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Joel Hoffman - Self-Portrait


Release Date: 09/09/2008 
Label:  Albany Records   Catalog #: 1045   Spars Code: n/a 
Composer:  Joel Hoffman
Performer:  Parry KarpChristopher KarpGary HoffmanHoward Karp,   ... 
Conductor:  Roman Kofman
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Kiev Chamber Orchestra
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
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Notes and Editorial Reviews



HOFFMAN Cello Sonata. 1 Unaccompanied Minor. 2 Self-Portrait with Gebertig. 3 Karptet 4 Parry Karp (vc); 1 Christopher Karp (pn, 1 vn 4 ); Parry Karp (vc); 2 Garry Read more Hoffman (vc); 3 Roman Kofman, cond; 3 Kiev CO; 3 Katrin Talbot (va); 4 Parry Karp (vc); 4 Howard & Frances Karp (pn) 4 ALBANY TROY 1045 (62:53)


Joel Hoffman (b. 1953) writes music in a full-throated lyrical mode. All these pieces sing and breathe with an ample, generous spirit. The composer notes that each of these pieces works from a different technical base, and that’s true. They range from “hybrid serial” to neo-klezmer. But Hoffman’s concerns are consistent throughout: a memorable melodic line with clear phrasing; rich harmonies with a strong sense of progression; propulsive, infectious rhythms; and an obvious desire to communicate with listeners.


The 1982 Cello Sonata reminds me a little of an ancestor, i.e., the 1948 Carter sonata. There aren’t the rhythmic complexities of the latter, but Hoffman’s Sonata does have that feel of music poised between tonality and free chromaticism, tempered by a very American open-throated lyricism. (The comparison isn’t a criticism, suggesting this piece is too “retro.” Indeed, if I hear a connection, I find it fruitful, as Carter’s music from this transitional period is some of his most fully realized and challenging music, precisely because it so straddles harmonic categories.)


The 2007 Unaccompanied Minor was written as a competition piece for a high-school-age performance competition (hence the title’s pun, for which the composer apologizes). It’s concise and clear in a rondo form, with its charming, slightly mischievous pizzicato lick. Self-Portrait with Gebertig (1998) is a cello concerto with a lightness of touch. Each of its three movements takes a tune by the Jewish folk musician Mordecai Gebertig, who perished in the Holocaust (and who is the subject of an opera of Hoffman’s). This is by far the most traditionally minded of the pieces on this program. One can’t help but think of Bloch’s Schelomo , but Hoffman’s take on Hebraic sources is overall less intense and dark (despite Gebertig’s tragic end). But lest I sound dismissive here, beyond its seemingly effortless craft, the piece boasts a slow movement that’s ravishingly beautiful, and to which I’ve returned several times, taking pleasure in its soulfulness. (It’s a live performance, but there’s only one jarring cough in the whole thing, a small price to pay as a listener.)


The Karptet (2006) is for the unusual instrumentation of string trio plus two pianos, a commission from Christopher Karp (who one may notice is the pianist in the cello sonata and violinist in this piece!). Obviously, the ensemble for whom it’s written, the Karps, is an exceptionally musical family. This work shows Hoffman moving in the direction of minimalism as a stylistic template, though less for trance qualities than for the capacity to write music of clockwork precision and canonic rigor.


My own preference is usually for new music that pushes the boundaries a bit further than this, but there’s so much care, passion, and fundamental musicality here I’d be churlish to push that aesthetic agenda. Recommended for those qualities, and above all, for a fundamental warmth that sets this music aglow.


FANFARE: Robert Carl
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Works on This Recording

1.
Sonata for Cello and Piano by Joel Hoffman
Performer:  Parry Karp (Cello), Christopher Karp (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1982; USA 
2.
unaccompanied minor by Joel Hoffman
Performer:  Parry Karp (Cello), Gary Hoffman (Cello)
Conductor:  Roman Kofman
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Kiev Chamber Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 2007 
Length: 6 Minutes 15 Secs. 
3.
Self-Portrait with Gebirtig by Joel Hoffman
Performer:  Gary Hoffman (Cello)
Conductor:  Roman Kofman
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Kiev Chamber Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
4.
Karptet by Joel Hoffman
Performer:  Howard Karp (Piano), Parry Karp (Cello), Christopher Karp (Violin),
Frances Karp (Piano), Katrin Talbot (Viola)
Period: 20th Century 
5.
Sonata for Cello and Piano: 1st movement by Joel Hoffman
Performer:  Christopher Karp (Piano), Parry Karp (Cello)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1982; USA 
Length: 9 Minutes 51 Secs. 
6.
Sonata for Cello and Piano: 2nd movement by Joel Hoffman
Performer:  Christopher Karp (Cello), Christopher Karp (Piano), Parry Karp (Cello)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1982; USA 
Length: 11 Minutes 14 Secs. 
7.
Self-Portrait with Gebirtig: 1st movement by Joel Hoffman
Performer:  Katrin Talbot (Viola), Gary Hoffman (Cello), Howard Karp (Piano),
Parry Karp (Cello), Frances Karp (Piano), Christopher Karp (Violin)
Conductor:  Roman Kofman
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Kiev Chamber Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Length: 7 Minutes 16 Secs. 
8.
Self-Portrait with Gebirtig: 2nd movement by Joel Hoffman
Performer:  Gary Hoffman (Cello)
Conductor:  Roman Kofman
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Kiev Chamber Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Length: 6 Minutes 46 Secs. 
9.
Self-Portrait with Gebirtig: 3rd movement by Joel Hoffman
Performer:  Gary Hoffman (Cello)
Conductor:  Roman Kofman
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Kiev Chamber Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Length: 5 Minutes 40 Secs. 
10.
Karptet: 1st movement by Joel Hoffman
Performer:  Frances Karp (Piano), Christopher Karp (Violin), Katrin Talbot (Viola),
Howard Karp (Piano), Parry Karp (Cello)
Period: 20th Century 
Length: 9 Minutes 21 Secs. 
11.
Karptet: 2nd movement by Joel Hoffman
Performer:  Frances Karp (Piano), Christopher Karp (Violin), Katrin Talbot (Viola),
Howard Karp (Piano), Parry Karp (Cello)
Period: 20th Century 
Length: 2 Minutes 48 Secs. 
12.
Karptet: 3rd movement by Joel Hoffman
Performer:  Frances Karp (Piano), Christopher Karp (Violin), Katrin Talbot (Viola),
Howard Karp (Piano), Parry Karp (Cello)
Period: 20th Century 
Length: 3 Minutes 38 Secs. 

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