WORKS: Chorale Variations; The Seven Deadly Sins; Piano Concerto
PERFORMER: Jan Opalach (bass-baritone), Pamela Mia Paul (piano)American Composers Orchestra/ Dennis Russell Davies
CATALOGUE NO: 440 337-2 DDD
Steven Ledbetter’s generally thorough booklet notes argue for this 40-year-old American’s attempt ‘to write music that forges a link with listeners, and not simply with theorists’. Robert Beaser has an enviable technique, particularly for orchestration. But three works here, dating from the late Seventies and early Nineties, reveal that he has nothing to say with the tonal language he has chosen.
It may be perfectly acceptable, in an age suspicious of the endless search for the new, to take an amalgam including middle-period Copland and Stravinsky as a springboard, as the Chorale Variations for orchestra does. Beaser, however, bellyflops, then drowns. With the song cycle The Seven Deadly Sins (to some pungent poems by Anthony Hecht) and the Piano Concerto, the list of styles borrowed without interest ever being paid lengthens: Bartók, Bernstein, Gershwin, Rachmaninov and Ravel are just a few in the concerto alone.
Originality might these days only be achievable through the use made of materials rather than through the materials themselves. But if these allusions contribute to a post-modernist play of styles (the Piano Concerto apparently also borrows from Beethoven’s Violin Concerto), then I missed the joke. Keith Potter