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Music Of Fred Lerdahl 2

Lerdahl / Schulte / Winn / Odense Sym Orch / Mann
Release Date: 09/09/2008 
Label:  Bridge   Catalog #: 9269  
Composer:  Fred Lerdahl
Performer:  Scott NickrenzRolf SchulteDonald PalmaFred Sherry,   ... 
Conductor:  Paul Mann
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Odense Symphony Orchestra
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
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Notes and Editorial Reviews

LERDAHL Cross-Currents. 1 Waltzes. 2 Duo. 3 Quiet Music 1 Paul Mann, cond; 1 Rolf Schulte (vn); 2 Scott Nickrenz (va); 2 Fred Sherry (vc); 2 Donald Palma Read more (db); 2 Rolf Schulte (vn); 3 James Winn (pn); 3 Odense SO 1 BRIDGE 9269 (66:18)

I’ve already reviewed Vol. 1 of this Bridge series of Fred Lerdahl’s (b. 1943) music in Fanfare 30:2, and to save a little time, I’d like to begin with my summation from that review: “Lerdahl is a wonderful, fresh, composer who gives the lie to the old canard of “intellectual music” being dry or cold. This is fresh, witty, lovely work. It also shows, through its mastery of organic form and harmony, that there’s a lot of life left in the Western tradition many have given up as a goner. Indeed, Lerdahl’s practice feels like that of an updated Brahms, integrating so many different aspects of composition.” That judgment still stands with this new release. Like the earlier disc, this combines older and recent works. The oldest is Waltzes (1981), which is a cunning reworking of older material (I hear Tchaikovsky and Ravel, as mentioned in the notes, as well as a few others I’m still scratching my head about), fit into original music. The result is a loving homage to a tradition, yet one free of nostalgia. And unlike many postmodern works, the quotation element doesn’t sound forced.

Perhaps one reason for that “naturalness” of sound is the fact that Lerdahl has undertaken a lifelong quest to discover a personal, comprehensive musical technique. He’s as renowned as a theorist as he is a composer, but fortunately his analytic skills contribute to greater strength of his creative products, rather than turning them into mere etudes. His aim is no less than a reinvention of tonality, suited for this age. And overall, I think he succeeds. This music can swing through a wide range of gestures, even styles, and still somehow feel integrated. That’s the case with the 1987 Cross-Currents. (Yes, I hear evocations of Debussy and Messiaen, but it remains all-American, especially when it opens up into a sort of meta-cakewalk at the end.) The 2005 Duo is probably the most ambitious and substantive work on this program, an essay that features incredibly fast, intricate, and searing music in its first movement, followed by a soulful Elegy in its second. Quiet Music (1994) for orchestra is what its title suggests; though if one is expecting Morton Feldman, think again. The music is steadily pulsed, with shifting layers and twinkling colors. I admit, of this program, my interest flagged some here, as somehow the intersection of harmony and rhythm seemed more labored than in the other pieces. But it has real charm.

All of these are excellent performances, but the chamber works in particular get spectacular renditions. The quartet of Waltzes is one of each: violin, viola, cello, and bass. What a pity this didn’t become the standard string quartet, or at least a frequent alternative. I love the richness of that sound, created by the downward registral extension. And this ensemble, made of New York new-music all-stars of the highest order, gives a knockout version.

Another winning entry in a long-overdue recording project.

FANFARE: Robert Carl
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Works on This Recording

Cross-Currents by Fred Lerdahl
Conductor:  Paul Mann
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Odense Symphony Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Waltzes by Fred Lerdahl
Performer:  Scott Nickrenz (Viola), Rolf Schulte (Violin), Donald Palma (Double Bass),
Fred Sherry (Cello)
Period: 20th Century 
Duo for violin and piano by Fred Lerdahl
Performer:  James Winn (Piano), Rolf Schulte (Violin)
Period: 20th Century 
Quiet Music by Fred Lerdahl
Conductor:  Paul Mann
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Odense Symphony Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 

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