
Daniel del Pino (Piano)
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