Notes and Editorial Reviews
String Quartet Nos. 8 and 9. Piano Quintet
Esterhazy Qrt; Jerome Lowenthal (pn)
ALBANY 1426 (51:35)
Born in Germany to a Jewish family, Samuel Adler came to the United States as a child and was educated at Boston and Harvard Universities. He studied composition with Aaron Copland, Paul Hindemith, Walter Piston, and Randall Thompson. He also studied conducting at Tanglewood with Serge Koussevitzky. In the 1950s, he joined the military and founded the Seventh Army Symphony Orchestra. Between 1966 and
1995, he was Professor of Composition at the Eastman School of Music. Later, he taught composition at Juilliard and was awarded the William Schuman Scholars Chair. The members of the internationally renowned Esterhazy Quartet are Eva Szekely and Susan Jensen, violins; Leslie Perna, viola; and Darry Dolezol, cello. They play Adler’s Eighth String Quartet with great intensity and knowledge of the composer’s style. Adler writes tuneful as well as dissonant passages and decorates them with inventive textures. He has a musical palette full of harmonic colors that he frequently uses to make memorable lyrical images. His first movement makes me think of the shimmer of moonlight washing across a night blooming flower. Adler says that the second movement should be played fast and with humor. To encourage that, he uses a great deal of pizzicato, spiced with intriguing rhythms. For the third section he reverts to a slower pace and calls for expressive playing. This section offers the cellist some interesting low passages and provides a bit of respite from previous rhythms. It gets the audience ready for the fast and furious Finale that shows the myriad capabilities of the players. There is a comparable recording of this piece: the Charleston String Quartet released it in 1997, but they don’t play quite as confidently as the Esterhazy group does on the Albany recording.
Joining the Esterhazy Quartet for the Quintet is the internationally known concert pianist and Juilliard professor, Jerome Lowenthal. The piece starts out much like the Eighth String Quartet, with the dark-toned harmonies we might associate with Schoenberg or Berg, mixed with varied textures and a bit of rhythmic piano virtuosity. Adler has maintained a fine balance among all five instruments and he treats us to some exquisite blends of their varied tones. Adler actually likes to play the viola and he writes particularly well for it. His String Quartet No. 9 begins with a fast movement, which the composer suggests be played with a great deal of energy. Since there are few passages in which all four instruments play together, the section is made up of duets and trios that allow each instrument to be heard clearly. The second movement, written with exquisite harmonies and based on a chant, is worked from a completely different point of view. Adler follows it with his take on a Mendelssohn scherzo. He succeeds in composing some light and amusing music, and it is completely his own. His Finale again involves the themes from the first movement, but this time he makes them into a vigorous dance that completes the work in a most satisfying manner. Although some of the material for this disc was recorded in 2009, the sound is fresh and clear. Adler is a composer whose works should have a wider hearing than they currently enjoy. Listeners who have any interest at all in contemporary music will want to own this disc.
FANFARE: Maria Nockin
Works on This Recording
Quintet for Piano and Strings by Samuel Adler
Jerome Lowenthal (Piano)
Esterházy String Quartet
Period: 20th Century
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