Thursday, July 31, 2014

Arnold Rosner-"Music by Arnold Rosner" (Laurel Records)

This is an extremely personal post for me; Arnold Rosner was one of my closest friends (He passed away on his 68th birthday, November 8th 2013) and is one of the greatest composers (American or otherwise) of our time. It has always been tragic to me that most listeners, even those who are extremely passionate and knowledgeable, sophisticated in their taste of musics- are unaware of Rosner's canon, and likely have not heard his name before. His music has been recorded on Albany records, Laurel, Harmonia Mundi (American Masters 3), Gasparo, Opus One, and then finally Naxos..I wrote to Naxos for years telling them to record Rosner and happily they finally did. Even with these important and magnificent records out there-most people have not heard them. I won't bore everyone with parables and nostalgic stories-but I can assure that you are about to be introduced to the powerful music of one of the 20th-21st century masters. His music stands alone, towering, achingly beautiful and with unique voice that is Rosner's alone. Please enjoy this offering, there will be much more Rosner to come.

To download the music @320kbps instead of 256kbps go here:

Performed by the Jerusalem Symphony Orchestra, Conducted by David Amos

Concerto Grosso No. 1 in d minor, Opus 60 (17:10)

1. I Alla Francese: Grave Allegro; Grave (6:51)
2. II Aria: Adagio (5:28)
3. III Allegro (4:52)

Five Meditations, Opus 36 (18:37)

featuring Mina Seidman-Haas, English Horn and Irena Kessler, harp
4. I Fugue: Adagio (3:53)
5. II Carol: Allegretto Grazio (1:51)
6. III Air: Andante (4:26)
7. IV Dance: Allegro (1:56)
8. V Motet: Andante Sostenuto (6:29)

9. Prelude to Act 2 of "The Chronicle of Nine" Op. 81 (5:44)

10. A Gentle Musicke, Opus 44 (10:18)
featuring Nahu Zeidel, flute, Performed by The Jerusalem Symphony Orchestra

11. Magnificat, Opus 72 for Choir & Brass Quartet (14:16)

The Choir of the Cathedral Church of St. Paul and
The Clarion Brass Quartet, San Diego, California.

TOTAL TIME 66:20 ADD (c) Laurel Records

Arnold Rosner was one of the most unusual and fascinating American composers of his generation. Born in New York City in 1945, he took piano lessons as a boy—as did so many Jewish boys his age—although he did not especially enjoy the routine of practicing. But he did get hooked on classical music. Certain sounds in particular appealed to him—especially juxtapositions of major and minor triads—and before long he was working these sounds into music of his own. His family—fully aware of the remote prospects of success offered by a career in classical music composition—encouraged him to pursue more practical endeavors. So he attended the Bronx High School of Science, whence he graduated at the age of 15, and then New York University with a major in mathematics. But all the while he was composing—sonatas, symphonies, concertos, etc.—not that anyone else was especially interested in hearing the fruits of his labors. His composer-heroes at the time were Alan Hovhaness, Ralph Vaughan Williams, and Carl Nielsen, and their influence on his early creative work is readily apparent.
Graduating from NYU before he turned 20, Rosner then spent a year at the Belfer Graduate School of Science, continuing his studies in mathematics. But, no longer able to resist the inner drive to pursue musical composition as his primary activity, he entered the University of Buffalo the following September, with a major in music composition. This was 1966, when the serial approach dominated university music departments, and young composers were often coerced into adopting it, either directly or indirectly. Rosner was adamantly opposed to serialism and refused to embrace it. At Buffalo he was subjected to the tutelage of Leo Smit, Lejaren Hiller, Henri Pousseur, and Allen Sapp, who dismissed his creative efforts with varying degrees of contempt. In describing his educational experience at Buffalo, Rosner later wrote that he “learned almost nothing” from these pedants. While his fellow composition students may have capitulated to the pressure to embrace the style du jour, Rosner stubbornly refused to accept a view of music that violated his most fervently held artistic values. And so, in response, his department rejected the work he had submitted as his dissertation: a large composition for orchestra entitled Perchance to Dream, which has yet to be performed. Realizing that they would never accept the kind of work he considered legitimately meaningful, he gave up the notion of a doctorate in composition, and decided instead to pursue a degree in music theory, with a dissertation—the first ever—on the music of Alan Hovhaness. He completed this successfully, and in the process became the first recipient of a doctorate in music granted by the State University of New York.
Rosner devoted the rest of his life to writing the music that represented his personal aesthetic ideals, supporting himself through academic positions at colleges in and around the New York City area. His most enduring position was as Professor of Music at Kingsborough Rosner teachingCommunity College (of the City University of New York), which he held for thirty years, until his death in 2013.
Although his music attracted little attention and enjoyed very few performances, Rosner persisted nonetheless. Fiercely independent, he shunned any of the institutions or organizations with which he might have aligned himself. Despite spending most of his career in academic settings, he never took advantage of the opportunities open to academic composers. As desperately as he sought acceptance, he would have it only on his own terms. He did little to cultivate performances of his music, so initially his work attracted the attention of only a small number of equally independent-minded musicians and music lovers. As the years passed, his works gained no foothold within the world of professional musicians, and he became increasingly embittered.
As he wrote to a friend in 2009:
Playing BridgeDeciding simply to bypass the conventional music institutions, he began to produce recordings of his music and make them available to the public. These recordings, where a sizable portion of his output may be heard, have been highly praised by most of the review media, and Rosner has begun to develop a following of committed enthusiasts who recognize the value of his unique voice.My music is plenty obscure now, but when I was writing the [works of the 1960s and 70s] I was so nowhere that I am astonished now that I had the impetus and nerve to keep up doing it. Indeed, as we speak, I am listening to [the recording of my Symphony No. 5], which I wrote with NO prospect of ever hearing it. I do it because I have to do it—that is why I am on this planet.
In addition to music, Rosner’s other passions included exotic cooking and playing contract bridge, in which he was a tournament champion.

