ARNOLD ROSNER (1945-2013): Piano Quintet No. 2, Op. 103,Violin Sonata No. 2, Op. 54, String Quartet No. 6, Op. 118, CARSON COOMAN (b.1982): Violin Sonata No. 3, Op. 950, Kaleidoscope Sky for Piano Trio, Op. 1359.
Catalogue Number: 01X009
Label: Convivium Records
Description: The more of Rosner's music that becomes available, the more of a major figure, and an unique one, he can be seen to have been. His embrace of harmonic vocabularies that western art music almost seemed to have prided itself on "evolving" away from lend his work an instant recognisability and distinctive cast, and his range of expression in his chosen idiom was simply extraordinary. The Piano Quintet No.2 is an exceptional work of instant emotional and intellectual appeal, yet an overarching sense of strangeness on account of its language being derived almost exclusively from the harmonies of pre-high baroque Europe - Mediæval and Renaissance organum and polyphony, imbued with a Romantic narrative thrust and emotion and framed in a modern sense of atmosphere, with some extraordinary sonorities produced by conventional means and employed sparingly. The musical argument is carried by calm, otherworldly and archaic yet sinewy skeins of string counterpoint with the piano providing sonorous weight and illumination (in the sense of an illuminated manuscript). The Sonata No. 2 for Violin and Piano is somewhat lighter in mood, its bucolic opening movement graceful and singing. Modal writing like this in pastoral mood immediately call to mind Vaughan Williams. The slow movement is a sombre passacaglia, initially austere and restrained but building in passion and intensity to a thunderous climax and then returning to the shadows. The finale is a bluff, genial sonata rondo, extensively developed and leading to a lively fugato which ushers in an unexpectedly weighty climax, a brief but powerful cadenza-like piano solo, and a tempestuous conclusion. A certain austerity, and certainly a sense of intense seriousness, are not uncommon in Rosner's music, augmented perhaps by a sense of it being rooted in another time, perhaps one less sensitive to the concerns of today. The unbridled fury of the 6th Symphony (01U008) and parts of the Requiem (09W054) may have come as a shock to some, though there were suggestions of where this came from in the powerful emotional content of previously heard works. Fin-de-ciècle darkness and sombre expression, or the troubled 20th century’s particular brand of melancholy, though, are relatively rare in his output. The Sixth Quartet is unusual in that Rosner - strongly opinionated and uncompromising but undogmatic - decided to base the work on two 12 note rows, though he was at pains to point out that they are not treated strictly serially, which characteristically he called "the “matrix” and all the associated baggage." He also aimed for an atmosphere similar to the 4th Quartet, which he described as "the darkest so far". Much of the work is very close to the world of late Shostakovich chamber music, and throughout the piece sounds pained, undemonstrative but inconsolably sad. Harsh dissonance is largely avoided, though with characteristic ingenuity the lines weave in and out varying degrees of consonance and dissonance by entwining consonant progressions with a fixed sustained tone with no regard for the level of dissonance of the result. Cooman was a long-time friend of Rosner, and has done invaluable work in representing and promoting the older composer’s music. He describes his own large-scale trio Kaleidoscope Sky as "one of a very large number of pieces that I have written inspired by the landscape and environment of Nantucket Island, Massachusetts." Its bold, incandescent colours capture the flaring, hallucinatory hues of the unearthly light and cloud effects sweeping across the dawn or dusk skies and reflected in mirror-symmetry in the ocean off the coast of the northeastern USA. Over the course of some 20 minutes the music describes with painterly vividness the many moods of sea and sky, from the slow revelation of dawn emerging as if in prayer from the restful night, to the dazzling blaze of the sun's rays. A recurring refrain like a vision of the luminous empyrean calls to mind the composer’s Summer Solstice (12M086) a similarly light-drenched score. Of the similarly kaleidoscopic and refulgent (perhaps this is why it was chosen as a companion piece for this recording) Violin Sonata No.3 (2012), dedicated to Warren Davidson and Donna Amato, who premiered it, Cooman writes: "The first movement, Canto, is an extended “song” that develops through a variety of textures. The second movement, Lamento, is a “fierce lament” in the tradition of an old Irish “caoine.” The third movement, Variazioni, is structured as two presentations of the theme surrounding five free variations. The opening theme is declamatory. The first variation is fast and limber. The second is introspective and stratified. The third is fleeting. The fourth is distant and spare. The fifth is fast and driving. The final theme begins whispered and slowly regains its declamatory nature before an intense coda ends the work." Elisa Bergersen; David K. Jones; Jacqueline Hartley; Simon Callaghan; Robert Atchison.