his is a broad cross-section of Arnold Rosner's solo piano music, beginning with music he wrote as a teenager in the early 1960s. In these works, beginning with "Adam and Eve", (written when Rosner was 16) and ending with "Etz Chaim", from 1993, there is a careful sense of craft, without any sense of preciousness, enlivened by extra-musical dramatic inspiration.
Rosner admits that his "Adam and Eve" is “juvenilia,” but is obviously proud enough of it to include it in a major survey of his piano music. He should be; it is confident and distinctive, and points the way to the composer’s mature style. The three sonatas span a 15 year period of Rosner’s creative life, from 1963 to 1978, and seem to represent very different moods. The earliest sonata is imbued with a jazzy vitality, while the second sonata is built around the unusual three-part division of toccata/passacaglia/toccata, that is, a broad and calm center flanked by music of speed and high energy. The last of the sonatas, "Sonata Eterea" is also constructed in an unconventional way, opening and closing with slow movements, with a gentle Pastorale at the center. The work, which is intentionally meditative, is effectively solemn and inward looking; it's some of the most personal music on the disc.
The short works from the early 70s, "And He Sent Forth a Dove" and "Wedding March" are both sweetly lilting dance-like compositions with the harmonic influences of Israeli songs. The most recent work here is "Etz Chaim", written in 1993. The title is Hebrew for tree of life, one of the central metaphors of Jewish thought. Rosner sets up a steep challenge for himself here, attempting to conjure the very mystery of life, as well as a kind of resolution (Traditionally, Jews do not expect to ever solve this mystery; it is too great. But to ponder and reflect upon it is natural and provocative, and that is the direction that Rosner takes in this moving eight-minute musical prayer.)
Last night at the memorial concert for Arnold, the 1st and 3rd movements of Rosner's Sonata No. 1 were performed, as well as Sonata No. 3 "Sonata Eterea" in it's entirety, among other works. The memorial began with a most touching eulogy by Rosner's sister, Irene Rosner David. Directly after, a slide show of Arnold (from baby all the way up to his last couple years) was projected, whilst a piano piece (not included on this disc) gently played. My eyes succumbed to tears from that point forward.
1) Adam and Eve, op. 4 (1961) [4:16]
Piano Sonata No. 1 in F major, op. 25 (1963)
2) Allegro molto e marcato [6:01]
3) Largo [4:30]
4)Allegro con spirito [4:38]
Piano Sonata No. 2 in A major, op. 48 (1970)
5)Toccata I (Allegro con fuoco) [4:44]
6)Passacaglia (Largo) [3:39]
7)Toccata II (Allegro con fuoco) [3:35]
8) And He Sent Forth a Dove, op. 49 (1971) [2:06]
9) Wedding March, op. 53 (1971) [2:48]
Piano Sonata No. 3 in A minor "Sonata Eterea", op. 69 (1978)
11)Pastorale (Allegro) [4:05]
12)Benediction (Adagio) [5:25]
13) Etz Chaim, op. 99 (1993) [8:07]