Music of Arnold Rosner



Music of Arnold Rosner




Of Numbers


and of Bells




Sonata for


French Horn


& Piano




Sonata No. 1


for Violoncello


& Piano










Arnold Rosner (b. 8 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 faculties of Kingsborough Community College and Staten Island 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 Smit, Allen Sapp, Henri Pousseur and Lejaren Hiller, a group from which, in his own words, "I learned practically nothing."




A major work in the repertoire for two pianos is Of Numbers and Of Bells, completed shortly after New Year's Day 1983, as Rosner's Opus 79 and dedicated to his close friends Terri and Robert Hope. Possessing an enormous dynamic range, this work moves from a delicate filigree of tintinnabulation to massive, bell-like sonorities of symphonicone is tempted to say cosmicproportions, all within its 15-minute duration. Its direct emotional appeal derives from its uncanny evocation of time suspended like a glittering crystal of frozen light, then releasedsuddenly and inevitablyas a torrent of sound.




In writing about the work, the composer had this to say:




"When I started work on what would have been my fourth piano sonata I conceived a first allegro theme which was fine to listen to and easy to play once or twice, but which dwelt on the weaker fingers of the right hand so much as to make it downright painful to play repeatedly. As I thought the tune would bear some restatements, it occurred to me to convert the piece into an essay for two pianos.




"This entirely pragmatic solution lead to some technical and even spiritual directions, as the title Of Numbers and Of Bells may suggest. I decided to make extensive use of cross-rhythm, generally much easier for two players than one, although some passages in the finished work still involve extremely difficult ensemble. Several segments or tableaux are built on conflicting steady rhythms, which I tried to differentiate and clarify by wide spacing of tessitura and stereophonic distance between the keyboards.




"To codify just one example: at 5:40 into track 1 of this recording, the first piano right hand plays a line in flute range in straight 4/4 meter consisting of mixed 8th and 16th notes. The left hand is in baritone range in unvarying 8th notes, but the melodic and accent pattern amount to 11/8. The second piano uses both hands to play a modal chorale in mid-range in notes precisely 5/16 long.




"The listener is not expected to perceive these algebraic relationships and would probably be distracted from the music if he tried. I hope some mystical and pleasantly complex overlays may make themselves felt in a directly emotional way."




Major works for French horn and piano are encountered infrequently, with a large proportion of recital music derived from transcriptions from other media. The Rosner sonata is a distinguished addition to the mainstream repertoire, with its commanding use of the rhetorical and melodic characteristics of this instrument. It is dedicated to Marc Spetalnik.




The composer writes:




"The Sonata for French Horn and Piano, op. 71, was written in 1979more than a decade after the Cello Sonata No. 1, but some may detect resemblances. The melody instruments have virtually identical ranges, of course, and a slow-fast-slow


scheme is used in both works. The finales share a certain 'religioso' attitude with something resembling 'cantus firmus' treatment. Even the two middle movements share an agitated 'gigue' rhythm. However, these two allegros are opposites in temperament, and I hope all other similarities are only superficial.




"The opening movement is a strict passacaglia. I find ground basses seem to lend themselves to intense and tragic expression, at least ever since 1700. (Monteverdi's Zefiro Torna and Purcell's Sound the Trumpets are felicitous examples of brighter ground bass pieces from the early Baroque.)




"One of the many paradoxes about the French Horn is that it is easier to play fast than slow, especially if tongued repeated notes or 'horn call' figures are used. I tried to give the player an opportunity to make a joyful noise in just this spirit in the second movement, with the cooperation of a virtuosic piano part.




"The third movement begins with an unaccompanied horn melody, answered by chorale figures for the piano. Once both instruments combine, the spirit is more contrapuntal, with a very full 'quasi organo' climax and a reflective, quiet ending.




"The Sonata No. 1 for Cello and Piano, op. 41, was written in the summer of 1968, during my doctoral studies at the State University of New York at Buffalo. At that institution in those days, post-Webernian and avant-garde composition reigned supreme, despite a strong challenge from the first performance of Terry Riley's In C. My more neo-Romantic stuff was an embarrassment to all concerned, but that could hardly stop me from writing it.




