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Clearly Inescapable

Gerard Schurmann's
chamber music -

'... potent, consuming, thematically cogent and burning with zeal.'

Gerard Schurmann Chamber Music, Volume Two. © 2014 Toccata Classics

Gerard Schurmann, born of Dutch parents in the former Dutch East Indies, left his home at an early age and grew up in England.

As a twenty-one-year-old he combined work as a concert pianist with a job as acting Cultural Attaché at the Netherlands Embassy in London. Subsequently Eduard van Beinum helped him secure a position as resident orchestral conductor with Dutch Radio in Hilversum. At the end of the Hilversum contract he returned to England, determined to work at composing and limiting his conducting to guest appearances.

Much of his output was chamber music and, later, film scores, among them Ealing comedies and Hammer horrors of the 1940s and 50s.

In 1980 the US State Department with British Council support invited Schurmann to tour orchestras and universities in America, and the following year he settled in Hollywood Hills, California. During the 1980s and 90s Schurmann was associated with the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra and Lorin Maazel, who introduced his music at Cleveland, Pittsburgh and elsewhere.

Last January (2014) Schurmann's ninetieth birthday was marked with this current Toccata Classics release. Schurmann's music has also been recorded on CBS, Nonesuch, EMI, Chandos, Virgin Classics, Albany, Pye, Silva Classics, GDI, United Artists and Cloud Nine.

Writing for BBC's The Listener, Schurmann noted 'It is impossible for a composer to bridge the widening gap between sophisticated creative processes of the day and the listener with integrity. I believe in communication — but there must be individuality. In the chaos in which we live, a strong personal statement is in the end the only thing of any interest'.

Five years ago in these pages he wrote: 'After Lawrence of Arabia (1962) won an Oscar for the Maurice Jarre (1924-2009) soundtrack music; and before the production of Dr Zhivago (1965) director David Lean hoped we would soon all be together again on the new film. But nothing could persuade me to relive stressful misunderstandings such as occurred with Jarre as he and I worked on Lawrence.' [See A Stressful Collaboration, 12 January 2009]

His concert output is potent, consuming, thematically cogent and burning with zeal. Its melodic content is clearly inescapable.

Listen -- Gerard Schurmann: Allegro vivace (String Quartet No 1)
(track 4, 0:00-0:58) © 2014 Toccata Classics:

The Lyris Quartet is a Los Angeles based string ensemble created in 2008 by violinists Alyssa Park and Shalini Vijayan. Their lower strings are Luke Maurer (viola) and Timothy Loo (cello). This diverse experience with Californian chamber music groups ensures lustrous, committed music-making.

Park and accompanist Korzhev were Toccata Classics' duo artists for Schurmann's Violin and Piano works TOCC 0133 (2012).

The first performance of the String Quartet No 1 (2003-4) was by the Chilingirian Quartet in October 2004 at the Conway Hall in London. The Chilingirian Quartet also gave the American premiere (April 2005) at Irvine Barclay Theatre in California.

Listen -- Gerard Schurmann: Allegretto (String Quartet No 1)
(track 2, 0:00-1:05) © 2014 Toccata Classics:

The Los Angeles Times wrote: 'This lyric / dramatic work is compact and engaging, and holds the listener through a tight narrative and stunning musical strokes. Its moods change abruptly; it can be tortured, elegiac, stoical, darkly comic, poetic.'

String Quartet No 2 (2011-12) was first performed on 12 May 2013 by the Lyris Quartet at the Los Angeles Bing Auditorium. Here the lower instruments are kept unusually busy and the deeply felt Adagio elegiaco serves as a fulcrum around which the haunted Moderato and concluding Allegro reinforce Schurmann's cyclical structure.

Listen -- Gerard Schurmann: Adagio elegiaco (String Quartet No 2)
(track 11, 0:00-1:02) © 2014 Toccata Classics:

The much earlier 'edgy' Fantasia for Cello and Piano (1967) is fashioned in caustic harmonic language and though there is a greater sense of instability, the work remains typically communicative.

Listen -- Gerard Schurmann: Fantasia for Cello and Piano
(track 8, 0:00-1:00) © 2014 Toccata Classics:

Schurmann's Trio for Clarinet, Cello and Piano is spearheaded by Grammy-nominated Swedish clarinetist Håkan Rosengren, known for appearances as a concerto soloist and in recital and chamber music throughout Europe, the United States, South America, China, Israel and Asia.

The 2002 Trio was written in homage to Brahms, especially recognizing the latter's Trio in A minor, Op 114. In particular, note the lyrical Andante cantabile with its secure, chaconne-like character.

Listen -- Gerard Schurmann: Andante cantabile (Trio for Clarinet, Cello and Piano)
(track 6, 3:09-4:43) © 2014 Toccata Classics:

Rosengren can be heard in recordings on several labels, notably in Nielsen's Clarinet Concerto with Esa-Pekka Salonen (Sony Classical). His CD of Messiaen's Quartet for the End of Time (Accord Records) was nominated for the Polish Frederyk Award and his Bernhard Crusell recording on Caprice Records was nominated for the Swedish Grammy. Rosengren performs on Rico Grand Concert Select Evolution.

According to the manufacturer's 'blurb', 'The Grand Concert Select family of reeds offer a pure, warm tone quality that is stable and consistent from pianissimo to fortissimo, in all registers. Grand Concert Select pairs unparalleled reed-to-reed consistency with unprecedented longevity'.

Clive Greensmith, the featured cellist, was with the Tokyo String Quartet from 1999 till it disbanded in 2013. In those fourteen years he toured with the TSQ across the United States, Europe, Australia and the Far East. Internationally acclaimed NYU cellist, Professor Greensmith is undoubtedly one of the most successful British string players of his generation, having achieved extraordinary acclaim as soloist, chamber musician, orchestral principal and teacher. Clive Greensmith was also principal cellist with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra.

Russian-born pianist Mikhail Korzhev is an active recitalist. He holds a doctorate in piano performance from the University of Southern California, where he studied with Daniel Pollack. His previous teachers include Alexander Sats and Vera Khoroshina at the Moscow Conservatory College. Korzhev has been an avid supporter of composer and writer Ernst Krenek (1900-1991) an Austrian, later American, composer of Czech origin.

Richard Hawkins (clarinet), Peter Rejto (cello) and Christina Dahl (piano) premiered Gerard Schurmann's Trio for Clarinet, Cello and Piano at the Tuscon Chamber Music Festival in 2004. A year later, Nicholas Cox (clarinet), Jonathan Aasgaard (cello) and Timothy Horton (piano) gave its British premiere at Liverpool Philharmonic Hall.

Copyright © 15 June 2014 Howard Smith,
Masterton, New Zealand











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