Notes and Editorial Reviews
Cheyenne Rabbi 1940s
Be Seeing You
What I Wanted to Tell You.
Jessica Krash (pn);
Ian Swensen (vn);
Elisabeth Adkins (vn);
Tanya Anisimova (vc);
Paul Cigan (cl);
Carole Tafoya Evans (vn);
Mark Evans (vc)
ALBANY TROY1420 (72:03)
Readers who were expecting an example here of my proclivity to punning, perhaps along the lines of giving them a “Krash course” in the music of a (likely) unfamiliar composer, will be disappointed. I shall do no such thing. Jennifer Krash seems to be ensconced in the Washington, DC area, where she was born, received her doctorate in composition (from the University of Maryland), and currently teaches, although some of her education took her away from that area (up to Harvard College, and to Juilliard, where she received a Master of Music in piano). A CD of her performances of her own piano music was issued on the Capstone label, but apparently not reviewed in
, as she does not yet appear in the Archive. She has performed throughout Europe and the United States, and was awarded the 2010 “Wammie” for Classical Composer. If you haven’t heard of the “Wammie,” it’s the award given by the Washington Area Music Association, being their version of the Grammy. (I’d like to create the “Spammy,” given for the most ludicrous but creative “Nigerian scam” letter. I have several strong contenders for this award.)
In the present CD, we are given an opportunity to hear Krash in her roles as both a pianist and composer. In the former, she is heard in every track on the CD, although only two of the works are for the solo instrument.
, one of the solo piano works, is comprised of movements entitled “Used Philosophy,” “Used Poetry,” and “Used Opera.” The titles would seem to have little to do with the music (I heard the briefest possible quote from, I think,
in the latter), but were inspired by her son (a philosophy major) who found “used philosophy” books in his local book store next to sections marked “used poetry” and “used opera.” The three brief essays are structurally quite free, and wander in and out of tonality in interesting ways. Similar in style is
Cheyenne Rabbi 1940s
, a 12-minute work for violin and piano. The composer’s grandfather was a rabbi in Cheyenne, Wyoming, but I hear nothing overtly Jewish in the work, which comes across to my ears more as the rhythms of Copland combined with the tonality of, say, the
for Violin and Piano of Roger Sessions, with an occasional infusion of a jazz lick. Lest this seem a strange combination, let me hasten to state that the piece is a really wonderful example of compositional craft.
Be Seeing You
Pictures at an Exhibition,
except that the 14 portraits of women represented herein are by 14 different artists, rather than one. All of the paintings which inspired this music are to be found in two Washington area museums, the National Gallery of Art and the National Museum of Women in the Arts. The composer states that she attempted to choose paintings of women that would explore different facets of being, especially when those were combined in a single painting (e.g., an expression of worry combined with one of peace, or someone who looked both feisty and tired). She came to enjoy imagining what these women had been like when they were not posing for the painter. The work is scored for piano and string quartet, and was premiered by its composer and the Sunrise Quartet heard here at the two galleries that contain the paintings by Modigliani, Giotto, Matisse, Leonardo, and others set in this work. While sometimes dissonant, this opus is filled with life-affirming energy, vigor, and optimism, although its sections (played without pause) are not as clearly delineated as the 16 movements are in Mussorgsky’s pioneering work.
Following is another violin and piano work,
, that was commissioned for a Valentine-themed concert by the 21st Century Consort, and attempts to portray “a romantic relationship, with a few problems.” Some of the gestures in the violin part were suggested to the composer by her violin-playing daughter, Rachel. The work is imbued with a wistful sentimentality that is most appropriate to what it’s portraying. Gentle lines in the violin weave in and around mildly dissonant chord sequences in the piano, the latter sometimes languid, and sometimes of a more punctuated nature.
is the other work for solo piano in this recital, its inspiration coming from Krash’s teaching a college seminar on dangerous music, i.e., various pieces of music that have been banned in many places and times, or that have been provocative in certain ways. Krash’s tribute to such music, if that’s what it is, seems anything but dangerous or provocative. It is, in any case, a finely crafted work, full of interesting and unexpected twists and turns.
What I Wanted to Tell You
is an eight-minute work for cello and piano, the title being inspired by the poet Milton Kessler. In this work, Krash seeks to affirm the relationship between the art song and instrumental music in their mutual capacity to depict various moods and stories. The piano begins with a rather tonally diffuse, wandering introduction and the cello soon sneaks in with a long flowing line. Several minutes into the work, though, the rhythmic activity and vigor of the work increase significantly, and like the other works on the CD, the juxtaposition of disparate stylistic elements is skillfully accomplished to create a work that constitutes a satisfying whole.
The disc closes with Five Bagatelles, written on commission for clarinet, violin, cello, and piano for a monthly chamber music seminar the composer teaches. In the work, she attempts to communicate the joy of playing chamber music, which many musicians affirm as their most enjoyable musical activity. Each of the movements explores an interesting focal point. For instance the second movement trades notes among the players, the fourth imagines impressions that an ancient people might have had of the Rocky Mountains, and the fifth provides the piano some Renaissance-type music, which pianists never get to play, given the late invention of the instrument. It’s all very effective, and the contrasting movements fit together very well with each other.
Krash has important things to say in her own unique compositional voice, and her pianistic gifts, along with the musical talents of the other performers in this well-recorded CD, bring her ideas off convincingly. This arresting and original music ought to be explored by any reader with an interest in the music of our era.
FANFARE: David DeBoor Canfield