FREDRICK KAUFMAN (b.1936): Piano Concerto "Guernica" (Kemal Gekic [piano], Czech National Symphony Orchestra; Marcello Rota), Concerto for Cello and String Orchestra "Kaddish" (Mark Drobinsky [cello], Czech Radio Symphony Orchestra; Carlos Plantini), Seascape (Czech Symphony Orchestra; Richard Hein).
Catalogue Number: 08P074
Label: Navona Records
Description: Kaufman's 'Guernica' Concerto was inspired by Picasso's nightmarish vision in response to the appalling annihilation from the air of the small Spanish town during the Spanish Civil War. The first movement alternates brutally mechanistic piano figuration with eerie, suspended dissonant chords from the orchestra, the detached blocks of starkly contrasting material reminiscent of Picasso's harshly isolated, distorted images. The second movement contrasts a much more tonal melody with subtle eastern modal inflection and a sudden outburst suggestive of the unexpected intrusion of the horrific war-imagery into a peaceful landscape. The finale begins with more percussive military violence, but is unexpected waylaid by more tonal, optimistic music, and the concerto ends in a blaze of hopeful anticipation. The Cello Concerto is a sombre work of memory and mourning, frequently uneasy and agitated in mood. The overall vocabulary is strongly grounded in tonality, of a rather extended sort, and the perpetually active solo line makes the most of the cello's plangent, imploring tone and its capacity for powerful, declamatory statement. This comes to the fore in an intense cadenza that divides the work into two parts, the second part being an eloquent mourning dialogue between soloist and orchestra, increasingly impassioned toward the end. Seascape is an atmospheric evocation of the moods of the sea, in aqueous, flowing textures; formless, iridescent surface reflections; and churning storms all depicted in abstract, stylized sonorism. Computer-readable files on the disc provide brief notes, study scores (sample pages only, other than the Piano Concerto) and a link to a (publicly available) YouTube video documentary about Guernica the event, the painting, and the concerto, featuring composer, pianist and art historian.