Chamber Music of Arnold Rosner, Volume 3


Arnold Rosner (b. 9 November 1945) is a prolific American composer whose works have been performed in the United States, Europe and Israel. His works exceed 100 in number and steer clear, generally, of both the post-serial avant-garde movement of the 1960's and the minimalist movement which followed it. His treatment of harmony and counterpoint, along with the occasional recourse to an ethnic, Middle Eastern flavor, places his music in the esthetic milieu of Paul Hindemith, Ernest Bloch and Alan Hovhaness.

Rosner is currently on the faculty of Kingsborough Community College of the City University of New York, where he teaches both standard and ethnic music. Having composed since the age of nine, he received advanced degrees from the State University of New York at Buffalo while studying with Leo Smith, Allen Sapp, Henri Posseur and Lejaren Hiller, from all of whom, in his own words, “I learned practically nothing.”

Sestetto Agosto flourished briefly in the late 1990s when it was formed by first violinst Paul Vanderwerf, who hand-picked leading Chicago-area professionals to join him in a February, 1997 doctoral recital at the School of Music of Northwestern University. That concert featured the Rosner Sextet as well as Schönberg's Verklärte Nacht. Vanderwerf wrote his dissertation (Northwestern, 1999) on Rosner's string chamber music, focusing on the sextet (recorded in August, 1998 for this disc) and the String Quartet No. 3 and Duet for Violas (recorded by the Ad Hoc String Quartet on Albany 210).

The players in Sestetto Agosto represent virtually every major ensemble in the northern Illinois/southern Wisconsin region, including the Chicago Lyric Opera, Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Grant Park Orchestra, Ars Viva, Chicago Sinfonietta, Symphony II, Music of the Baroque, Chicago Opera Theatre, Ravinia Festival Orchestra, Lake Forest Symphony, Illinois Philharmonic, and Milwaukee Symphony among others.

Pinotage was formed in 1998 and specializes in works written after 1900.

Since their first performance, they have worked closely with composers, inspiring them to write for this distinctive combination, — although Rosner's Besos sin Cuento,- by fortuitous coincidence, was written some 10 years earlier for that precise ensemble. Other composers whose music has been performed by Pinotage include Robert Lombardo, Marta Ptaszynska, Elizabeth Start and Jan Bach.

Alison Attar specializes in historical, — specifically multi-row harps, and has performed thoughout North America. She has played with the Lyric Opera of Chicago, Green Bay Symphony, Milwaukee Ballet and Grant Park Symphony. She has been guest artist with numerous new music groups and has worked with such living composers as George Crumb and Pierre Boulez. She holds B.M. and M.M. degrees in harp performance and a B.A. in Italian culture all from Northwestern University, where she is currently engaged in doctoral studies with harpist Elizabeth Cifani.

Following apprenticeships with the Santa Fe and Chicago Lyric operas, Julia Bentley has appeared in leading roles with companies throughout the country, most recently including the title role in Britten's The Rape of Lucretia, with Chicago Opera Theatre. She has been featured soloist with orchestras led by George Manahan, Raymond Leppard, Oliver Knussen, Robert Shaw and Pierre Boulez, and appeared at Carnegie Hall as in the latter's Le Marteau sans Maitre to much critical acclaim. She is active in several new music and other ensembles in Chicago.

Claudia Lasareff-Mironoff has been principal violist in the Chicago Sinfonietta (1989-92) and the Cape Town Symphony Orchestra, South Africa (1992-96). A cum laude graduate of the University of Denver, she also holds certificates from Northwestern University, where she has been on the faculty of the National High School Institute since 1997, and coordinator of string chamber music since 2000. In 1998 she performed on the Dame Myra Hess Memorial Series at the Chicago Cultural center, broadcast on WMFT.

