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The Voice of the Coelacanth: Music of William Bergsma (1921-94): Rhapsodie Variations for violin, horn & piano; Fantasies (3); Changes for Seven; Tangents

Notes & Reviews:

The academic and composer of international acclaim William Bergsma (1921-94) is known for his opera, The Wife of Martin Guerre, works for full orchestra, string quartets, a woodwind quintet, Tangents for Piano, and other works for voice, chorus, and band. He founded the University of Washington Contemporary Group in the mid-1960s. In musical style, he has been characterized as a composer who "never deserted tonality". Deserving rediscovery, this Centaur release features two works for solo piano and the title work, for piano, horn and violin.

American Record Guide, July/August 2015
Voice of the Coelacanth (1981), a trio for violin, horn, and piano, is named after a prehistoric fish that materialized off the coast of Africa in 1938, the topic intended to represent the composer's conservative bent. The piece is a set of "Rhapsodic Variations" on a theme with a family resemblance to the opening of Le Sacre. The concise movement moves through its small blocks efficiently and without ambiguity. The Three Fantasies (1943) for solo piano were written while Bergsma was a student at Eastman - and for renowned Eastman pedagogue Cecile Genhart. The pieces must have been quite a hit back then and a major honor for the composer to have her play them. Changes for Seven (1971) is a brief piece for woodwind quintet, percussion, and piano. A broadly lyrical theme moves into a more active midsection before the recap of the opening. It fulfills its purpose without spectacle. Tangents (1951) is a half-hour suite of picturesque episodes for piano solo. They run the gamut of drama, nobility, and energy. Competent and not exceedingly virtuosic, and with amusing titles, they are consistent with the rest of the music on this program. The excellent performers are from a variety of southern places. Pianist David Evanson participates with flair for more than half the program.


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