LISTSERV mailing list manager LISTSERV 16.0

Help for CLASSICAL Archives


CLASSICAL Archives

CLASSICAL Archives


CLASSICAL@COMMUNITY.LSOFT.COM


View:

Message:

[

First

|

Previous

|

Next

|

Last

]

By Topic:

[

First

|

Previous

|

Next

|

Last

]

By Author:

[

First

|

Previous

|

Next

|

Last

]

Font:

Proportional Font

LISTSERV Archives

LISTSERV Archives

CLASSICAL Home

CLASSICAL Home

CLASSICAL  May 2009

CLASSICAL May 2009

Subject:

Leo Sowerby, early and late

From:

Steve Schwartz <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

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

Date:

Sat, 16 May 2009 18:43:48 -0700

Content-Type:

text/plain

Parts/Attachments:

Parts/Attachments

text/plain (105 lines)

[Read online: http://www.classical.net/music/recs/reviews/n/nwr00365a.php]

Leo Sowerby
Piano Trios

*  Trio in c#
*  Suite for Violin, Violoncello, & Pianoforte

La Musica Gioiosa Trio
New World Records NW365-2 Total Time: 69:42

Summary for the Busy Executive: Prodigy and master.

The historicism of music criticism, inherited from the Nineteenth Century,
has mauled aesthetic judgment.  It pushes criteria like influence, an
old-fashioned notion of progress, and heroic resistance against the
bourgeoisie.  I happen to think Schoenberg a great composer, but not
because he influenced a large chunk of other composers.  It strikes me
as perverse, like valuing Norton and Sackville (Gorboduc) over Shakespeare
(The Tempest) or, to go the other way, Edward Albee over Sophocles or
Bruckner over Wagner.  Most disastrously, historicism builds, in the
name of clarity, a curio cabinet with a limited number of bins.  What
doesn't fit, gets left behind.  We come across the discards all the time:
Stenhammar, Bloch, Finzi, Holst, Piston, Pettersson, Holmboe, Weill, and
so on.  Just look at music histories and see who gets left out.  It may
sometimes happen that a discard's music may so overwhelm listeners, that
it gets put into the cabinet.  In my lifetime, this happened to Bruckner,
Mahler, Nielsen, and Martinu.  Of course, some entrepreneur has to take
a chance and incur the wrath of those disappointed that the concert
didn't include Beethoven.

I don't claim to predict the future, but in the current musical climate,
I don't see the Chicago composer Leo Sowerby climbing back into notice
any time soon.  He hasn't the attraction of historical influence or
novelty.  You won't likely find him in a textbook or on the next new-music
program.  Sowerby offers only a powerful sensibility allied to great
craftsmanship.

The first notes of the Trio in c# put it firmly in the School of Cesar
Franck, except that it's far better written than most of that output,
fully the equal of, say, Chausson's Piano Quartet and the Quintet of
Franck himself.  Its 1911 premiere astonishes you.  Sowerby was 16 years
old.  Two years later, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra played his Violin
Concerto.  Really, you have to go back to Mendelssohn to find somebody
comparable at so young an age.  Sowerby at this point needs no further
study with anybody.  He just has to find his way.  Overall, we see a
big, Romantic nature, a love affair with counterpoint and architecture,
and absolute technical mastery over idiomatic music for the instruments
involved.  The first movement - a sonata with four (count 'em, four)
themes - impresses by its solid 15-minute span, at least.  The composer
effortlessly combines and re-combines them.  The slow movement unfolds
as one long melody - a difficult feat for any composer, let alone a
teen-ager.  The scherzo is a divertissement and provides a shrewd moment
of respite before the hard-charging rondo-tarantella finale.  People
uncomfortable with Modernism say they wish composers would write like
this.  Apparently, composers did, even contemporary with Petrushka.

