Larry Polansky (b 1954), though known primarily for his work in the field of computer music, has produced a major addition to the keyboard literature, this massive theme-and-variations on Ruth Crawford Seeger's arrangement of the folk song "Lonesome Road." Inspired by his deep engagement with her music, Lonesome Road (1988-89) is a prime example of Polansky's penchant for building large architectonic structures through complex transformational processes.
The work is in three sections of seventeen variations each. The variations in the middle section (XVIII-XXXIV) are generally longer and more developed than those in the outer sections. In many cases, corresponding variations in the three sections are related and have similar structures (Variation I is related to XVIII, which is related to XXXV). The set of fifty-one variations is kaleidoscopic in the variety of styles through which the theme is refracted and transformed.
In spite of its formal complexity, the variety of moods and the depth of feeling underscore the composer's use of form to enhance expressive content. This is the world-premiere recording of this mammoth piece, a wonderful amalgam of Ivesian pianism, gamelan patterns, jazz-tinged harmonies, and folk song. Its size and grandeur hark back to a pianistic outsider tradition of sui generis works and it is the most important American keyboard work since Frederic Rzewski's The People United Will Never Be Defeated.