STEVEN R. GERBER (1948-2015): String Sinfonias Nos. 1 and 2, Sinfoniettas Nos. 1 and 2, 2 Lyric Pieces for Violin and Strings.
Catalogue Number: 11X051
Description: An impressive collection of powerful works by a composer who obviously deserves to be much better known than he is. Gerber's idiom is tonal, in a mid-20th century style with a rather astringent edge to his otherwise post-romantic harmony, and a sporadic incorporation of fairly extreme dissonance as dictated by the expressive requirements of the piece. Given the quality and expressive power of his music, the fact that it never established a foothold in the repertory seems surprising; for reasons unexplained it appears that he had at least as much success and recognition in Russia and Ukraine as in the USA. He wrote orchestral scores, but the few recordings of several of these were made more than 20 years ago. The Steven R. Gerber Trust astutely commissioned the transcriptions of four of his substantial chamber works from Daron Hagen and Adrian Williams, two composers whose own styles are remarkably attuned to Gerber's own, and the resulting works are superb transformations into orchestral scores, Williams' full-orchestral arrangement of Gerber’s Fifth Quartet in particular disguising its modest original forces so completely as to sound as though its symphonic argument was conceived in terms of the orchestra. Gerber was fond of variation form, and the finale of this work provides ample opportunity for vivid timbral and textural embellishment of the material. The finale of the 2nd String Sinfonia (Quartet No.6) and the Passacaglia from the Lyric Pieces (performed as originally written) also display Gerber’s skill and originality in his treatment of this form. The First Sinfonietta is the earliest original work, Gerber’s 1991 Piano Quintet, and Hagen makes of this incisive, neoclassical Stravinsky influenced work a rhythmically alert orchestral piece which also allows space for some ravishing tonal episodes of pastoral, English-sounding repose; the composer’s use of modally inflected tonality and open intervals also suggests Copland. Bartók is clearly a major influence, beginning with the "Mesto" finale of this work, and even more so in the later quartets, and Shostakovich (some association with the composer's Russian connections here?) especially in the inexorable, menacing surge of the "Maestoso" movements of the Sinfonia No.1 (Quartet No.4) and No.2 (Quartet No.6). This latter quartet was among Gerber’s last works, and there seem to be references to the resilient resignation of late Beethoven in the piece, dedicated to the memory of the composer’s long-time companion, Dr. Norma Hynes. Emily Davis (violin), English String Orchestra, English Symphony Orchestra; Kenneth Woods.