* The Time Gallery (2000)
* Protean Fantasy (1993)
* Ariel Fantasy (2002)
Peter Sheppard-Skaerved (violin)
Aaron Shorr (piano)
Naxos 8.559267 Total time: 56:06
Summary for the Busy Executive: A lot of notes moving very fast.
Paul Moravec, an up-and-comer on the fast track, won the 2004 Pulitzer
for music. These three chamber works give you some idea why.
Moravec writes in a neo-Romantic idiom, but without nineteenth-century
pastiche. Like Barber, he allows modern dissonance, but the phrasing
and melodic shapes wouldn't have shocked Brahms. He puts together his
music very well -- one remarks on a high degree of finish -- and he aims
high. However, one must look beyond craft to explain the power of these
works. Moravec wants to move you and relies heavily on nineteenth-century
rhetoric to do so.
I just wish I liked these pieces more. While I can acknowledge their
craft, their skill, and their expressive component, nothing really grabs
me. Moravec doesn't surprise me or convince me that others couldn't
produce roughly the same result. Barber, for example, gives me genius
themes and brilliant, quirky counterpoint. On the other hand, there's
nothing here other than a generic vibe and too many empty listening
calories. Moravec and I operate on two different wave-lengths. For me,
Daniel Kellogg, with much the same idiom, does more. But none of us can
like everything. Your mileage, as they say, will probably vary.
Nevertheless, my reservations definitely do not extend to the performers.
If not already, Eighth Blackbird deserves to be treated like a rock star.
I rarely encounter contemporary specialists who play with such passion,
understanding, and knock-out musicianship. The Time Gallery challenges
any group to simply get through it. Eighth Blackbird gives a reading
of nuance and detail, one that normally requires years of acquaintance
with a complex work. Sheppard-Skaerved and Shorr, not quite at that
level, nevertheless tear through the fantasies in an irresistible sweep.
Their problem lies with the works themselves, too similar to avoid one
blurring into the next. The fantasies (Moravec won the Pulitzer for the
Tempest Fantasy, a later version of the Ariel) come across as the same
kind of piece, which reinforces the image of the composer as a narrow
But don't take my word for it. Listen for yourself. You may well arrive
at a different conclusion. Naxos makes the price for experimenting a
little easier to bear.