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Gompper: Violin Concerto, Ikon, Flip, Spirals / David, Siffert, Royal Philharmonic

Gompper / David / Zazofsky / Siffert / Rpo
Release Date: 04/26/2011 
Label:  Naxos   Catalog #: 8559637  
Composer:  David Gompper
Performer:  Wolfgang DavidPeter Zazofsky
Conductor:  Emmanuel Siffert
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Royal Philharmonic Orchestra
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 1 Hours 11 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews

An intriguing mixture of Romanticism and discreet atonality.

GOMPPER Violin Concerto 1. Ikon. 1 Flip. Spirals 2 1,2 Wolfgang David, 2 Peter Zazofsky (vn); Emmanuel Siffert, cond; Royal PO NAXOS 8.559697 (70: 28)


Despite David Gompper’s having appeared on numerous Read more previous CD releases as composer and pianist, this release is the first of what I hope will be many full discs devoted entirely to his music. Gompper is a superb composer, and these four excellent works are presented in first-rate, composer-supervised performances. The Violin Concerto, Ikon , and Spirals all feature violinist Wolfgang David, Gompper’s frequent collaborator. The concerto (2009) is cast in a three-movement shape—two 10-minute movements precede a four-minute rondo finale. The work’s harmonic material is based on a continuous series of perfect fifths. Gompper has related that the inspiration of the work comes from hearing echoes in the mountains (with shapes both predictable and unpredictable). The opening movement is very dramatic, the second movement beautifully lyrically, and the third joyous. This is an exhilarating and deeply expressive piece.


Ikon (2008) is based on the specific mathematical dimensions of an Estonian ikon of St. Nicolas. Gompper studied the process used by iconographers and created a series of pitch matrices and rhythmic proportions that relate specifically to the ikon’s graphical proportions. The resulting work is largely atmospheric and mystical, with a particularly evocative ending full of ringing sonorities. Although it is only five minutes shorter than the concerto, it is a work of very different, extremely introverted character.


Flip (1993) for string orchestra is a delightful piece best described by quoting the composer’s note: “[ Flip ] is a playful exhibition of three elemental ideas and their transformation as they ‘flip’ or switch places—registrally (high to low) and instrumentally (violins to double bass); harmonically and melodically—and eventually ‘flip-out’ with much protracted and extended emotional eruptions. Snippets of musical ideas are ‘borrowed’: the first phrase from the music of the popular TV show of the 1970s Flipper , as well as the rhythmic generator of the samba taken from the 1985 film Brazil , where the main character ‘flips out.’ The work contains various bursts of energy that set the gestures in motion, like a dancer doing back-flips, or one angered as they ‘flip’ someone off, including the uncertainty of the other’s response.”


Gompper began Spirals (2007) for two violins and string orchestra by applying the Fibonacci series to all properties of the musical composition. The title derives from the construction of the two musical spirals that form the basis of the work. Neither of these facts is at all important to the listener, however. The work’s forward momentum is continuous, and the harmonic language is similar to the Violin Concerto.


The performances by the Royal Philharmonic are excellent. Violinist Wolfgang David has performed more of Gompper’s music than probably any other single performer, and he plays it with conviction and deep understanding. Strongly recommended.


FANFARE: Carson Cooman

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Though his name may not be known to many, American composer, pianist and conductor David Gompper has a sizeable discography to his credit. This has gathered considerable momentum over the last three or four years but this is the first CD anywhere to be entirely devoted to his music.

Of the works on this disc, only Spirals has been recorded before, on Albany TROY 1110. A further Albany disc, featuring Gompper as pianist to Wolfgang David's violin, and including Gompper's own 1997 work for violin and piano, Finnegan's Wake, is warmly received in [a MusicWeb International] review, worth reading also for its unreasonable chastisement of Gompper's apostrophe, which has every right to be in his title - the orthographic peccadillo was Joyce's alteration of a grammatical original!

