Lewensohn

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4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

COMPOSERS: Lewensohn
LABELS: ECM
WORKS: Odradek Quartet; Piano Quintet; Postlude
PERFORMER: Alexander Lonquich, Ora Rotem Nelken (piano); Auryn Quartet
CATALOGUE NO: 461 861-2
Gideon Lewensohn (b1954) is an agreeably rum customer. The titles of his movements disarmingly admit his influences and enthusiasms – ‘Homage to George Rochberg’, ‘ScotTALissimo’ (a dual reference to Scott Joplin and the Israeli composer Josef Tal), ‘A message from Dimitry’ (Shostakovich) – and he makes no attempt to disguise the simplicity of his raw materials. The Piano Quintet is very much preoccupied with repeated notes and scale figures, the much quirkier Odradek Quartet (named after a character in a Kafka story) with the same, plus two-note oscillations and a simple rhythm. But he draws considerable variety from all this, from dark echoes of Schumann to vehement Bartókian skirling, from detached fragments that grow and unify to a wild and intense fusion of Mahler with guttural klezmer music to evoke (in the Odradek Quartet) ‘Mahler and Kafka in Terezín’; both works end in striking, quiet poignancy. But what sort of composer is it who follows each of these pieces with the same piano Postlude – a sort of Mahlerian Adagietto – but in two quite different performances? Very odd indeed, and his basic thematic material may wear thin on repeated hearings, but at the moment I’m hooked. Terrific performances. Michael Oliver

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