Notes and Editorial Reviews
Surviving a Son’s Suicide. God’s Sketches
Susana Cordón (sop);
Jaime Fernández (perc)
NON PROFIT MUSIC NPM1201 (47:30)
Spanish composer Jorge Grundman (b.1961) has been writing music since the age of 14, although some of his university degrees are in the areas of computer and
science. He is currently professor at the Escuela Universitaria de Ingenieria Técnica de Telecomunicación of the Universidad Politécnica of Madrid where he teaches acoustics and sound engineering, which undoubtedly helps explain the sonic excellence of his company’s releases, although recording engineer Javier Monteverde must also be given much credit.
Despite my lead-off question in the above interview, I find his music to be quite original. I use the word in contradistinction to
, which it is not—as he himself admits, his music is not intended to explore new sonic worlds. Nor does he seek to show off in his music through splashy effects or virtuosity. His is music of simple and direct appeal, and its originality flows out of Grundman’s own personality, tastes, and training. It is distinctive in the best sense of the word.
The string quartet
Surviving a Son’s Suicide
certainly has an evocative title, and the music throughout is at once nostalgic, sentimental, and sweetly unsettling. I could imagine it being used as incidental music to a play. There are three movements, “Browsing His Childhood Photographs,” “Remembering His Awkward Age,” and “His Room as He Left It.” The work opens with simple melodic lines that interweave in gentle harmonies, tonally focused in the key of E. A plaintive melody in the first violin soars above the rest of the ensemble. Rhythmic activity picks up in some extended quick pizzicato passages, which also expand the harmonic vocabulary significantly, bringing in some mild dissonances and polytonality. All of this is meant to suggest the part of the story where the parents are looking through their son’s old photographs. The second movement depicts their son’s “awkward age” through the use of disjointed pizzicati in all the instruments, but eventually a tender solo in the violin suggests the awkwardness yielding to maturity. “His Room as He Left It” evokes a wistful remembrance of a happier time, through its flowing lines and unabashed tonality. There seems to be an implication of the restoration of the broken marital union, although the composer has not stated that this was part of his story. Regardless, the piece plays on the emotions in all the right ways, and the work ends quietly.
My one criticism of this entire production comes in the lack of sufficient space between the two works on the disc.
begins after a pause of only four seconds, and begins so similarly to how the previous work ended that it is not immediately clear that a new piece has begun. Scored for voice, string quartet, and mallets, it produces much the same effect as does the previous work, but of course it is enhanced by the colors of the voice and percussion. The text is by the composer himself, and deals with the subject of the disabled—here specifically two children, a boy born with Down syndrome and a girl with autism—and the growing love between them. Grundman sees the story in terms of the worth and potential of all human beings, no matter how physically challenged they might be. His music captures and enhances the human emotion contained in his text.
Soprano Susana Cordón sings in exquisite fashion the beautiful lyrical lines given her by the composer. Her voice is rich and warm, and she perfectly brings to light every nuance of the text, from its most gentle portions to its most dramatic. She also handles the florid passages effortlessly, to the point that I find it impossible to conceive of a better rendition of the work. The Brodsky Quartet’s playing is likewise suave and persuasive, bringing out a multitude of colors, and the mallet work of percussionist Jaime Fernández further enhances the mood of the work. The presentation of the disc is lavish, including a beautifully designed 36-page hardbound booklet. In short, Grundman will doubtless take his place among the pantheon of notable Spanish composers from Albéniz to Benguerel, and his CD will be a most worthwhile addition to the library of any music lover who would enjoy restful and beautiful music. I recommend this CD very highly, but seek out the other releases from this company, too.
FANFARE: David DeBoor Canfield
Works on This Recording
God’s Sketches by Jorge Grundman
Jaime Fernández (Percussion),
Susana Cordón (Soprano)
Brodsky String Quartet
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