Carnegie Mellon Contemporary Ensemble and Concert Choir/Robert Page; Carnegie Mellon Concert Winds/Richard Strange; American Brass Quintet and Dorian Woodwind Quintet/Anthony Korf; Anthony di Bonaventura, piano
Music such as Leonardo Balada's—which is not minimal, serial, aleatoric or stochastic, but is, rather, intensely allusive—does not require a label so much as some identification of its salient features. The influence of Stravinsky is apparent in Balada's snarling brass parts, the frequent use of ostinati, the sometimes diatonic choral writing, and asymmetrical rhythms. Mr. Balada, born in 1933, studied with an American, Aaron Copland, and one infers that he learned not so much from the "folkloric" Copland of Appalachian Spring as from the Copland of the tight, hard-edged modernist works of the 1930s, particularly the Second Piano Sonata and the Short Symphony.
That Balada's work is of a different generation altogether is equally apparent, however, and while he does not adopt the methods of Stockhausen or Boulez or the minimalists, he recognizes their potentialities, particularly in the realm of contrasting sonorities. Paradoxically, precisely because he is a late-twentieth-century composer, Balada is also aware of the expressive possibilities of Medieval and Renaissance music in a way an earlier generation was not. Stravinsky and Webern, of course, led the way with their involvement in Gesualdo and Heinrich Isaac, respectively, but it has remained for the composers of Balada's generation—people as different as Arvo Pärt and John Tavener and Balada himself—to short-circuit the dialectic of serialism and claim the Medieval heritage. Thus, Torquemada refers to the music of the Spanish golden age, and the Sonata for Ten Winds includes hocketed brass parts straight out of Perotin and the Notre Dame School.
The Concerto for Piano, Winds and Percussion, a single-movement work, arises out of the spiky neoclassic concertos of Stravinsky and Poulenc in the 1930s, but moves hastily away from them as a model through the use of what Balada characterizes as a "Ping-Pong motif." What happens to this motif can be described as a table-tennis game in which the balls multiply every time they hit the table and none roll off, and then a few do, and then all do.