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Shapero: Serenade, Etc / Lydian String Quartet


Release Date: 07/29/2003 
Label:  New World Records   Catalog #: 80569   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Harold Shapero
Performer:  Judith EissenbergMary Ruth RayEdwin BarkerRhonda Rider,   ... 
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Lydian String QuartetLydian String Quartet Members
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 1 Hours 8 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews


Harold Shapero's music is a treasure, and how fortunate we are even at this late date to be able to recognize his relatively small output of shapely, finely crafted, highly polished works as the gems that they are. New World's dedication to the cause at a time when no one appeared to care about him represents a true labor of love and a musical contribution of the highest importance. In order to understand why, it's necessary to take a moment to review Shapero's career. Lauded from youth as one of America's most brilliant musical talents, he studied with an impressive assortment of fine teachers, including Krenek, Piston, and Nadia Boulanger, before settling comfortably into a Stravinsky-derived
Read more neoclassical style every bit as accomplished as his model's (a fact that Stravinsky himself recognized).


Shapero entered his mid-20s (in the 1940s) with several compositional successes to his credit, including a terrific Serenade for Strings and the work by which he is probably best known to record collectors thanks to recordings by Previn (New World) and Bernstein (Sony, mono)--the Stravinsky-meets-Beethoven Symphony for Classical Orchestra. His success was not to last, however. Like so many of our most important and most characterful composers, from David Diamond to Alan Hovhaness, his work was eclipsed by the rise of the academic serialists, and to make matters worse his own "school" (including Copland) turned on him for his perceived lack of formal originality. And so for decades Shapero virtually stopped composing.


Recognition came at last only in 1986, when Previn and the Los Angeles Philharmonic gave a series of very successful performances of the Symphony for Classical Orchestra (later recorded), and we are ever so slowly getting to know Shapero's music as new recordings arrive or old ones reappear, surely not as often as they should.


The Serenade in D for String Quintet is a chamber reduction of the Serenade for Strings, made in 1998 so as to render the work more readily performable. We can only hope that the original sees the light of day soon, but in the meantime we have a superb illustration of everything that makes Shapero's music so wonderful: the formal elegance, rhythmic vitality, and memorable thematic material. Like Poulenc, Shapero knows exactly how to put old wine into new bottles. For example, the Serenade's Menuetto has all of Haydn's insouciance but the language is clearly modern; and the Larghetto's sweet but never cloying lyricism has a Mozartian simplicity and grace, but you'd never accuse Shapero of imitation. What he has done is to re-imagine classical forms and style in contemporary terms, and the result sounds delightfully fresh, vibrant, and new. The same holds true for this excellent performance by the Lydian String Quartet and double bass player Edwin Barker, featuring excellent intonation, secure rhythm, and naturally flowing tempos.


Shapero's String Quartet dates from 1941, when the composer was only 21, and it has an interesting slow-fast-slow-fast shape. It recalls the style of Piston, with whom Shapero was studying at the time, but already the hallmarks of the composer's mature style are securely in place. The String Trio, composed at the age of 17, shows an amazing precocity, not least because it's an atonal work reflecting the influence of Krenek--and despite the acerbic harmonic style it's actually quite charming and fun to listen to. Shapero simply couldn't write "dull" for love or money. It's also perhaps the ultimate irony that he was later ignored and disparaged by adherents of a style that he had quite literally outgrown in his teenage years. Well, there's no excuse for not enjoying him now, particularly in these fine performances, recorded with great fidelity and realism. Unquestionably, this recording represents a chamber music event of the first importance. Don't by any means miss it. [8/2/2003]
--David Hurwitz, ClassicsToday.com Read less

Works on This Recording

1.
Serenade for String Quintet in D major by Harold Shapero
Performer:  Judith Eissenberg (Violin), Mary Ruth Ray (Viola), Edwin Barker (Double Bass),
Rhonda Rider (Cello), Daniel Stepner (Violin)
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Lydian String Quartet
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1945/1999; USA 
Date of Recording: 06/13/2000 
Venue:  Slosberg Auditorium, Brandeis Univ., MA 
Length: 35 Minutes 18 Secs. 
2.
Trio for Strings by Harold Shapero
Performer:  Daniel Stepner (Violin), Mary Ruth Ray (Viola), Rhonda Rider (Cello)
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Lydian String Quartet Members
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1937; USA 
Date of Recording: 05/30/2002 
Venue:  Slosberg Auditorium, Brandeis Univ., MA 
Length: 11 Minutes 1 Secs. 
3.
Quartet for Strings by Harold Shapero
Performer:  Rhonda Rider (Cello), Mary Ruth Ray (Viola), Daniel Stepner (Violin),
Judith Eissenberg (Violin)
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Lydian String Quartet
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1941; USA 
Date of Recording: 11/12/2001 
Venue:  Slosberg Auditorium, Brandeis Univ., MA 
Length: 20 Minutes 56 Secs. 

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