About the Music

Arnold Rosner was one of the true maverick composers of his generation. In some ways it is easier to define his approach to music by noting what he shunned rather than by what he embraced. Rosner rejected all the compositional styles that seized the limelight during the course of his career. Though in many ways a staunch traditionalist, he didn’t align himself with more conservative approaches either. While he decried what he saw as the sterility of the serialists and the experimentalists, as well as the mindlessness of the minimalists, he also loathed the sentimentality of the neo-romantics and the dry formalism of the neo-classicists. He developed his musical ideals around the time that he entered high school, refining and elaborating this vision throughout the remainder of his life. He paid a significant price for his stubborn refusal to adopt the musical values of his time.
Rosner’s op. 1, a short piano piece, was dated 1956, when he was 11. He was fascinated by modal scales, as well as by the juxtaposition of major and minor scales and triads. These devices formed the initial basis of his musical style, although some years later he suppressed much of his early music (up through op. 30 [1965]). But he retained them in his list of works, and released some for performance after revising them. Excellent examples of this period are the String Quartet No. 2, op. 19 (1963, rev. 1993) and the Piano Sonata No. 1, op. 25 (1963).
As he wrote in 1989:
My earliest compositions were most strongly influenced by the Romantics. In my ‘teens I had already written four symphonies clearly in the Dvorak–Mahler–Shostakovich lineage. By 1967, two distinct forces brought about at least a temporary change. The first was the simple fact that virtually none of my works had been performed and that my full orchestral scores seemed relegated to permanent obscurity. The second was the study, at the graduate level, of Renaissance music in general and the works of Josquin des Prez in particular.
With remarkable ease Rosner managed to integrate the modal polyphony of the Renaissance and early Baroque, and later the pre-tonal harmony of late Medieval dance music, into the language he had begun to develop—a language that was already quite compatible with such infusions. He embraced the free triadicism and rhythmic Rosner - Homepagephraseology of that music, and the result became the substructure on which most of his subsequent work was predicated, regardless of how far from those sources he ventured. He saw a world of difference between the free triadicism of Monteverdi and Gesualdo, and the major-minor dualism of Classical 18th-century tonality, which he despised and found insipid. He enriched these rather austere elements with a pinch of Judaica and other ethnic seasonings, and combined them with the rich luxuriance of 19th-century orchestration and a Romantic sense of drama. In some works he displayed a Hindemithian vigor and in others the stark brutality of Shostakovich. These basic elements may seem to some antithetical to each other, but therein lies the remarkable individuality of Rosner’s music. When he discovered pieces such as theFantasia on a Theme of Thomas Tallis  by Vaughan Williams, Mysterious Mountain  by Alan Hovhaness, the symphonies of Carl Nielsen, and the Eleventh Symphony of Shostakovich, he regarded them as precedents that justified the ideal vision he sought to realize.
But what makes Rosner’s music worthy of serious consideration, rather than being merely a homogenization of earlier styles, is the way that his unusual language is capable of embracing an enormous expressive range—far broader than one might imagine possible—from serene beauty to violent rage, with many points in between. And despite its fusion of seemingly incongruous elements, most of his music is readily accessible to even untutored listeners. Among the finest examples of Rosner’s work from the 1970s and early 80s are: String Quartet No. 4, op. 56, Symphony No. 5, op. 57, Requiem, Op. 59, Musique de Clavecin, op. 61,Sonata for Horn and Piano, op. 71, Magnificat, op. 72, and—one of his most ambitious compositions—the full-length opera, The Chronicle of Nine, op. 81, from which he extracted his Symphony No. 7, “The Tragedy of Queen Jane.”
In 1983 another feature was integrated with remarkable fluidity into Rosner’s style. Revealing a surprising affinity with some minimalist practices, this technique, which he called “stile estatico,” first appeared in a work for two pianos called Of Numbers and of Bells, op. 79. In an interview published during the last year of his life, he discussed such pieces in which he used “a complex cross-rhythm or cross-color overlap.”
I sometimes have sections and even whole movements that feature cross-rhythms and irregular combinations of harmony or scoring. Imagine high-register strings moving once per second, trombones once every two seconds, and harp and chimes once every five seconds. Of course, they are often “out of phase” with each other. I try for a colorful texture with high spiritual intent.
In addition to Of Numbers and of Bells, among the works that feature stile estatico are Symphony No. 8, “Trinity,” op. 84, Gematria, op. 93, Piano Quintet No. 2, op. 103, and Three Northern Sketches, op. 117.
Arnold Rosner’s final output comprises three operas, eight symphonies, six string quartets, three a cappella Mass settings and the large Requiem, three piano sonatas, and a host of other orchestral, choral, and chamber works.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Palestrina-Missa Papae Marcelli, Missa Brevis

