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CLASSICAL  March 2009

CLASSICAL March 2009

Subject:

Music of Jonathan Leshnoff

From:

Karl Miller <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

Moderated Classical Music List <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Thu, 19 Mar 2009 11:43:37 -0700

Content-Type:

text/plain

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Parts/Attachments

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Jonathan Leshnoff (b1973)
Violin Concerto
Distant Reflections
String Quartet No. 1 "Pearl German"
Charles Wetherbee, violin
Baltimore Chamber Orchestra
Markand Thakar, conductor
Carpe Diem String Quartet
Naxos 8.559398

Executive Summary: Engaging tonal music in fine performances.

Based upon the music on this disc, Leshnoff's style might be best
described as classically structured, lyric romanticism.  His Violin
Concerto, in its revised version of 2007, is cast in five movements. 
It displays creative orchestration which provides a substantial range
of color with the minimum resources of a chamber orchestra.  As can be
found in music of the baroque, each movement is clearly based on a single
tempo. The melodies are formally organized along classical structures
of evenly balanced, tightly constructed phrases.

The first movement of the Concerto is perhaps the most attractive of
all of the works.  It offers engaging thematic material and a strong
organizational skill.  I found the slow movements to be less successful.
Climaxes seemed to be artificially constructed by means of increasing
dynamics versus the exigencies of any developmental logic.  The third
movement, in particular, included some gestures which reminded me of the
Symphony "Riverrun" by Stephen Albert.  The final movement of the Concerto
is quite lovely without being sentimental or trite.

"Distant Reflections" seems, at times, to be something of a tribute to
the music of Barber, yet without the range of expression to be found in
the works of that great master.  It is, however, a very attractive work
even if I did find my attention waver from time to time.

The String Quartet is in four movements: Winter, Spring, Summer and
Autumn.  To my ears it is a less successful work. The first movement
seems to lack focus.  The second movement also seems to ramble.  Just
when you think the thematic material is moving somewhere it dissolves
into gesture.  The Summer movement seems to be more gesture than substance.
As I listened to the last movement I could not help but think that I was
listening to an attempt to paraphrase the adagio from Barber's String
Quartet.

Overall, one finds the music competently written, yet no distinct
personality seems to emerge.  There are those frequent references that
remind me of the music of Stephen Albert.  Leshnoff seems to find greater
focus in the fast movements.  Slow sections seem to ramble at times and
become laden with somewhat empty rhetoric.  That is not to say they do
not have moments of great beauty, which they do in abundance.

Violinist Charles Wetherbee gives a superb performance of the Concerto.
He is a superb musician who is very respectful of the music.perhaps
too respectful.  I would have appreciated a bit more expression in his
playing.  Conductor Markan Thakar gives a very well-controlled performance
providing great clarity to the music.  The playing of the Baltimore
Chamber Orchestra is remarkably fine.  They play with great elan.  The
stars on this disc are the players of the Carpe Diem String Quartet.
They are highly gifted musicians who have a superb sense of ensemble.
I was greatly impressed with their playing.

The recorded sound is excellent.  Even with the above stated reservations,
this is music worthy of repeated listening.

Karl Miller

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