MP3 Various Artists - The Symphonic Works of Fredrick Kaufman
Critics say "destined to enter the ranks of the standard classical repertoire," (The New York Times) "the overall effect brought one into the realm, of musical genius" (Trenton/Union Leader)
6 MP3 Songs in this album (61:58) !
Related styles: Classical: Symphony, Classical: Chamber Music, Instrumental
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Concerto for Clarinet and Strings
In his program notes, Kaufman described the occasion which gave birth to his Clarinet Concerto: “During the summer of 1987,…a conductor friend called to ask me if I would write him a short clarinet concerto which would be performed by Charles Neidich at Lincoln Center in New York within six weeks. The only stipulations he made was that the work should be easily accessible to the audience and it would show off Neidich’s wonderful tone quality rather than his phenomenal technique. Since I had always wanted to write a clarinet quintet, I accepted the commission with the intention of writing a work that could be performed by a clarinet solo with a string quartet or with a string orchestra.”
The first movement of the concerto, Allegro ma non troppo, is in a modified sonata form, the principal theme of which is a tone row played by the clarinet in its warm, lower register. As the movement progresses, the twelve-note theme is varied rhythmically as well as transposed and occasionally re-arranged, but motivic fragments (such as the ascending or descending half-step followed by a minor third) continue to easily heard. The recapitulation consists of the clarinet playing the initial theme in its upper register with the orchestra accompanying with motivic imitation.
Of the second movement, the composer wrote, “I began composing the second movement, Andante mesto (in three-part form) first, with the intention of contrasting the delicate sounds of a chamber ensemble with the massive sonorities of a string orchestra. The beginning of the movement, therefore, is a dialogue between a solo string quartet and the solo clarinet. The second section begins about a third of the way into the movement where the entire cello and bass sections play a passage pizzicato, which is followed by the viola and violin sections playing a rhythmic background to a series of solo passages played by the clarinet. The first section returns with the solo clarinet and solo quartet playing thematic material introduced at the beginning of the movement.”
The third movement, Allegro ma non troppo; Allegretto scherzando, is a light-hearted movement, resembling a scherzo in mood and a rondo in structure. The short introductory section contains most of the thematic elements of the movement proper. The basic melody of the Allegretto scherzando is a relative, melodically speaking, of Till Eulenspiegel, and like the hero of Strauss’s tone-poem (and de Coster’s story), it is fascinating to follow this melody’s adventures as it progresses from one episode to another (without the sad ending of the original Till of old.)
The exquisite clarinet performance on this recording is by the world-renowned clarinetist, Richard Stoltzman, performing with the Warsaw National Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Carlos Piantini.
DANCE OF DEATH, A Symphonic Movement
The Dance of Death is from the final scene of the third act of Kaufman’s Masada, an opera based on the tragic event that took place in Israel in 73 A.D., when a small group of Jewish settlers defended a fortress (Masada) on top of a mountain, against the overwhelming forces of the Roman army. They held out against the Romans for two years, but eventually were forced to choose what form the end of their struggle would take: resistance to the death; surrender, followed by the humiliation of becoming slaves, or, as a last resort, suicide. The process of making this decision forms the central issue of Kaufman’s opera.
The Dance of Death appears at the end of the opera’s final scene, which opens with the defenses of Masada having been breached, leaving the Jews defenseless before the Roman legion. Rather than surrender, they choose to follow the advise of their leader, Eleazer, to take their own lives. The settling is a darkened stage. The audience watches the mass suicide as the dancers (wearing abstract illuminated costumes) perform to the tortured sounds of the Dance of Death.
Most of the motifs of the dance became the thematic material of the arias and dances that are performed throughout the opera. Stylistically, the dance is a summary of major twentieth-century compositional techniques, such as polytonality, atonality, and aleatory, which often stand in contrast to passages of more traditional music.
The London Times called Kaufman''s "Dance of Death one of the greatest works of the 20th century" upon it''s premiere in 1989 at London''s Queen Elizabeth Hall. Maestro Carlos Piantini conducts the English Sinfonietta in this live recording.
Concerto for Violoncello and String Orchestra, “Kaddish”
Kaufman wrote his Cello Concerto (Kaddish is the Hebrew word for the prayer for the dead) in 1985 in memory of his father and mother who died within six months of each other. Kaufman notes, “as I wrote the piece, I thought about my parents'' personalities: my father, a devout and extremely intelligent man, with untapped musical talent and a passionately erratic personality that reflected his strong Romanian/Moldavian background – plus too many years of sweatshop work; my mother, a product of New York’s lower-east-side poverty in the late 20s and early 30s, with a passion for life and fun, and a driving nervous energy that manifested itself in overt loquaciousness. Although the concerto is not programmatic in nature, I did think of the solo cello part with respect to the complexities of my father’s personality and the driving energy of the solo violin part for that of my mother. I also chose the cello as the solo instrument because of the magnificence of its sound and its capability to express pathos, warmth and exhilaration in one breath.”
The concerto is written in one extended movement which is divided into two parts that are separated by a demanding cello cadenza. The composition makes extensive use of a variety of 20th century techniques that include unique approaches to glissando, fall offs, harmonics and other approaches that Bernard Holland of the New York Times called "brilliant, rich, unique and exciting.”
Israeli born cellist Yehuda Hanani premiered the work in 1986 at New York’s famed Lincoln Center. That performance brought Kaufman some of his greatest reviews and a Pulitzer Prize nomination. "Kaddish” was the runner up behind the winner of the Pulitzer that year, George Perle. Since then, the work had been performed over 70 times in Russia, France, England, Germany, The Czech Republic, the Dominican Republic, annually for ten years on Remembrance Day in Israel & throughout the United States by some of the worlds greatest cello players.
Noted Russian cellist Mark Drobinsky, a long time champion of Kaufman’s music, is featured on this recording with the Czech Radio Orchestra conducted by Carlos Piantini. The Concerto for Violoncello & String Orchestra, "Kaddish" is published by the Theodore Presser Co.
String Quartet #6, "The Urban"
At the conclusion of a very successful concert tour that brought The Amernet String Quartet with Maestro Kaufman as their guest artist, across the United States and into Mexico concluding with four concerts in New York City in the spring of 2005, the quartet commissioned Kaufman to write a new string quartet for them.
The work is a true tour de force for the ensemble. Kaufman said upon conclusion of his 6th String Quartet, "I wanted to write an eclectic composition that reflected the numerous strong qualities of this ensemble. Our trip to the "Big Apple" lingered strong in my mind and I could not but help reflect upon the city that I was brought up in and loved so much. This is a complex composition that on one hand stresses the beauty of the cities'' skyline, parks, rivers & people through lingering solo lines and on the other hand the highly complicated nature of it''s intellectual & business community as reflected in it''s difficult Carteresque rhythmic layers of 3 against 4 against 5 against 6 or 4/5/6/7. New York City is a Jazz metropolis and that medium certainly played a strong role in my early years as a maturing trumpet player and composer. Jazz inflected phrases have therefore seemed to find a way into many of my compositions and this certainly holds true in the last part of The Urban Quartet.
Fredrick Kaufman’s String Quartet #6, “The Urban,” was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize in composition by noted composer Lukas Foss in 2006.