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Biscardi: In Time's Unfolding

Biscardi / Da Capo Chamber Players / Panner / Zur
Release Date: 06/28/2011 
Label:  Naxos   Catalog #: 8559639   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Chester Biscardi
Performer:  Marc PeloquinCurtis MacomberBlair McMillenDaniel Panner,   ... 
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Da Capo Chamber Players
Number of Discs: 1 
Length: 0 Hours 57 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews

BISCARDI In Time’s Unfolding. 1 Tartini 2,3. Piano Quintet 3,4. Mestiere. 3 Di Vivere. 5 The Viola Had Suddenly Become a Voice. 6,7 Companion Piece (for Morton Feldman) 1,8 1 Marc Read more Peoloquin (pn); 2 Curtis Macomber (vn); 3 Blair McMillen (pn); 4 Yonah Zur (vn); 4 Daniel Panner, (va); 4 Greg Hesslelink (vc); 5 Da Capo C Players; 6 Paul Neubauer (vla); 7 James Goldsworthy (pn); 8 Mark Helias (db) NAXOS 8.559639 (65:47)

I’ve admired for many years the music of Chester Biscardi (b.1948). On the one hand, he’s a scrupulous composer who writes richly detailed music that reflects modernist ideas about form and development. But he’s also a romantic, writing music that has inherent sweep and lyricism, and always rooted in traditional tonal practice, no matter how far from that source he gets.

This release covers the entire span of the composer’s mature career, from Tartini (1972) to The Viola Had Suddenly Become a Voice (2005). Like many composers of his generation, Biscardi’s music starts off spikier than it has become, and Tartini (for violin and piano) is no exception, though there’s an exciting theatricality about its rhetoric . Di Vivere (1981) is written for the now-traditional Pierrot quintet, and has the strongest Uptown sound of any work on this program. In its athletic tussle and pitch centers’ arrivals announced in ringing unisons, it reminds one of Wuorinen. But in contrast, the 1979 Mestiere for solo piano is much more rhapsodic, with highly idiomatic piano figuration throughout, which creates Impressionistic sonic scrims that project lovely layers of harmony. The 1989 Companion Piece (for Morton Feldman) feels like a transitional work. Biscardi was close to Feldman (something you might not immediately infer from the music), and this work, while it has the sustained quiet of its dedicatee, is more openly expressive. Its harmonies are less juxtapositions of beautiful chords but actual progressions, no matter how laid-back. Mark Helias’s playing is also exceptional; listening at first without reading any notes, I just assumed a cello instead of bass, as the sound is so light and “flutey.”

These are the earlier works of the set, and from here we move to a more open, resonant, and emotionally forward world in the later music. One gathers from both his program notes and the music itself, that Biscardi deeply loves the repertoire, finds inspiration from it, and often builds his pieces as responses to particular works. This is particularly true of The Viola Had Suddenly Become a Voice , which quotes a phrase of Schumann, and integrates it into its own fabric with the seamlessness of a dream. In Time’s Unfolding (2000) (for piano) opens and closes the program, and again refers to Schumann, but also has a distinctly American flavor. Biscardi mentions Gershwin and Copland as harmonic referents, and I hear Bernstein as well. And the 2004 Piano Quintet, while a more abstract work, never stints on its lyrical impulse, and has a morendo ending that seems natural, rather a precious gesture.

I find this quite beautiful music. Biscardi strikes me as a deeply honest composer; he says what he feels necessary, he’s curious and exploratory. It also has great range, moving from referents as diverse as Wuorinen, Feldman, and Schumann. In short, the art has integrity. I also remember him as a graduate composer at Yale, buzzing with a sweet energy, and from his picture he looks exactly the same decades later (except for having lost the ponytail, though maybe my memory tricks me there). He also obviously inspires wonderful performers, giving them music that challenges and satisfies. The quality of playing here is testimony to that bond. Highly recommended.

FANFARE: Robert Carl
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Works on This Recording

In Time's Unfolding by Chester Biscardi
Performer:  Marc Peloquin (Piano)
Written: 2000 
Tartini by Chester Biscardi
Performer:  Curtis Macomber (Violin), Blair McMillen (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1972 
Quintet for Piano and Strings by Chester Biscardi
Performer:  Daniel Panner (Viola), Blair McMillen (Piano), Curtis Macomber (Violin),
Yonah Zur (Violin), Greg Hesselink (Cello)
Period: 21st Century 
Written: 2004 
Mestiere by Chester Biscardi
Performer:  Blair McMillen (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1979; USA 
Di vivere by Chester Biscardi
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Da Capo Chamber Players
The Viola Had Suddenly Become a Voice by Chester Biscardi
Performer:  Paul Neubauer (Viola), James Goldsworthy (Piano)
Period: 21st Century 
Written: 2005 
Companion piece (for Morton Feldman) by Chester Biscardi
Performer:  Mark Helias (Double Bass), Marc Peloquin (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1989/1991; USA 
In Time's Unfolding by Chester Biscardi
Performer:  Marc Peloquin (Piano)
Written: 2000 

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