This Hyperion recording features David Hill and the Westminster Cathedral Choir. Pretty classic imo.
My favorite recording of Papae Marcelli is actually the Naxos account with Jeremy Summerly and the
Oxford Camerata. It's brilliant. If anyone wants it uploaded let me know, I will have to find it though!

Monday, July 28, 2014

Wallingford Riegger, Alan Hovhaness, Henry Cowell

It's the Hovhaness Concerto No. 1 for Orchestra on this classic recording that I really enjoy. Cowell's Symphony No. 4 is also of much interest. Enjoy

 New link:

Sergei Vasilenko-Concerto for Balalaika & Orchestra "In Springtime" Suite for Flute & Orchestra

Here's a couple of rarities; the only other Vasilenko discs I have are two on Marco Polo, one of

which contains his best known (if you can even call it that) "Indian" and "Chinese" suites. Enjoy.

Segei Vasilenko (30 March 1872 to 11 March 1956) was a Russian and Soviet composer and music teacher whose compositions showed a strong tendency towards mysticism.
Vasilenko was born in Moscow and originally studied Law at Moscow University, but then changed direction and studied at the Moscow Conservatory from 1896 to 1901 as a pupil of Sergei Taneyev and Mikhail Ippolitov-Ivanov. From 1903 to 1904 he was the conductor of a private opera house in Moscow. For several years he was the organiser and conductor of the Historic Concerts of the Russian Musical Society. He then became a Professor at the Moscow Conservatory, where his students included Aram Khachaturian, Nikolai Roslavets, Nikolai Rakov and Aarre Merikanto.
Vasilenko was awarded the Order of the Red Banner as well as the title "Merited Worker of Arts". In 1947, he was awarded the Stalin Prize. He died in Moscow in 1956.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Vaughan Williams-Fantasia for Piano & Orchestra, William Mathias-Concertos for Piano No.1, & No.2. World premiere recordings.

I bought this recently, for the VW in particular. It's hard to believe (but exciting!) that there still are many unpublished or only recently premiered and recorded pieces by the British master. Enjoy

World Premiere Recordings
Vaughan Williams Fantasia for Piano & OrchestraWilliam Mathias Piano Concerto No. 1William Mathias Piano Concerto No. 2Ulster OrchestraGeorge VassMark Bebbington, Piano