Observant listeners will observe that Ms. Lasareff-Mironoff is the only musician participating in more than one work on this compact disc. Between sessions working on the sextet, she, violinist Paul Vanderwerf, and composer Arnold Rosner enjoyed a luncheon of assorted “tapas” (one of which actually was “Berengenas con queso”…Eggplant with cheese). It may seem hard to believe but this dialogue ensued: “Arnie, — you wouldn't happen to have anything for voice, flute, viola and harp, would you?”…

“Claudia…do I EVER!!” The rest, as they say, is history.

Janice McDonald lists among other performing credits the Chicago Sinfonietta, Lake Forest Symphony, Illinois Chamber Symphony (principal flute), Grant Park Symphony, Concertante di Chicago, Joffrey Ballet, Ars Viva, Symphony II, Ravinia Festival, and the Regent Quintet and Parnassus Orchestra in London, England. She holds degrees from De Paul University and the California Institute of the Arts and lists Victoria Jicha, Donald Peck, David Shostac and William Bennett among her teachers.

Gregory Erickson and Angelina Tallaj have performed together as a duo since 1998. They have given recitals concerts and master classes all over the New York area, playing both old and new repertoire for trombone and piano.

Mr Erickson is active with such groups as the Goliard Ensemble, Third rail Brass Quintet and the United Brass of North America. He is the Director of Classical Music at the Brooklyn Conservatory and is also on the faculty of the Mannes College of Music. He has published several scholarly articles examining relationships between music and literature.

Ms. Tallaj hails from Santiago, Dominican Republic, where she won numerous competitions and awards. Since relocating to New York, she has studied with Augustin Anievas and German Diez and has performed in recital at Carnegie, Merkin and Weill halls. She specializes in Latin American as well as traditional repertoire. She is acting chairperson of the piano department at Third Street Music School.

Executive Producer/CD mastering: John Proffitt

Producer: Arnold Rosner

Recording Engineers: Konrad Strauss (Sextet); Benjamin Frick (Besos sin cuento); Joseph Patrych (Trombone Sonata)

String Sextet recorded August 15-16, 1999 by Konrad Strauss, edited by John Proffitt; Besos sin Cuento recorded June 12, 2000 by Benjamin Frick, edited by Konrad Strauss. Both works recorded at Northminster Presbyterian Church, Evanston, Illinois. Trombone Sonata recorded December 1, 2000 and edited by Joseph Patrych at Patrych Sound Studios, Bronx, New York.

Cover photo: Bernadette Bucher

Cover design:Bates Miyamoto Design

String Sextet “Nun Komm der Heiden Heiland,” Op. 47

Attracted I guess to the Dvorak Sextet, Op. 48, and the two Brahms Sextets, Opp. 18 and 36, I ventured in 1970 to write a Sextet of my own. From the outset, I wanted the added symphonic richness afforded by six parts, but with each of the players having plenty of developmental and contrapuntal linear activity, as befits well-written chamber music. Somehow I decided on two equal movements, the one (variations) to be the darker, more instrumental in attitude and closer to classical-period forms, and the other (motet) the brighter, more vocal, and akin to Renaissance attitude. The Lutheran hymn Nun Komm der Heiden Heiland stimulated me, much more in the mid-Baroque setting by Praetorius than in the fully-tonal (and thus predictable if better-known) J. S. Bach version. I decided to make this tune the crown of the Sextet, barely—and devilishly—hinted at in the first movement, more comfortably beneath the surface in the second, and finally sung forth in all its glory near the end, replete with ribbons of contrapuntal decoration and enhancement.

All manner of other invention occurred to me, various stretti, augmentations, quasi recitativos and the like, including a high point to the first movement in which a fugato in six parts and 9/8 meter would develop into a 9-against-4 climax. For a quarter-century the piece was never performed, as befits anything so ambitious, I suppose. In the early 90s, I made the acquaintance of Paul Vanderwerf, violinist, then a doctoral candidate at Northwestern University. When he and ensembles among his colleagues performed and recorded my string chamber music (Albany CD 210) it was clear to me that new opportunities were available for the Sextet. I took a “long hard look” at it and decided all the structure and pretense were rock-solid, but that much of the connective material was mechanical or pedestrian. So, in 1996, I revised the work, and dedicated it to Paul and his wife Sarah. It was performed at Northwestern in February, 1998, and recorded by that ensemble for this compact disc.




