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Morris Rosenzweig: Home And Away

Rosenzweig / New York New Music Ensemble
Release Date: 09/14/2010 
Label:  Albany Records   Catalog #: 1216   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Morris Rosenzweig
Performer:  Roberta ZalkindIgor IachimciucCarlton VickersGlenn Webb
Conductor:  James Baker
Orchestra/Ensemble:  New York New Music EnsembleCanyonlands Horn QuartetNova Ensemble
Number of Discs: 1 
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Notes and Editorial Reviews

ROSENZWEIG Past Light. Just One Step Beyond. A Table of the Most Used Chords. person, place, etc. Reprise. Rough Sleepers Morris Rosenzweig, cond; Roberta Zalkind (va); Igor Iachimciuc (cimbalom); Carlton Vickers (fl); Glenn Webb (perc); New York New Music Ens; Canyonlands Horn Qt; Nova Qnt; Canyonlands Ens ALBANY TROY1216 (77:00)

Listen with care to the music in Morris Rosenzweig’s new disc, Past Light , or you’re likely to miss something important, Read more compelling, witty, or lovely. This is not to say that his music is overly dense, or even forbiddingly complex. Rather, the most striking aspect is his skill at stuffing complete, pithy thoughts into very small packages. His individual movements are not especially short (à la Webern or Kurtág), but his phrases have a similar urgency and condensation, and every note seems to be placed with great care and skill.

These qualities are especially apparent in the opening work, Past Light . The title (as well as the others on the disc) suggests extramusical associations, but I prefer to listen past these suggestions and focus on the intimate conversations between the four players. Brian Hulse’s fine notes describe the tensions that often exist between hearing or analyzing music vertically and/or horizontally. Past Light and his other works might suggest an emphasis on the former, but I sense that his linear thinking is not so much subjugated as truncated. I’m not aware of serial methodology per se, but there are numerous examples of phrases turning back on themselves in clearly audible fashion. Conductor James Baker leads the New York New Music Ensemble in a tight, cogent reading.

The opening of Reprise is skittish, nervous, and brittle, with certain pitches and pitch patterns tossed about and repeated, leading to a “cadence” in a brief unison in the five instruments before spinning off in other but similar directions and textures. I describe this 90-second passage as a way to emphasize the clarity of his rhetoric even in a language that some consider forbidding. Nova is the superb, thoroughly engaged ensemble for the reading. Contrasting outbursts supply the major thrust behind Just One Step Beyond for viola and cimbalom. Another duo, person, place, etc. for flutes and percussion, finds the composer exploring both a myriad of sonic possibilities as well as references to the distant past.

The biggest work is Rough Sleepers , inspired by the unlikely but timely subject of homelessness. It includes the recorded voices of lives that have been disrupted by a variety of forces, including hurricane Katrina. The voices are not disembodied or fragmented, but heard in complete portions, a presence not usually afforded them in their everyday lives. The composer leads the Canyonlands Ensemble in a moving performance.

Rosenzweig’s efforts are supported by a cast of top-flight musicians for every work. Clarinetist Jean Kopperud and cellist Christopher Finckel are standouts, as is the Canyonlands Horn Quartet in A Table of the Most Used Chords , the most extroverted work in the disc, playful at times, ominous at others.

There are critics (perhaps even a majority) who hear music that is generally atonal and rarely lyrical (in any traditional sense of that word), pull the label “academic” out of their back pocket, and use the damning description to excuse themselves from any deeper examination. For those prone to such easy dismissals, Rosenzweig’s music may be a bracing antidote. While repeated hearings deepened my appreciation of his art, I enjoyed each one of his pieces from the first exposure. This seldom happens in my experience, no matter the language employed. This is fine, important music, expertly played and recorded.

FANFARE: Michael Cameron
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Works on This Recording

Past Light by Morris Rosenzweig
Conductor:  James Baker
Orchestra/Ensemble:  New York New Music Ensemble
Period: 21st Century 
Written: USA 
Just One Step Beyond by Morris Rosenzweig
Performer:  Roberta Zalkind (Viola), Igor Iachimciuc (Cimbalon)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1997; USA 
A Table of the Most Used Chords by Morris Rosenzweig
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Canyonlands Horn Quartet
Period: 21st Century 
Written: USA 
Person, place, etc. by Morris Rosenzweig
Performer:  Carlton Vickers (Flute), Glenn Webb (Percussion)
Period: 21st Century 
Written: USA 
Reprise by Morris Rosenzweig
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Nova Ensemble
Period: 21st Century 
Written: USA 
Rough Sleepers by Morris Rosenzweig
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Canyonlands Horn Quartet
Period: 21st Century 
Written: USA 

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