Foss: Piano Concerto No. 1; Piano Concerto No. 2; Elegy for Anne Frank

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LABELS: Harmonia Mundi
WORKS: Piano Concerto No. 1; Piano Concerto No. 2; Elegy for Anne Frank
PERFORMER: Jon Nakamatsu, Yakov Kasman, Lukas Foss (piano), Eliza Foss (narrator); Pacific SO/Carl St Clair
Lukas Foss is one of the most interesting figures in postwar American music. Having begun, like so many of his generation, as a composer of bracingly neo-classical music, he moved in the Sixties and Seventies towards his own brand of avant-gardism, using the aleatoric devices of composers like Lutoslawski in a very personal way. But you’d never guess that from this CD, which seizes on two very early and one very recent work. It’s an unfortunate choice, because by missing out Foss’s best decades it paints a dismaying and misleading picture of decline from youthful brilliance to a limp sentimentality. The First Concerto, written when Foss was a mere 21, has a pert wit, with a constant stream of motoric semiquavers in the solo part, here tossed off with the right steely aplomb by Jon Nakamatsu. The Second Concerto was written eight years later but surprisingly is less personal; the cribs from Stravinsky’s Symphony in C stand out like a sore thumb, and the whole thing tries too hard to be profound. As for the wan little melodic gestures which accompany the excerpts from Anne Frank’s diary, they seem to have wandered out of a ‘made-for-TV’ film sound-track, an impression reinforced by the undernourished orchestral sound. Ivan Hewett