Notes & Reviews:
The five composers spotlighted on "Music at Brandeis", Harold Shapero, Irving Fine, Yehudi Wyner, David Rakowski and Yu-Hui Chang all had or still maintain deep connections to this fabled American institution of higher learning as students, professors or both. Violinist Daniel Stepner, first violinist of the Lydian String Quartet, the quartet-in-residence at Brandeis University, and pianists Sally Berman, the aforementioned Mr. Wyner and Donald Berman are the featured artists on this new Centaur label release.
American Record Guide, July/August 2015
Fine's 1946 Violin Sonata is written in his earlier, more tonal idiom, and makes no pretentions to be a major compositional statement; but it's a joyous and winsome creation. The sonata was first recorded on CRI (with the composer as pianist) and has showed up once or twice after that. On this new well-played and- recorded Centaur release of violin-and piano duos, ("Music at Brandeis" - all the composers teach or taught there), violinist Daniel Stepner. Also on the program are Yehudi Wyner's 1957 Concert Duo and three works I've never seen on commercial recordings before: Harold Shapero's 1942 Violin Sonata, David Rakowski's Pied-a-terre, and Yu-Hui Chang's 2008 Worries Just as Real. Wyner's 20-minute Duo is the dazzler here: a large-scale, rhapsodic two movement fantasy in a chromatic idiom. Stepner and Wyner play the Duo with conviction and eloquence. Anyone interested in modern-era violin music should hear Wyner's Duo; it is one of the glories of the 20th Century repertoire. Shapero's 1942 Sonata displays his idiosyncratic take on neoclassicism, echoing without quite mimicking Stravinsky's stylized, quasianachronistic distancing. The Rakowski and Chang pieces are much more recent. Rakowski's 1999 Pied-a-terre is in three short movements (played attacca), Prelude, Fugue, and Presto, lasting together ten minutes. Chang's 13-minute Worries Just As Real, from 2008, is described by the composer as an evocation of a teenager's hyper-intense anxieties. It's quite convincing.
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