The second trio (yet another, written around the same time of the first,
is lost) appears roughly forty years later.  Aside from more advanced,
mainly quartal harmony, it shares many large traits with its older sib:
imposing structure, contrapuntal gymnastics, and a concern for instruments
sounding as good as they can.  However, it also benefits from Sowerby's
greater experience.  The earlier trio sounds rich, but also at times
thick, mainly because the young Sowerby can't resist indulging his
keyboard virtuosity.  Every finger just *has* to be doing something, and
sometimes the piano part makes the strings superfluous.  Now, the older,
wiser composer shows a greater concern for clarity of ensemble without,
I must say, sacrificing any power.  Indeed, the work gains on that score,
in my opinion.  One notices an interesting attempt to fuse baroque forms
with classical sonata procedures in the first movement.  The work opens
very much like a passacaglia, moves to sonata form, and at the end of
the development, breaks into fugue on the "passacaglia" subject.  That
theme is interesting in itself.  It breaks into two halves, with the
second half the first turned topsy-turvy.  This observation isn't confined
to an "eye" study of the score.  A listener can easily hear it.  Indeed,
Sowerby constructs a drama based on the symmetry.  He treats the halves
as one theme as well as breaks them in two and works with them separately.
He combines them simultaneously.  A second subject provides necessary
contrast, but even here the composer can't resist putting both subjects
together in what sounds like effortless contrapuntal pyrotechnique.  The
meditative second movement - largely A-B-A, two quiet sections framing
a fiery middle - opens with a gorgeous Hindemithian duet for the two
string instruments alone.  At the entry of the piano, we get something
different, akin to the English Pastoral School.  Although the description
may strike you as disjointed, in actual performance the movement coheres.
The finale begins with the solo piano in a manic tarantella, but soon
settles into something else - a sonata-rondo based on a variant of the
passacaglia theme of the first movement.  Counterpoint abounds, but at
a less obvious level.  Sowerby aims less to dazzle you than to keep the
instruments independent.  A work of tremendous integrity.

Karl Davies and Margaret Daly, on violin and cello, do a fine job,
especially in the opening duo of the latter trio's second movement.
Pianist Gail Quillman, who knew the composer personally, plays with
intelligence and fire.  Best of all, the three play as a group, with
nobody dominating.  All three drive the music along.  The readings seem
to come from one mind.

Steve Schwartz

             ***********************************************
The CLASSICAL mailing list is powered by L-Soft's renowned LISTSERV(R)
list management software together with L-Soft's HDMail High Deliverability
Mailer for reliable, lightning fast mail delivery.  For more information,
go to:  http://www.lsoft.com/LISTSERV-powered.html

Top of Message | Previous Page | Permalink

Advanced Options


Options

Log In

Log In

Get Password

Get Password


Search Archives

Search Archives


Subscribe or Unsubscribe

Subscribe or Unsubscribe


Archives

May 2010
April 2010
March 2010
February 2010
January 2010
December 2009
November 2009
October 2009
September 2009
August 2009
July 2009
June 2009
May 2009
April 2009
March 2009
February 2009
January 2009
December 2008
November 2008
October 2008
September 2008
August 2008
July 2008
June 2008
May 2008
April 2008
March 2008
February 2008
January 2008
December 2007
November 2007
October 2007
September 2007
August 2007
July 2007
June 2007
May 2007
April 2007
March 2007
February 2007
January 2007
December 2006
November 2006
October 2006
September 2006
August 2006
July 2006
June 2006
May 2006
April 2006
March 2006
February 2006
January 2006
December 2005
November 2005
October 2005
September 2005
August 2005
July 2005
June 2005
May 2005
April 2005
March 2005
February 2005
January 2005
December 2004
November 2004
October 2004
September 2004
August 2004
July 2004
June 2004
May 2004
April 2004
March 2004
February 2004
January 2004
December 2003
November 2003
October 2003
September 2003
August 2003
July 2003
June 2003
May 2003
April 2003
March 2003
February 2003
January 2003
December 2002
November 2002
October 2002
September 2002
August 2002
July 2002
June 2002
May 2002
April 2002
March 2002
February 2002
January 2002
December 2001
November 2001
October 2001
September 2001
August 2001
July 2001
June 2001
May 2001
April 2001
March 2001
January 2001
December 2000
November 2000
October 2000
September 2000
August 2000
July 2000
June 2000
May 2000
April 2000
March 2000
February 2000
January 2000
December 1999
November 1999
October 1999
September 1999
August 1999
July 1999
June 1999
May 1999
April 1999
March 1999
February 1999
January 1999
July 1997

ATOM RSS1 RSS2



COMMUNITY.LSOFT.COM

Secured by F-Secure Anti-Virus CataList Email List Search Powered by the LISTSERV Email List Manager