Perle/Danielpour

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COMPOSERS: Perle/Danielpour
LABELS: Harmonia Mundi
WORKS: Piano Concerto No. 2; Six Etudes for Solo Piano; Metamorphosis
PERFORMER: Michael Boriskin (piano)Utah Symphony/Joseph Silverstein
CATALOGUE NO: HMU 907124 DDD
The American George Perle, eighty this year, is better known as a Berg scholar. The compositions of his I’ve heard have often seemed more competent than inspired. But the two works on this disc are quite invigorating, proving that the composer’s ‘twelve-tone tonality’ – or ‘new kind of tonal music’ – is capable of generating real musical invention from the ideas behind the 12-note method.

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The three short movements of Perle’s Concerto No. 2 of 1992 and the Six Etudes (1973-6) make engrossing, often witty play with conventional gestures and models. This is direct and accessible music, never sounding quite like anyone else’s. Some bracingly economic orchestration energises Perle’s lean but adventurous textures; most delightfully, he conjures a refreshing immediacy of expression that never lapses into simple-mindedness. Michael Boriskin’s lively and characterful playing helps, too. American academic composition has never been so interesting.

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The 39-year-old Richard Danielpour’s three-movement, half-hour Metamorphosis for piano and orchestra (1989-93), on the other hand, sounds like the effect of 101 other American composers who have been to good schools, learned a lot about composition and even more about orchestration – but who have nothing to say. Keith Potter