In a concert programme, Spirals or Ikon would have been better placed at the beginning, as a violin-with-orchestra warm-up for the 'big piece', the Violin Concerto. CDs can be programmed to play in any order but opening the disc with the Concerto does make it top-heavy and detract a little from the shorter works. Anyway, the Concerto itself began life as a work for violin and piano, Echoes, with which it now co-exists, both pieces written for Wolfgang David. In effect an intriguing mixture of Romanticism and discreet atonality, the musical ideas of the Concerto are based on the growth of non-straight trees, of all things, although the original 'echoing' motif is still apparent throughout. The Concerto is a fine work: there is more than enough invention, excitement, variety and breadth of appeal here for both violinists and audiences for this work to find a place in the orchestral repertoire.

The second work, Ikon, also exists in a version for violin and piano, and is also a kind of violin concerto, in three movement-like sections. It is a musical portrayal of a nineteenth-century Russian religious icon, at least in terms of proportions, shapes and positionings, though presumably Gompper did not at any point make use of the old iconographers' bits of string and compasses. Ikon is particularly imaginatively scored, with contributions from piano, vibraphone, wooden blocks and gong. Like Flip and Spirals, it has a rigorous intellectual, almost mathematical rationale, but an appealing feature of Gompper's writing is that its abstract underpinnings do not need to be understood in the least for the music itself to be enjoyed, so ample is the emotional content and so aesthetically agreeable the purely musical detail.

Spirals, for two violins and strings, has three movement-like sections, medium-slow-fastish. Amazingly, given the immediate attractiveness of the piece, the musical Spirals of the title are based on the mathematical Fibonacci sequence, which according to Gompper was applied to all musical parameters. That this work really is based on scientific concepts is hard to credit, so limpid is its cantabile musicality. Towards the end - or the outer arm of a spiral - the orchestral strings start to quieten down, finally leaving just the two violins - Peter Zazofsky here providing the reinforcements - chirruping beautifully to each other.

Flip is the odd-man-out, written for small string orchestra only. The 'flipping' of the title is multifarious, ranging from the binary - loud/soft, high-pitched/low-pitched, harmonic/melodic, bowed/plucked - to the puff pastry kind, where themes are turned under and over one another in various ways; and to altogether fishier kinds, such as using the theme tune of the 1970s TV show Flipper, or the musical equivalent of "a dancer doing back-flips," in Gompper's enigmatic words. All of this lends the work a rhythmic and dynamic twitchiness that keeps the orchestra on its toes and, for a while, the listener from getting comfortable perhaps - this is certainly the most modernistic work of the four.

David's intonation, tone and technique are magnificent, as demonstrated in particular in the delicate second movement cadenza and the segue into the violinistic fireworks of the concise Presto finale. The Royal Philharmonic are historically undaunted by anything they are asked to play, which in truth has not always left the Orchestra with its dignity intact; but here they are thankfully a long way from cheapening their reputation for commercial benefit and turn in another of their countless fine performances, under Emmanuel Siffert's reliable guidance.

Sound quality is very good in the tried and tested, and indeed handsome, acoustic of the Henry Wood Hall. The two soloists are well balanced against the orchestra. The only minor complaint is that David's microphone seems to be strapped to his face, so audible is his breathing in the quieter violin passages. Gompper has supplied his own interesting notes for the booklet, which also features a cover photo by Eric Gompper, who might just be a relative.

-- Byzantion, MusicWeb International
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Works on This Recording

1.
Concerto for Violin by David Gompper
Performer:  Wolfgang David (Violin)
Conductor:  Emmanuel Siffert
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Royal Philharmonic Orchestra
Written: 2009 
2.
Ikon by David Gompper
Performer:  Wolfgang David (Violin)
Conductor:  Emmanuel Siffert
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Royal Philharmonic Orchestra
Written: 2008 
3.
Spirals by David Gompper
Performer:  Wolfgang David (Violin), Peter Zazofsky (Violin)
Conductor:  Emmanuel Siffert
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Royal Philharmonic Orchestra
Written: 2007 
4.
Flip by David Gompper
Conductor:  Emmanuel Siffert
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Royal Philharmonic Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1993 

Sound Samples

Violin Concerto: I. Vivace, fuoco
Violin Concerto: II. Andante, cadenza
Violin Concerto: III. Presto
Ikon
Flip
Spirals

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