Equinox JeugdOrkest Nederland, Roland Kieft; The Prometheus Chamber Players; Fibonacci Sequence; Charles Kaufmann, bassoon; Elliott Schwartz, piano; Renee Jolles, violin; Brent Samuel, cello; Blair McMillen, piano
The wildly eclectic music of Elliott Schwartz (b. 1936)with its sweeping range of stylistic juxtapositions and evocative use of "found" musical materials--reflects the influence of post-modernism and its attempt to bridge the gap between the contemporary composer and his/her audience.
Each of the five works on this disc draws its inspiration and, at least in part, its materials from preexisting music. In the piano trio Tapestry, Schwartz addresses the most horrible event of the twentieth century -- the Holocaust -- in paying tribute to the Danes who saved so many Jews from the Nazis in World War II. In true post-modernist style, snippets of music from concentration camp composers appear alongside images of war and menace, together with fragments of a Danish childrens folk song, showing the innocence and purity the world could project in contrast to the horrors it so often shows us.
In Phoenix, for bassoon and piano, he takes fire music from Wagner and Stravinsky (the opening of Firebird) and combines them with a wonderful deconstruction of "Smoke Gets in Your Eyes", filling Jerome Kern's classic tune with new meanings and feelings far beyond its original role. In Vienna Dreams the world of Mozart, Schubert, and Brahms is evoked by quotations from their work for the same instruments Schwartz uses here (viola, clarinet, piano), overlaid with fragments of Mahler. Memories of a less-troubled Vienna float to the surface now and then, although overall the piece projects a considerable level of tension.
Rows Garden takes twelve-tone rows from five of the best-known works of the Second Viennese School and reworks them into five pieces for woodwind quintet far removed from their original context. The composer even claims they now sound "more American" in their new home in his piece. The final work and sole orchestral piece, Equinox, incorporates fragments from works Schwartz composed in the early 1960s and abandoned. As with all the works recorded here, Schwartz surrounds the preexisting fragments with new material derived from the old-connective tissue linking the whole fabric together. In Equinox the composer tries to imitate in sound the qualities of balance, contrast, and transformation that are exemplified by the opposite poles of equinox and solstice.