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Gerard Schurmann: Music For Violin And Piano

Schurmann / Park / Korzhev
Release Date: 07/10/2012 
Label:  Toccata Classics   Catalog #: 133   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Gerard Schurmann
Performer:  Alyssa ParkMikhail Korzhev
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 1 Hours 12 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews

SCHURMANN Duo for Violin and Piano. Leotaurus. Autumn Leaves. Contrasts Alyssa Park (vn); Mikhail Korzhev (pn) TOCCATA 0133 (72:31)

Violinist Alyssa Park and pianist Mikhail Korzhev have assembled a program of music by Gerard Schurmann, including two works for violin and piano and two for piano alone. Toccata has supplemented this musical offering, in its now familiar way, with a generous program booklet, this time featuring a biographical essay by Schurmann’s wife, Carolyn Read more Nott, an explication of the music by Schurmann himself, and notes on the performances by Park and Korzhev.

The program opens with the five-movement Duo for Violin and Piano (at more than 25 minutes, the longest work on the program), which Schurmann’s notes identify as the first piece for which he received a commission after his arrival in the United States in 1981. The first movement, “Intrada,” establishes his at times dissonant and spare, and at times lyrical and opulent, melodic and harmonic style. Parks and Korzhev engage in effective dialog, with fey arpeggiated passages in the piano often answered lyrically by the violin. The “Ditirambo” adapts this hybrid style to music at once more rhythmic and more declamatory, sporting passages that could almost have been borrowed from Alban Berg’s Violin Concerto. Parks plays, as those who have followed her career after she won a prize in the 1990 Tchaikovsky Competition will recognize, with a lush tone production, enhanced here by keen rhythmic acuity, sharp musical penetration, and flexibility of expression. The “Notturno” that follows continues in the vein of the most reflective passages of the “Intrada,” with an allusive middle section in which Park and Korzhev create a sense of searching reflection that returns at the movement’s end. The fourth movement, a “Burlesca,” includes moments of relaxation amid its skittish and generally manic frenzy. The duo concludes with a brief mediation, “Alba,” that begins with a cadenza for violin similar in atmosphere to the “Aurora” from Eugène Ysaÿe’s Fifth Solo Violin Sonata. Throughout, Korzhev sounds sympathetic to Schurmann’s almost Impressionistic milieu, marked by brief, isolated arpeggios, and Park matches him in these passages as well as in the more dissonant, thrusting ones; in both, the two instrumentalists maintain rapt communication, making the near half-hour pass in what seems only a matter of minutes.

Schurmann describes Leotaurus as a set of variations written for pianist Tamás Vásáry, highlighting contrasts between the astrological signs Leo and Taurus. Passages range from the animated through the mysterious. Korzhev brings an intoxicating rhythmic drive to the third variation without obliterating its colorful melodic ornament. The fourth variation blends strong statement with silvery passages, while the fifth probes deeply into the darker side of the theme (drawn, according to Vásáry, from the composer’s Piano Concerto from 1972–73), as does the sixth variation. The seventh emerges as strongly contrapuntal, and the eighth as flashing kaleidoscopic textures and timbres. The somber ninth variation leads to the 10th, which brings the piece to a vigorous and highly satisfying conclusion. While neither of these compositions seems to make, with the strength and rigor of musical argument, overt gestures that ingratiate them with listeners, they still forge that connection, by dint of continuously shifting textures and the inherent interest of their musical development.

The four-movement Autumn Leaves , from 2007, the program’s most recent composition, exercises a different kind of appeal in its more forthrightly nostalgic lyricism, in which melodies in the first movement that leap over wide ranges but still maintain their sense of songful legato (and, of course, the Affekt that the composer identifies in his notes and that his wife connects to strong feeling for his earlier life in Holland and England). Park and Korzhev bring to the Arietta that follows the same hushed misterioso that they revealed in the Duo. The slow section in the succeeding Allegro contains some of the most deeply affecting passages of all, and the final Moderato brings the work to a gentle conclusion. Its resolution in a major triad creates an almost inevitable sense of closure—more effective in that regard, perhaps, than the similar open sounds at the ends of some works by Paul Hindemith.

Schurmann based Contrasts (from 1972–73), written for John Ogden, on shifting summer weather, divided into four movement: “Cumulonimbus,” “Summer Rain,” “Becalmed,” and “Undersun.” These provide imaginatively descriptive passages (consider the rainfall in the second movement) in an idiomatic pianistic language that—at least in Korzhev’s performance—sound virtuosic without losing sight of the composer’s essentially calm lyricism, to which the whole returns, as in the third movement, after more strenuous moments. Even the fleetingly toccata-like last movement repeatedly finds this Zen-like center before ending in a flurry.

While only tonal in a highly attenuated sense, Schurmann’s musical language never leaves listeners without clearly identifiable musical processes upon which to fasten their attention, and music so involving tends to pass very quickly—Schurmann’s certainly does. In Park’s and Korzhev’s poetic yet strong-minded performances, captured in clear recorded sound, the music reveals a great deal of fancy despite its rigor, and its shifting moods should provide a beguiling hour for almost any listener.

FANFARE: Robert Maxham
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Works on This Recording

Duo for violin & piano by Gerard Schurmann
Performer:  Alyssa Park (Violin), Mikhail Korzhev (Piano)
Period: Contemporary 
Written: 1982-1983 
Venue:  Vaughncille Joseph Meng Concert Hall, Ca 
Length: 25 Minutes 10 Secs. 
Leotaurus, theme & variations for piano by Gerard Schurmann
Performer:  Mikhail Korzhev (Piano)
Period: Modern 
Written: 1974-1975 
Venue:  Vaughncille Joseph Meng Concert Hall, Ca 
Length: 12 Minutes 17 Secs. 
Autumn Leaves, for violin & piano by Gerard Schurmann
Performer:  Alyssa Park (Violin), Mikhail Korzhev (Piano)
Period: Contemporary 
Written: 2007 
Venue:  Vaughncille Joseph Meng Concert Hall, Ca 
Length: 15 Minutes 44 Secs. 
Contrasts, for piano by Gerard Schurmann
Performer:  Mikhail Korzhev (Piano)
Period: Modern 
Written: 1972-1973 
Venue:  Vaughncille Joseph Meng Concert Hall, Ca 
Length: 14 Minutes 13 Secs. 

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