Notes and Editorial Reviews
Points and Tails.
A Certain Round of Events
Stephen Gosling (pn);
Lani Poulson (mez);
Susan Wenckus (pn)
ALBANY TROY 907 (74:45)
I recently had a conversation with the composer Richard Wernick, who was for years a celebrated teacher at the University of Pennsylvania, in which he recounted an informal study he conducted with his Penn colleague George Crumb. They were interested in calculating the percentage of their graduate students who actually continued to write music in some sort of professional capacity. The number they arrived at was seven percent. This, from one of the most prestigious musical composition departments in the world. Nobody ever said this was an easy way to make a living.
Morris Rosenzweig, though not a student of Wernick when he labored at Penn as a grad student, is remembered by the elder composer as a stand-out, a brash talent. And so does he continue to be, as a solid member of the seven-percent club. The music on this CD, like the material on the previous Albany release of chamber music I reviewed positively in these pages, has a depth of expression and plasticity of form that is both fascinating and deeply satisfying. Rosenzweig employs a kind of personalized polychromaticism that is highly controlled, coupled with a sense for narrative and poetic nuance that can almost be called neo-Romantic. In my review of his chamber work
, I commented on being struck by the sense of expansiveness that is achieved with economical gestures; “You slip into this shimmering soundscape and encounter an aural alternate universe.” This applies to the solo piano music here,
Points and Tales
, classically conceived as a group of 12 pieces based on the 12 notes of the chromatic scale. There is density at every turn, regardless of the dynamic level or the actual quantity of notes. Rosenzweig’s ability to shape his unconventional language into a coherent and colorful package is extraordinary.
The songs are, to my ears, somewhat less accessible, or in any case, demanding of more intensive listening. The structure is elegantly balanced, nine songs bracketed by solo piano, with an interlude at midpoint. The texts of the songs derive from a number of classical sources, in the original languages, so that the soloist must switch between English, Italian, Chinese, and German. Rosenzweig has a distinctive sense for piano accompaniment, which does not so much follow the vocal line as provide a counterpoint, lending this music an unusually rich texture.
In both the piano music and the song cycle, Rosenzweig’s music is vitally dependent on the ability of the performers to render precise gradations of dynamics and tonality, and in this regard he is extremely well served by the artists on this recording. Stephen Gosling, a British native now working in the US (where he attended Juilliard), is emerging as one of the finest proponents of contemporary music of his generation. And Lani Poulson and Susan Wenckus seem to have the full measure of the beautiful wisdom radiating from this exceptional music.
FANFARE: Peter Burwasser