Another spectacular coup for SOMM is the recording and release of the world premiere of Vaughan Williams’s Fantasy for Piano & Orchestra (Manuscript edited by Dr. Graham Parlett) coupled with two more first recordings, the  William Mathias’s Piano Concerto No. 1 (edited by the composer’s daughter, Dr. Rhiannon Mathias and Geraint Lewis) and Mathias’s Piano Concerto No. 2.
“Much has been learned about Vaughan Williams’s early development as a composer since his widow’s decision to lift the ban on performance and publication of several large scores which he had withdrawn or laid aside at about the time of his return from the First World War in 1919.
In a letter in June 1903 to the critic Edwin Evans, he included a list of my “most important works”. For years writers on Vaughan Williams have singled out mainly songs ( eg Linden Lea, 1901) to illustrate his progress at this time. No writer in, say, 1958 would have mentioned (because they did not know they existed) a string quartet of 1897, the Serenade of 1898, the piano quintet of 1898, The Garden of Proserpineof 1901 for soprano, chorus and orchestra, Heroic Elegy (1901), Bucolic Suite (1900), and the Fantasia for piano and orchestra. Today these works have been performed, some of them have been published and recorded, and the result is that we can hear a Vaughan Williams even more wide‑ranging than we had guessed.” (Excerpt from CD liner notes by Michael Kennedy).
The single-movement Fantasia (1896-1902, revised 1904) contains arresting insights into the musical influences, inventive outlook and technical development that helped shape its young creator’s mature artistic personality. Vaughan Williams began work on the Fantasia in 1896, possibly during his second spell as a student at the Royal College of Music in London, revised the piece six years later and made additional refinements in the summer and autumn of 1904. Its carefully copied manuscript was deposited in the British Library, removed from circulation by the composer’s widow and boldly marked in her hand with the word ‘withdrawn’ in red ink.
Mark Bebbington, like generations  of performers before him, knew nothing of the Fantasia. The vital spark that led to the work’s debut on disc was embedded in a review of the pianist’s SOMM recording of Rawsthorne and Ferguson piano concertos. “The critic asked if SOMM and I might be interested in investigating the Vaughan Williams Fantasia, which immediately sparked our interest,” he recalls. “I’d never heard of it, even though it does appear in the standard catalogue of the composer’s works.” Siva Oke, SOMM’s owner and recording producer, swiftly contacted the Vaughan Williams Charitable Trust to confirm the work’s existence. She was delighted to discover that it was both genuine and readily accessible. Bebbington soon visited the British Library, called up the score and decided within minutes that it was worth recording. “There’s such an obvious degree of care and dedication invested in the piece,” he says.
Nobody knows for whom the Fantasia was written, or why the piece was shelved, although we can be sure the piece was never performed. Its revival owes much to Mark Bebbington’s determined hard work, SOMM’s active and insightful support and the Vaughan Williams Charitable Trust’s decision to allow formerly suppressed pieces to emerge from obscurity. “I’m at one with their desire to promote ‘withdrawn’ compositions globally and let concert audiences and record listeners decide for themselves,” Bebbington comments. “We’re not dealing with a buried masterpiece with the Fantasia. But there is such an obvious degree of care and dedication invested in the piece, and it  clearly points the way to later works and the genius to come.”
The Fantasia’s range of stylistic influences and musical gestures, observes Mark Bebbington, testifies to Vaughan Williams’ intellectual curiosity and the wide scope of his search for self-identity as a composer. Youthful exploration also lies at the heart of the CD's coupling s-- William Mathias’s  Piano Concerto No.1 and Piano Concerto No.2. “The Mathias concertos are extraordinary compositions,” Bebbington notes. “You can hear a young man taking on Bartók and coming up with something really very striking in both these Concertos.”
The Concerto form always held a fascination for my father, writes Dr. Rhiannon Mathias. His compositional output was regularly punctuated with Concertos – three for piano, one for orchestra, one each for flute, oboe, clarinet, violin, horn, organ, harp and harpsichord.  He wrote his Piano Concerto No. 1, Op. 2, in 1955 when he was a student at Aberystwyth University, and ‘premiered’ the work (the solo part together with his own orchestral reduction) in 1956 as part of his B. Mus compositional ‘exercise’: Edmund Rubbra, the external examiner, was, by all accounts, taken aback and promptly awarded him a First Class degree! In that same year, my father won an open scholarship to the Royal Academy of Music, London, to study composition with Lennox Berkeley and piano with Peter Katin.
The public premiere of the First Concerto took place in London on 19 May 1957 when it was performed by the composer (then in his second year at the Academy), the London Welsh Orchestra and Rhoslyn Davies (conductor). Even though several more performances were given in the 1950s, my father chose to withdraw the work. Shortly before his death in 1992, however, he rediscovered the piece and agreed to consider it for publication pending minor revisions.  Although composed when he was just 20 years old, Mathias musical fingerprints – in particular,  acerbic harmonies and syncopated rhythms – already mark this remarkably assured score.
The Piano Concerto No. 2, Op. 13, is the first expression of an important and more mature phase in my father’s creative development. Commissioned by the Welsh Committee of the Arts Council of Great Britain, the Concerto was premiered at the 1961 Llandaff Festival by Robin Wood, the London Philharmonic Orchestra and Meredith Davies (conductor). Unlike its predecessor, this four-movement piece is primarily concerned with lyrical qualities and with the spirit of dance but it also contains music of dramatic power, intense and ornate in expression


I have been meaning to create a blog for years, and finally I am doing so. When time allows I shall try to share quite a bit, everything from 12th century to contemporary, with an emphasis on the 20th century (Hovhaness, Lou Harrison, Cowell stateside, Europe, etc.) Soviet composers, lesser known composers and the esoteric in general; more than anything however will be whatever I love and cherish! Please do comment and share your thoughts, sharing a passion for music is only heightened when there's a "meeting of minds". Best regards to all.