"Without any conscious self-denial, I used virtually no special effects in the sonata. There is absolutely no pizzicato, one usage of the mute, and only a few double-stops. The first movement builds short motivic phrases with consonant harmonization, creating some fairly stark intensity.




"These tensions more fully detonate in the fugal second movement, which is extremely difficult for both players. There are several contrapuntal expositions and episodes, culminating in a cross-rhythmic augmentation, not unlike certain 15th century Netherlander examples in technique but very different in emotional effect. (Different, too, from the more quasi-oriental cross-rhythms in Of Numbers and Of Bells.)




"The third movement is religious in character and modal in style, but it, too, has a climactic usage of mensuration, where 7/8 material is pitted against the otherwise 7/16 meter.




"When the work was first performed the second movement not only presented prodigious technical difficulty but contrasted too much with its neighbors; it was therefore revised extensively in 1977 with the slow movements left entirely intact."




Rosner's fascination with the human voice has produced a number of outstanding vocal and choral works, none more immediately appealing, however, than the song-cycle Nightstone: Three Settings from The Song of Songs, op. 73. Composed in 1979, Nightstone treats the stylized eroticism of the famous texts with exquisite sensitivity, a well-crafted example of the art of the musical caress. In commenting on the songs, Rosner said:




"Hundreds of composers have been moved to set parts of The Song of Songs; but on reading all its beautifully gentle but seductive poetry, I am frankly amazed that there are still thousands who haven't! I was attracted to these verses in the early 60s but could never seem to get started on a setting until 1979, when a certain unrequited interest of the heart provided the necessary energy. I have used parts of chapters 4, 2 and 7 respectively.




"The unifying technical quirk is the importance of 5/8 meter, which pervades the outer movements and even the rapid middle section of the second. There is, I think, a certain lilt in 5/8 (and also 7/8, for that matter), and I often find these signatures lend themselves to the rhythm of English words. In any case, perhaps this gives some complexity which may be welcome, as I tried to keep the choice of pitches extremely graceful and, perhaps, affectionate. Of course, actual tonal harmonic connections are virtually non-existent in any of my music, even when the chords and melodies themselves are consonant and fairly simple.




"I have often been asked to explain the title Nightstone. One interpretation is the Night's Tonethe temperament or mood of evening. A second is the Stoneor gem or jewelof the night. Another interpretation suggests a cryptic, secret message directed at some individual whose beauty and personality may have contributed to my impulse in writing the piece. Having presented these possibilities, I will decline further comment."




The performances of the Cello Sonata No. 1 and French Horn Sonata were originally recorded and produced by Max Schubel of Opus One Records and released on two separate LPs on that label. The composer and producer of this CD wish to express our gratitude to Mr. Schubel for his generosity in making the master tapes available for re-release.




Other works of Arnold Rosner on compact disc include Responses, Hosanna and Fugue for Harp and String Orchestra (Harmonia Mundi USA HMU 906012); Musique de Clavecin (Gasparo GSCD-266) and Sonatine d'amour (Gasparo GSCD-280) for solo harpsichord; Five Meditations, Act II, Prelude from The Chronicle of Nine, Concerto grosso No. 1, A Gentle Musicke, and Magnificat (Laurel LR 849CD); and String Quartet No. 4 (Opus One CD 150).




Notes © 1995 by John Proffitt




The Sonata for Horn and Piano is published by Phoebus Publications, 1303 Faust Avenue, Oshkosh, Wisconsin 54901. Of Numbers and Of Bells, Sonata No. 1 for Cello and Piano and Nightstone are published by Horizon Bay Music, 3311 Shore Parkway #2A, Brooklyn, New York 11235.




About the Artists




Pianist Timothy Hester is a member of the artist faculty at the University of Houston School of Music, has taught Opera Studies at Rice University's Shepherd School of Music and is active in chamber music performance both here and abroad. A product of the Juilliard School and renowned pedagogue Adele Marcus, Hester has performed as a soloist with such orchestras as the Houston Symphony, Galveston Symphony and Colorado Philharmonic and has collaborated with such artists as Ransom Wilson, Eugenia Zukerman, Mitchell Stern, Fredell Lack, Nina Beilina and Reiko Watanabe. His recordings feature music by Bohuslav Martinu, Michael Horvit and David Ashley White.




