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Gerber: Violin Concerto, Cello Concerto, Serenade

Release Date: 09/26/2000 
Label:  Koch International Classics Catalog #: 7501   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Steven R. Gerber
Performer:  Kurt NikkanenCarter Brey
Conductor:  Piotr Gajewski
Orchestra/Ensemble:  National Chamber Orchestra
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 1 Hours 3 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews

I will be very happy to encounter Gerber’s music again.

I have recently been listening to a number of discs from Koch's serendipitous back catalogue. This has taken in works by Neikrug, Pinkham, Hovhaness, Cowell, Roy Harris and now Steven Gerber.

Gerber was born in Washington DC. He is based in New York City. His teachers included Earl Kim and Milton Babbitt (see his website). The earliest works leaned on serial apparatus but from 1981 onwards he has embraced tonality although not unconditionally. His fidelity to tonality can be heard in full splendour in the Violin Concerto written for and premiered by Kurt Nikkanen.

It's good to hear from Nikkanen again. Like so many other top young
Read more players he enjoyed a clutch of celebrity launch discs and then dropped from international sight. Here he champions Gerber's rather romantic Violin Concerto which veers between the tropics of American 1930s pastoral and torrid Barber-Menotti-Flagello. In the central Lento an almost Tchaikovskian effusion of song stretches high into the whistling realms occupied by Pettersson’s Seventh Symphony and by Sibelius in his Humoresques. The aggressive mordant brawling and boisterous finale is half the length of either of the first two movements. This concerto is absolutely stunningly recorded and the finale demonstrates these technical virtues quite apart from being a pleasure to listen to repeatedly.

The Violin Concerto was premiered by Nikkanen in 1994 in Moscow and Novosibirsk. It was given its first US performance by the artists recorded here. That took place in 1995 at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts.

The Cello Concerto was written for the artists we hear on this disc. Like the Violin Concerto it is in three movements of which the first is that rare bird a sheerly happy piece of music. It will bring a smile without talking down to the listener. This music is a little like Martin? in his most smiling mood. The central movement is the fast one. This is deeply pleasing and is written in a progression that stretches forwards from the Dvo?ák Cello Concerto. By contrast with the Violin Concerto the work ends with a long and thoughtful Passacaglia which includes a melody and rounded treatment of touching tenderness (3:03). This recalls, in mood alone, the finale of the Finzi Cello Concerto.

The Serenade is a work of romance and grace with some incisively expressed and thrustingly passionate music along the way - as at 2:03 and 5:19 forward.

I should also add that, contrary to the expectations, raised or dashed by the name of the orchestra its sound is very big – no suggestion of strings pared down to chamber proportions. This is a full and fleshy orchestral sound. A blizzard of scorching woody and sometimes steely ostinato provides irresistible propulsion and optimism for the finale. At 4.30 this develops the outward garb of minimalism. Most entertaining.

Steven Gerber is one of those composers whose works I will be very happy to encounter again. To date the Gerber discs on Arabesque (see review) and on Chandos (see review) have passed me by. I wonder what else there is out there.

-- Rob Barnett, MusicWeb International
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Works on This Recording

Concerto for Violin by Steven R. Gerber
Performer:  Kurt Nikkanen (Violin)
Conductor:  Piotr Gajewski
Orchestra/Ensemble:  National Chamber Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Concerto for Cello by Steven R. Gerber
Performer:  Carter Brey (Cello)
Conductor:  Piotr Gajewski
Orchestra/Ensemble:  National Chamber Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Serenade for String Orchestra by Steven R. Gerber
Conductor:  Piotr Gajewski
Orchestra/Ensemble:  National Chamber Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 

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