GEORGE PERLE (1915-2009): A Short Symphony, Sinfonietta No. 1, Cello Concerto, Dance Fantasy, 6 Bagatelles.
Catalogue Number: 08U044
Description: This survey of twenty-odd years of Perle's finely crafted orchestral output nicely illustrates his quest for "a path toward a new kind of tonality. Music that was going to do what music used to do, with its basis being the twelve-tone scale instead of the diatonic scale". In practice, his assignment of a hierarchy of pitches within the twelve-note scale allowed him to designate tonal centers that functioned - and more importantly, sounded - very much like, well, tonality. He sold the Bagatelles short with the title; he already had experience in large-scale orchestral writing by the time they were written in 1965 (three discarded symphonies for a start), and this sequence of six brief pieces, immaculately proportioned and expertly conceived for large orchestra, could by some standards be described, only slightly tongue-in-cheek, as a Very Short Symphony Indeed. The fourth one, in fact, went on to become the slow movement of the Cello Concerto the following year. The 1986 Dance Fantasy, too, had it been called a tone poem and given a portentous title, would lead one to expect the dramatic canvas that it actually is; by this time the sense of functional tonality in what is still a work based on the entire chromatic scale is stronger, giving the work a greater sense of Romantic progression and narrative. The 1980 Short Symphony and 1987 Sinfonietta I, both in three movements and just over a quarter hour, encapsulate this progress; the Sinfonietta sounds very tonal, laced throughout with delightfully sharp wit (frequently a characteristic of Perle's music in any case), while the Symphony has a more astringent harmonic language (more akin to that of the 1966 Cello Concerto), and seems to take itself more seriously. Jay Campbell (cello), Seattle Symphony; Ludovic Morlot.