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Wyner: Commedia / Stoltzman, Wyner, Milovanovic, Norsworthy, Pogorelov

Wyner / Stoltzman
Release Date: 03/08/2011 
Label:  Albany Records   Catalog #: 1254  
Composer:  Yehudi Wyner
Performer:  Richard StoltzmanYehudi WynerBiljana MilovanovicDmitri Pogorelov,   ... 
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Ibis Camerata
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Back Order: Usually ships in 2 to 3 weeks.  

Notes and Editorial Reviews

WYNER Commedia. 1 Partita. Dances of Atonement. Cadenza! De Novo 1 Richard Stoltzman (cl); 1 Yehudi Wyner (pn); Ibis Camerata ALBANY TROY 1254 (68:54)

This disc surveys a number of chamber pieces by Yehudi Wyner (b.1929). The earliest of these is the substantial, neoclassical Partita for piano (1952), while the most recent, Read more Commedia for clarinet and piano, which opens the disc, dates from 2002. The remaining works come from the period 1969–76. Thus the disc provides a range of styles and experiences, though the composer urged me to sample the recent discs of his choral music and of three concerti to build a full picture of his compositional style. In a sense, these are modest pieces, but no less enjoyable and interesting for that. A common thread is the stylistic variety that pervades each piece—let alone the variety between pieces, which span 50 years. There is a mercurial quality to Wyner’s music that I have struggled unsuccessfully to describe succinctly. At first hearing it appears wayward and, it turns out, Wyner is very confident in trusting his intuition—as the interview makes clear. However, the music is often complex, meticulously written and clearly the product of rational, conscious processes. That Wyner manages to unite these two parts of his mind so successfully—and originally—is remarkable.

Commedia shows no diminution of powers in the then-septuagenarian composer. Written for Richard Stoltzman, who plays it with the composer on this disc, it epitomizes the integration of conscious and unconscious in Wyner’s music. The tempo direction of the opening is “LABOOH” (“like a bat out of hell”) and it certainly draws attention to itself. The duet is very much between two characters, but their emotional milieu is constantly shifting, “now amorous, now insistent, now timid and hesitant, now despairing,” as the composer puts it, though the work is happily short of despair. Stoltzman and Wyner have performed the work together extensively, and both are obviously masters of the music. It was a clever idea to have these two join the Ibis Camerata on this disc, as both are eloquent and compelling advocates of Wyner’s music, responding convincingly to its twists and turns.

De Novo (1971) for solo cello and a small ensemble of flute, bass clarinet, two violas, and contrabass is wispy and sepulchral. The predominance of low instruments (even the flute is heard mostly in the lower registers) creates a warm environment in which the players creep about for seven minutes or so. Wyner’s imaginative use of sonorities is always compelling, yet never flashy or showy, and the performers sound entirely at home with the music. There is a brief, more assertive middle section for contrast but, when the piece finally dissolves, one is not quite sure what one has heard. However the title, which means “again” as well as “of the new,” does trigger one to play it again: I found it fascinating.

The Partita, which follows, betrays the youth of its composer only in the earnestness that sometimes inflects the piece. In the later works on the disc, Wyner sounds entirely confident in trusting his intuition and judgment; here, for all the stylistic variety (discussed in the interview), it does feel slightly studied, though presumably the success of the piece as a composition went some way to providing the composer with that very confidence displayed in the other works. Taking Handel as a model, Wyner draws in other Baroque composers in the various movements. Remarkably, the work was not conceived as a suite ab initio , but rather grew by accretion. Nevertheless it has a substantial unity across its six movements (with familiar titles such as Allemande, Minuet, Gigue). Given that Cadenza! for clarinet and harpsichord has been frequently performed with a piano and clarinet, I am tempted to wonder how the Partita would have sounded on a harpsichord. Biljana Milovanovic delivers a dedicated, compelling performance that clearly benefits from the composer’s direct involvement (as was the case with all the works on this disc).

Dances of Atonement (1976) for violin and piano, like some of the other works here, is something of an occasional piece. It derived from a commission to write a short piece on the Kol Nidre text for a television program and was later extended to its present form. It is always interesting, not least for the way that, at the end, there is a sense of a veil lifted to reveal another realm. Finally (on the disc), Cadenza! (1969) for clarinet and harpsichord reveals more of Wyner’s urbane humor. Dispatched in four brief movements, the piece manages to make the novel pairing of instruments sound entirely idiomatic, and it receives a fine performance.

The Ibis Camerata members are clearly committed to Wyner’s music, led by pianist Biljana Milovanovic, who has a strong musical relationship with the composer. The performances of all five works are exemplary, leaving nothing to be desired, and the sound is excellent. Produced by Milovanovic with the active participation of the composer, this disc, we can be sure, fully represents the music.

FANFARE: Jeremy Marchant
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Works on This Recording

Commedia by Yehudi Wyner
Performer:  Richard Stoltzman (Clarinet), Yehudi Wyner (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: USA 
De Novo by Yehudi Wyner
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Ibis Camerata
Period: 20th Century 
Written: USA 
Partita by Yehudi Wyner
Performer:  Biljana Milovanovic (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: USA 
Dances of Atonement by Yehudi Wyner
Performer:  Biljana Milovanovic (Piano), Dmitri Pogorelov (Violin)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1976; USA 
Cadenza! by Yehudi Wyner
Performer:  Biljana Milovanovic (Harpsichord), Michael Norsworthy (Clarinet)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1969; USA 

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