Rorem/Baker/Rochberg

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COMPOSERS: Rorem/Baker/Rochberg
LABELS: Philips
WORKS: Spring Music; Roots II; Summer, 1990 (Piano Trio No. 3)
PERFORMER: Beaux Arts Trio
CATALOGUE NO: 438 866-2 DDD
This is the new Beaux Arts Trio. Only the pianist Menahem Pressler remains from the original group which he founded in 1955. But the present ensemble, in which Pressler is joined by violinist Ida Kavafian and cellist Peter Wiley, plays with a degree of artistry and soul which in no way diminishes the name.

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The music is purely American, but it encompasses a wide range of mood and style. Rorem’s approach is coolly French. He worked with Virgil Thomson, a pupil of the legendary Nadia Boulanger, and his expression is clear, colourful and direct. David N BakerRoots II is an amalgam of Afro-American traditions and a variety of source styles including work songs, ragtime, calypso and jazz.

At 75, George Rochberg is the most senior composer represented. Initially attracted by atonality, he soon espoused the serial style of the Second Viennese School (Schoenberg, Berg and Webern) which he gradually extended to incorporate elements of tonality and even quotations from other composers. The surprisingly Russian-sounding Summer, 1990 (really Rochberg’s Third Piano Trio) even makes use of Shostakovich’s DSCH motto (D, E flat, C, B in German notation).

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The Beaux Arts Trio moves easily from one style to another, clearly having the measure of all of them. The result is a disc of attractive music played with taste and commitment. Wadham Sutton