Pianist Nancy Weems is a member of the artist faculty at the University of Houston School of Music, where she also serves as the Coordinator of the Piano Department. She has performed extensively in the United States, Europe, Asia, Mexico, Central America and Russia to wide critical acclaim. She represented the United States in the 1981 Van Cliburn International Competition and won the 1984 Artistic Ambassador Competition sponsored the United States Information Agency. A dedicated teacher, Weems was named the Outstanding Collegiate Teacher of the Year in 1991 by the Texas Music Teachers Association.




French hornist Heidi Garson is a free-lance musician active in the New York City area. She holds degrees from the Manhattan School of Music and the State University of New York at Stony Brook. In addition to ensemble and orchestra performance as far afield as Europe and South America, she can be heard in recordings of works by Luis Jorge González and Max Schubel (Opus One) and Roque Cordero, Alexandre Rudajev and Bruce Saylor (North/South).




Pianist Yolanda Liepa has performed as soloist on several continents at such events as the Tanglewood Festival, the Ravel Festival of Fontainbleu, and with the orchestras of Toulouse, Avenna, Warsaw, Buffalo and Cincinnati. She holds degrees from the University of Cincinnati, Yale University and the University of Southern California. She has recorded solo and chamber repertoire comprising some 17 albums on several labels featuring mainly 20th-century music.




Cellist Maxine Neuman is a member of the artist faculty at Williams College and from 19811994 was a professor at Bennington College. Her solo and chamber music career spans North America, South America, Europe and Japan. She is a founding member of the Crescent String Quartet, the Vermont Cello Quartet, Breve Early Music Ensemble and the Walden Trio, groups with which she performs and records extensively. Her recordings can be heard on Columbia/CBS, Nonesuch, CRI, Leonarda, Argo, Opus One, Orion, Sony Classical, AMC, Vanguard and the Musical Heritage Society.




Pianist Joan Stein has performed in the USA and in Europe as a long-time member of the Walden Trio, the Herrick Trio and in joint recital with Maxine Neuman and Gwyndolyn Holtham. She has concertized throughout the Northeast in chamber concerts with members of the New York Philharmonic and the Rosenblum-Stein Piano Duo. Her recordings appear on the Vanguard, Orion and Opus One labels.




Tenor Randolph Lacy is a product of Rice University's Shepherd School of Music and has concertized widely in recent years. He appeared with the Houston Grand Opera in productions of Der Rosenkavalier, La Traviata, and the world première of Harvey Milk. Other performances have included Don Pasquale in Memphis, Falstaff in Chicago and Elegy for Young Lovers at Tanglewood. He has sung in all the major works of Bach, including a critically acclaimed Evangelist in the Passion According to Saint John with the Bach Society of Houston.






Front Cover Photo: Irene Rosner David






Music of Arnold Rosner




Of Numbers and of Bells, op. 79 (1983) (15:18)




Timothy Hester & Nancy Weems, pianos




Sonata for French Horn & Piano, op. 71 (1979) (16:07)




Lento: passacaglia (5:15)




Allegro (3:53)




Andante sostenuto (6:59)




Heidi Garson, French horn; Yolanda Liepa, piano




Sonata No. 1 for Violoncello & Piano, op. 41 (1968, rev. 1977) (18:49)




Adagio espressivio (7:28)




Fuga: barbaro (4:26)




Moderato misterioso e religioso (7:05)




Maxine Neuman, cello; Joan Stein, piano




Nightstone, Three Settings from The Song of Songs, op. 73 (1979) (15:27)




Ballad (Allegretto grazioso) (4:36)




Evocation (Adagio; allegro) (6:42)




Serenade (Moderato) (4:09)




Randolph Lacy, tenor; Timothy Hester, piano




Total Time = 67:13




Produced for compact disc by John Gladney Proffitt




Selections 1 & 8 through 10 DDD ·Engineered by John Proffitt


Recorded in Dudley Recital Hall, University of Houston




Selections 2 through 7 ADD ·Originally produced for Opus One Records by Max Schubel


Recorded at the State University of New York-Stony Brook