Besos sin Cuento (Kisses Without Number)


Six Spanish Songs, Op. 86

1. La Belle Ines

2. Y Dulce Olvido

3. Al Amor

4. En Jaen

5. Duermes, Licisca

6. Glosa de las Vacas

My Spanish Songs Besos sin Cuento resulted from two motivations, and it should be admitted from the outset that I have absolutely no knowledge of the Spanish language other than certain culinary terminology. For some time, I was drawn to the remarkable songs in the Sephardic tradition more than 500 years old, in the Judaeo-Spanish language Ladino. Performances and recordings of this literature are abundant and my motivation was to find some poetry of this heritage that had not yet been musically set. My search, however, revealed that most of the secular texts had indeed survived specifically because there were musical settings; all that seemed to remain were religious meditations, and for once I wanted to write a piece with no references either to religion, or mortality, for that matter. I decided to split my motivation towards two different works. I planned (and ultimately wrote) A Sephardic Rhapsody for orchestra (Albany TROY548), and proceded to research Renaissance Spanish poetry, the result of which is Besos sin Cuento.

The second motivation is more grandiose, very simply summarized, and probably something I will not come near to achieving. Languages, at which my skills are exceedingly minimal, all sound so different, all express meaning in subtly different ways, all impact upon melody so profoundly, that I feel a composer with good lyrical and rhythmic sense should be able to write settings in all of them! This, of course, is ridiculous, and the non-phonetic and highly inflected languages, such as Swahili or Mandarin, will clearly confound any Westerner. A somewhat more modest drive is to compose settings in all the European languages, and I think it is no accident that shortly after the Spanish songs I wrote three settings in Finnish, Songs of Lightness and Angels.

For Besos sin Cuento, I chose the “broken consort” but very sensuous combination of low female voice, flute, viola and harp. The six-movement design attempts a certain symmetry; the medium-fast outer movements are the more complex and set somewhat humorous amorous texts. No. 1 is in 5/8 meter and no. 6 is something of a rondo, where the “A” occurs on different tonics each time; movements 2 and 5 are the more pensive slow movements, no. 2 has a coda in 11/8 meter; no. 5 uses a drone; the middle movements are the true scherzi; no. 3 is a duet for voice and flute; no. 4 adds the tambourine.

Sonata in Bb for Trombone and Pianoforte, Op. 106

As I have felt driven to compose songs in as many languages as possible, I have also wanted to write sonatas or concertos for all the standard orchestral instruments. We know that Carl Nielsen intended to cover the instruments of the Woodwind Quintet in that way, and got as far as Concerti for Flute and for Clarinet before his death, and Paul Hindemith's prodigious list of sonatas is incomparable. For my part, over many long years, I realized I had come fairly close, and decided in the mid 90s to fill in the gaps, at that time clarinet, bassoon, trombone and double bass. (My A Plaintive Harmony for unaccompanied horn is also playable, one octave lower, by tuba.) As of this writing only bassoon and double bass remain.

The power and nobility of the trombone cannot and should not be denied, and my sonata, therefore, is rather “big-boned.” The pianist is a true equal partner, requiring strong playing and an open instrument. (I generally like nothing less than a piano with its lid closed.)

In terms of structure, the sonata is fairly conservative despite its aggressiveness of sound. The first movement is largely in three-strand counterpoint, and may suggest the quality of ars antiqua or even organum counterpoint; many of the harmonies are fifths, and there are some noticeable on-the-beat dissonances. The second is in something of a three-part “song” design but is in 7/8 meter throughout. The third movement is the most difficult to play, and has its share of gritty complexity, but is in fact the most traditional example of classical sonata form I have ever used, replete with a clear contrast between the two main themes, and all the “correct” tonal-center relationships.

Notes © 2002 by Arnold Rosner